One of the advantages of a Master in Management (MiM) program is that, often, candidates need little or no work experience to gain admission. Indeed, many tend to go straight from their undergraduate course to business school.
What this means is that the other elements of the MiM application process — such as a high GPA and standardized test scores — are vitally important.
But, even though it might not be required, work experience can add weight to an application because it demonstrates proactivity and well-roundedness, according to Crystal Grant, director of admissions at Imperial College Business School in London, which offers an MSc Management program.
“Obviously having some great company internships on your CV will look good, but what really differentiates the very best candidates is the ability to reflect on what they’ve learnt from these experiences and how this will contribute to their future success,” she says.
International experience through studying abroad, exchanges or work placements is sought after, she adds. “Whether it’s through internships, volunteering, starting their own venture or through pursuing sports, hobbies and interests to a high level, there are lots of ways that candidates can showcase their skills.”
Although HEC Paris’ Master in Management is a pre-experience program, the school considers admitting candidates with limited work experience, says Julien Manteau, director of strategy and development for masters programs.
In some countries it is normal for students to take a gap year between their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, accruing some professional experience before enrolling in a MiM. “In Germany or Italy, it is common to have internships for one year before pursuing a masters,” says Manteau. “In India, it is also normal to work for a year after a bachelor’s degree before joining a business school for an MiM or MBA. We accept students from all over the world.”
But the majority of MiM students will not have work experience, so what else can they do to stand out and impress admissions teams?
A candidate’s extracurricular activities, personality and motivation to succeed can set them apart from the pack, according to Manteau. “It is normal to be unsure at this point of exactly what you want to do in life, but it is important to define your next steps, and show us how the MiM will help you to decide,” he says.
You can make these elements of your candidacy shine throughout the entire MiM application process, which can be lengthy and comparable to that of MBA degrees.
For the ESMT Master’s in Management program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree but little or no work experience. Other general requirements include TOEFL, essays, two recommendation letters, and an individual Skype interview.
The essay can help an applicant show what is unique about them compared with other applicants who have similar test scores or professional experience, according to Stephanie Kluth, head of admissions at ESMT Berlin.
She advises that applicants consider some fundamental questions, such as: What are my strengths and weaknesses? What do I want to achieve by doing a MiM?
“Having clear plans help applicants present a compelling picture of who they are, where they are heading and why a MiM is critical for them to reach this goal,” Kluth says.
The interview is also a great time to convince an admissions committee of your value. “We look for someone we personally would like to sit next to in the classroom and work with in group projects,” says Kluth.
“Give natural, well-structured, and confident answers,” Kluth says, and “Treat the interview like a job interview and show your knowledge” of the program.
“Be polite and enthusiastic and let us understand your motivation.”
References are really important, too and candidates sometimes underestimate this, says Imperial’s Grant. “As the only part of the application package written by someone else, they add a different perspective on what an individual can bring to the program.”
“Hearing about the contribution they’ve made at university or on an internship adds a valuable extra dimension.”
Imperial also asks candidates for a personal statement, which acts as a letter of motivation for the program. There are also focused questions on candidates’ career goals. “Selected candidates will then progress to an online video interview — which gives us a chance to hear about their skills and experiences directly,” Grant says.
Some business schools also require the GMAT, such as the Master in Management at the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands. “To improve your chances of getting invited for an interview, make sure you have a high GMAT and GPA score and an impressive résumé showing your ambition in the field,” says Arnoud Monster, director of recruitment and admissions for Msc programs.
He adds that some programs have a rolling admissions process, which means that you need to apply sooner rather than later. “Once the program is full, no more offers will be sent out.”