Entering Business School


The process of enrolling into a Western business school is atrociously time consuming. It requires no less than six months, and as a rule, a year or more from the moment the decision has been made to apply and the actual enrollment date.

To begin with, it’s important to specify what kind of education is necessary — in a Russian or Western school, a fulltime or part-time program, and what areas of concentration will be appropriate. And after that, it’s time to start dealing with choosing a definite school and preparation for enrollment.

Research carried out in 2005 by Begin Group shows that 47.7 percent of Russian graduates choose American business schools for further education. Among European countries, the most popular is Great Britain, chosen by 14.6 percent of respondents. The most popular programs among Russians are finance programs (39.2 percent) as well as general and strategic management (34.8 percent). At the same time, the reputation of the school, the subject matter of the programs, and the place of the school in international ratings are the main factors among Russians when choosing MBA programs.

Future students from Russia are least of all interested in whom they’ll be studying with. On the other hand, however, Western schools are very picky when choosing from among enrolling students because it is the students who subsequently represent the business school and form its image. As such, studying at a prestigious business school makes establishing useful contacts with people from all corners of the earth possible. Among MBA students and graduates as well as potential graduate students there exists a range of European business schools which enjoy particular popularity, including INSEAD and IESE.

American MBA programs are also popular and indeed, it is in that country at the moment where the largest amount of business schools is located. Duke, Warton and a variety of others are among the American schools that Russian students often choose.

Asian business schools are also popular among Russian managers, and it is an area that is experiencing a real boom in business education. According to the survey by Begin Group, 10 percent of potential Russian students of Western MBAs look at programs of business education in Asia as one schooling option. Enrolling in a prestigious Western school demands precision and diligence.

The majority of American universities and schools enlist students once a year — at the beginning of fall. Accepting applications from graduate students begins in January and precedes in two or three stages. Presenting applications in the first stage, i.e. in January, has its advantages as there is a higher quantity of places spread over this period. But it’s necessary to realize that competition among the early applicants is tougher — as a rule, these are the most diligent graduate students who, on average, produce better results in exams and essay writing than other students applying. Sometimes it is permissible to apply in spring and even summer. However, in this case, you may get the proposal of enrolling only in the next influx — i.e. in one more year.

Some American and the majority of European schools practice a different system of accepting applications: rolling deadline — i.e. documents can be handed in at any time of the year. These types of schools usually conduct two enrollments a year — fall and spring.

In the course of enrolling in a Western MBA program, apart from the GMAT and essay, there exists another variety of demands. These typically include the submission of a resume containing a detailed description of the candidate’s work experience as well as good recommendations and a notarized copy of the candidate’s diploma from his first school of higher education. To enroll in the majority of leading schools, it’s also necessary to be seen for an interview. Some schools demand the physical presence of the applicant while in others a telephone interview is enough.

In 2005, the format of the TOEFL exam was changed. In America, the change to the new standards came into effect in September 2005. The new format of the exam comes into effect from October in Canada, France, Italy, and Germany. In other countries, and that includes Russia, the new version will be introduced throughout 2006. Until this time, the TOEFL will be taken in Russia in its former version and the test results, as usual, will be valid for two years.

The innovations concerned the evaluating aptitude in oral speech and integrated tasks, simultaneously testing several aptitudes, such as reading, listening, speaking or writing. For example, the test subject might be requested to read excerpts of a text, listen to a lecture on the subject and then give oral commentary. The section Structure (questions on grammar and language usage) in the new TOEFL will replace Speaking (testing the knowledge of oral speech).

The conditions for taking the test have also changed. Since September 2005, TOEFL can be taken via the Internet twice a month. Test subjects will not have the possibility to get used to workstations — additional time for that in the new version of the exam is not allowed. Also, whereas in the old version of TOEFL the computer selected tasks depend on the correct answer to the preceding question, in the new version, all tasks are linear, i.e. they contain questions of various levels of difficulty.

A number of activities are now permitted for the simplification of taking the exam: the possibility to see all questions (in case some have been omitted) in the Reading section and the use of a dictionary, where an explanation for specific words is necessary. Also, while completing the listening and writing tasks, it is now permitted to take notes. The duration of the test is about four hours (some 30 minutes longer than the former test). The introductory essay is an obligatory element of enrollment for practically all business schools. Its subject should be a description of some of the applicant’s achievements or decisions made in a given situation or about the applicant’s motivations for enrolling in a business education program in general and the decision on a particular school, specifically.

It’s important that the essay be clear and literate. Applicants shouldn’t repeat dry facts, which appear in the resume. However, it is important to keep it distinct. At the same time, an unnecessarily dry and formal style should be avoided and injecting some ‘flavor’ into the introductory work is encouraged to catch the interest of the selection committee. It would be wise to make good use of subheadings, as a well-structured text is easier to digest. Last, but not least, it’s important to mind the rules and demands of the school of interest, as some of them take the adherence to format very seriously.