[0:23] Q: What makes your program different and unique?

[0:27] A: One of the things is that ESSEC Business School was originally founded by Jesuits. Although today we are completely a secular school and absolutely not religious, I think that is something that has stayed in the DNA of the school. It has always given us a more humanistic approach to business – you see that in our professors, in the companies with which we are associated as well as the type of participants we attract to the program.

Secondly, we consider ourselves to be a boutique-model MBA which means we don’t have a huge class, and that is by design. We keep it quite small – about 80-100 people participating per year, which allows for closer relationships between participants, professors, career services, and administration. It's a very personalized experience.

[1:20] Q: What questions should applicants ask business school representatives in order to make a good impression during the interview?

[1:27] A: First of all, it’s very important to show in your essays as well as in the interview that you’ve really done your homework and the right amount of research. You need to show that you know yourself and the school that you’re talking to. It would be a good idea to avoid confusing details about others schools that you are also applying for. Show that you care and that you are paying attention and that you are really motivated to be part of ESSEC Business School.

 [1:58] Q: How important is the application essay compared to test scores? What do you pay most attention to in an application essay?

[2:06] A: I should begin by saying that I think the interview is the most important thing but then, followed by your experience, your resume along with your essay questions, and then – the GMAT. The GMAT is a very useful tool for business schools to help filter who is an appropriate candidate, to see if they have the right level of skill to perform in the academic classes. However, it is also very limited – it doesn’t tell us anything about the person’s leadership and international experience. It is a standardized test that one can train for, so I have doubts about its effectiveness.

The essay gives us an insight into the person’s ability to express their ideas and their level of English. It pushes them to think through their career goals in such a way that corresponds to ESSEC Business School. It helps us understand if this person is somebody we can help in their career.

Check out: An Overview of the GRE® General Test

[3:06] Q: Is there any part of the application package that can compensate for a low test section score and vice versa – a high test section score to balance a weakness in the application?

[3:18] A: If you have a really great interview, your essay is strong, you have great references, your experiences are solid, and if there’s a logical bridge between what you have done and your goals, then a lower GMAT or GRE score is less of a problem. Conversely, if you have maybe not had such a strong interview but your GMAT is strong, this can compensate. I think it’s all about balance. Certainly, ESSEC looks at the whole package of the application.

[3:56] Q: What financial support do you offer to applicants and what is the most important part of the application package for getting a scholarship?

[4:04] A: ESSEC offers quite a number of generous scholarships that are considered to be internal as well as partner scholarships coming from partner companies, alumni associations, etc. These opportunities are easy because they’re automatic – you apply for the program and then, upon admission, we tell you “These are the scholarships that you are qualified for.” It’s pretty straightforward.

The partner scholarships usually require an additional essay and have their own deadlines. Besides that, there are student loans that you can look into. We are currently developing a partnership with Prodigy which will provide low-cost loans for participants coming into the MBA program.

In terms of what criteria the scholarships are based on, the whole package matters, but I would say the GMAT or GRE becomes more important when it comes to scholarships.

Check out: Scholarships Become Major Business Degree Funding Source

[5:13] Q: Speaking of the GMAT, how important is the score for getting into your MBA program?

[5:20] A: I think I speak for many schools when I say that the GMAT is important but it is not the most important element. For us, the interview is the most important – this is where you put yourself out there and express your ideas. We assess your level of English and that “human factor” which is so important for companies and for you getting hired afterwards. At the end of the day, it’s all about your employability.

[5:49] Q: How should candidates ensure that recommendation letters will serve their purpose in front of the MBA admissions committee?

[5:55] A: Regarding references or recommendation letters, I always suggest the following: people who are applying to the program should take the time to contact the right people. They are usually professional references, not academic. If you are younger and have about 3-4 years of experience, you could ask a former professor. However, as you’ve become more experienced, it’s more about professional references. Take the time to explain to them why you want to do an MBA. Invite them for coffee or for lunch which shows appreciation but also keeps that relationship going. Remind them of some of your professional achievements which will help them do their job – help them to help you.

[6:50] Q: Do you require a language test in addition to the GMAT or GRE?

[6:57] A: The language test measures your ability in English whereas the GMAT or GRE is supposed to measure your business abilities and skills, so they are not the same thing. When it comes to English skills, we need to be sure that the participants in the program not only understand the professors but that they can also be understood by professors and students. In an MBA program as small as this, it’s all about interaction. I would make the argument that you might learn more from your MBA classmates than professors. Even though these professors are very well-published, it is just one person at the end of the day.

[7:59] Q: What do you look for in a CV/resume and how is it different from a job application?

[8:05] A: For the most part, a CV or resume for an MBA program isn’t that different from a job application. Apart from your identity information, which needs to be clear and up-to-date, you want to probably include your citizenship. This is something that could testify to your diversity and as one of our scholarships is the diversity scholarship, that’s something that could be to your advantage.

Next, go on with your professional experience. If you have 8-10 or more years of professional experience, you might want to narrow it down to the relevant experience. I think this is true for job applications as well. Then, follow with education, skills, and perhaps include a small section about personal interests which gives a bit more color and makes you human. Beyond that, I don’t see too many differences.

[9:14] Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

[9:23] A: I think it’s important that you do your research, but also be yourself. A lot of people try to project an image of themselves that may bely their true nature. At the end of the day, it’s all about fit. You can look at a list of rankings, which are all very different, there’s word-of-mouth, you could talk to alumni and current students, etc. However, if you’re not being yourself, it’s probably not ultimately going to be the right fit for you and it won’t be to your advantage. So, put yourself out there and be the best version of yourself, but be sincere.

Check out: 4 Common MBA Essay Questions of B-School Applicants