4 Factors to Consider About European MBA Programs

As business becomes more global, future MBA applicants may ask themselves if they should consider heading abroad for business school. In many cases, the answer will be yes.

The best business schools attract international students and faculty of the highest caliber, and in terms of rankings, elite European programs perform as well as many top programs in the U.S.

According to the latest top MBA salary and job trends report, international study experience is sought by 67 percent of MBA employers, and recruiters "most significantly agree that candidates with international experience outperform those without."

There are four factors you should weigh to determine if a European business school is a better fit to help you reach your career goals.

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1. Global networking options: If you want to build a global network in a multicultural environment, then apply to schools that can help you fulfill those goals.

While MBA programs at Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business have sterling reputations worldwide, just 17 percent of 2013 HBS grads and 13 percent of 2014 Stanford MBA grads found work abroad after graduation. If you know you want to work in Europe, you’d be better off choosing a local school where you can network directly with employers.

2. Greater classroom diversity: The top programs in Europe tend to be much more internationally oriented, with 96 percent of the class coming from outside the country​ at some schools. Think about how that culturally diverse mix enriches class discussions, as well as creates networking opportunities that span the globe.

There is one caveat to the diversity of top European programs: They typically enroll fewer women compared with U.S. business schools. For example, IMD, a business school in Switzerland, is 96 percent international with a 24 percent female representation. INSEAD, in France,​ is 96 percent international but women make up 36 percent of the student body.

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3. Lower average GMAT scores: ​Test scores are one of the key data points in the MBA admissions process, and in Europe you’ll often find GMAT scores trending lower than in the U.S., making them slightly less competitive. This is likely due to the fact that many students attending European schools are not native English speakers, so the admissions committees allow applicants a bit more wiggle room with their scores.

At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the average GMAT score was 723​ ​ for the class of 2014​, 721 at New York University Stern School of Business and 728 at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. However, at similarly ranked schools in Europe the averages were much more attainable: 700 at London Business School, 685 at HEC Paris and 670 at IE Business School.

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4. More established students​: Students at European business schools also tend to have more years of work experience under their belts than those attending U.S. schools, which could come as a relief to applicants worried they skew too "mature" for a seat at the most competitive programs.

Another draw: Most of the programs are one year in length, saving both time and money for older candidates with families who don’t want to be out of the workforce too long. The shorter time frame doesn’t mean a skimp on learning, however. One-year European MBA programs will have a heavier workload in order to maintain the quality and integrity of the program.

If your professional goal is to live and work abroad, pursuing an MBA in your desired location is arguably the best introduction to business life in that country. A cultural immersion experience of this kind is not without its challenges, but most participants would agree studying abroad is not just financially rewarding, but personally fulfilling as well. ​



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