Here we are with Part 3. Earlier I told you a bit about me and my choice to apply for a tob MBA and also about my visits to IMD, INSEAD and LBS.
I also tried to be very realistic and define a contingency plan. I thought HEC Paris could be my plan B and I went to visit their campus.
How to put it? I was impressed. I was actually speechless. I couldn't believe such a well known MBA could give such a terrible image of itself.
Let me start from the beginning. First of all, HEC Paris, is not in Paris, but 20 km south. I arrived to their campus for a scheduled group visit and there was no clear sign to show where to go inside the huge campus. I had to knock on offices and ask around to find where to go.
Once there, we were received by a young marketing representative who presented some slides on HEC. He almost read every single slide. Now; I do a lot of presentations for work, so I take the liberty to comment. It wasn't very good to begin with, since the marketing guy was reading way too much from the slides (this clearly shows you are not very confident on the subject) but there is something worse you can do: read a sentence from the slide, prepare with your tone for a clarification sentence and don't come up with one. It was terrible.
From the data HEC shared with us, I got the impression HEC expects its applicants to be not very smart. If I remember correctly, every time they were showing figures to demonstrate that their students' origins are equally distributed, they were always separating French students from Western European students.
True, LBS does the same and separates UK, EU and non-EU Europe but if I remember well in the case of HEC "Western Europe" and France were more than 50% of the student body. I could be wrong since I couldn't find a clear brochure with this data on HEC website to verify. If someone knows the details, please add a comment and I will apologize if necessary and fix any error.
Later on a more senior marketing person joined the little room and she started to change my first impression. She was eloquent and she made sense as she presented. However, she openly criticized competitor schools- that's a huge no-no for me! If there is one thing I've learned in sales is that your competitor is always good. You're just better. First, you never know who your employer will be in two months time and second it's just really bad manners!
We had lunch with a current student and had a tour of the campus. How can I put this mildly? If such student should be my inspiration to join HEC, then I'm sure I can find better things to do with my time. He was absolutely uninspired and uninterested. He would get to a room, and start talking with a very low tone of voice; without even trying to wait for everyone to gather or grab our attention. No matter how you look at it, it's bad. If there are better students but none is interested in help the school attract new students, it means the school does a very poor job in caring for its image. If that is actually the best student at HEC, well let's not even go there.
Finally, the icing on the cake....the class. Not a soul said a word or answered any of the questions the professor asked. The professor himself was pretty much reading from slides and he wasn't able to capture my attention. Towards the end of the class, a student told the teacher it was their last class of the whole program (or something similar) and that was why the attention level was very low. How could the teacher not know about it? And more importantly, having two intakes per year, how could the marketing department choose to make us attend the last class of the season?
I'm sure you can feel my disappointment, HEC is supposed to be one of the best schools in Europe! I want to be very clear and state that what I wrote is only my personal opinion. I'm sure HEC as a lot to offer since it's consider one of the top 10 non-US schools in almost every ranking. But would I ever want to learn marketing (among other subjects) in a school so poor at marketing itself? Looking at it from the bright side: boy, do they have room for improvement...I decided in that moment that if that was the quality of my plan B, I was better off without a plan B.
Ability to show their best face during the visit: 4/10
Availablity to follow up with specific needs: N/A (I didn't really asked them anything after the visit)
Brand quality: 9/10
And then Hult came along. Since I took the GMAT, I started receiving email and letters from them. They were actually quite insistent, so I decided to meet them in London. I spoke with a guy in his 30s and I instantly got a good impression. We had a short talk but he really followed up on me. He was quite flexible on deadlines but quite pushy to get me to apply as early as possible (he said to have a better chance for a scholarship).
I decided to play along first because I really thought he was being very professional and he managed to make me feel important and also because I really appreciated the international aspect of the school. With 5 campuses across the world, it is definitely an interesting opportunity to study in up to three continents.
I also went to an organized event in London and let me tell you they are a fantastic team. They had a brilliant teacher presenting a very interesting mock lesson and every one of the staff was on top of her game, clearly trying hard to portray a great image for the school, and they managed!
As I said, they were quite pushy so less than a week after I submitted my essays I got my final interview and in a few days I received an offer to join with a very interesting scholarship. So I accepted their offer and paid the first installment to take off a bit of the pressure of applying to the other schools. Obviously I wish to be accepted in a top school, but apart from that, I had a fantastic impression of Hult.
The only thing that disappointed me is learning from other prospective students that Hult accepts candidates before their GMAT exam is taken. I have to say one of the things I like of the whole MBA concept is the idea to learn from very talented people. And even if the GMAT is not everything, I still think it's a proxy of your intellectual ability.
So, I like the idea to meet people who worked as hard as me to pass the exam and are very selected. I imagine is one of their strategy to get good candidates: if they see potential when they talk to them, offering them a position before the GMAT takes away the motivation to work hard and do your best, since the result is already achieved. And then with a low GMAT they have much less incentive and/or opportunity to apply to a top program.
Ability to show their best face during the visit: 10/10
Availablity to follow up with specific needs: 10/10
Brand quality: 7/10
So, here we are, almost over.
By the end of the month I will receive all the answers of the interview(s) (from the school or schools who actually invited me for an interview) so in the next and final post I will share with you if any school interviewed me and if any school accepted me along with a few last tips from my experience.
My last post will appear in April. In the meanwhile, just for fun, why don't you try and guess which school invited me for an interview and which school will offer me to join their program (among IMD, INSEAD and LBS)?
Compare b-school rankings from the FT, BusinessWeek and Economist on the MBA rankings table