2011 HEC Paris MBA Admissions Q&A with Marie-Laurence Lemaire

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2011 HEC Paris MBA Admissions Q&A with Marie-Laurence Lemaire

Audio for Q&A (Click to listen now, or right click and choose “Save As” to download and listen later.)

Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s Q&A. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about the HEC Paris MBA program. It is critical to your decision making process and your admission chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top business school.

I also want to give a special welcome to Marie-Laurence Lemaire, HEC MBA Program’s Senior Business Development Manager. Thanks to everyone for joining.

I’d like to take advantage of my position as moderator and pose the first question. What’s new at HEC?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Thank you very much Linda. I’m really happy to be here with you today. Welcome to all the participants as well. The major big news at HEC that we have to share with you today is regarding our new dean. We’ve received our new dean in the program very recently. His main task as new dean will be to really be focused on the curriculum. Therefore we are expecting a major shuffle in electives, different trends in the program, and a new curriculum that will be in place for September of 2012.

Linda Abraham: So you think there is going to be a new curriculum overhaul, like we’ve seen with Stanford or Yale or Wharton recently? Is that what you are anticipating?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes, exactly. We will obviously keep the current focus on fundamentals because that will give the basis of the view on management. We will reconsider much more the different types of electives that will be proposed to our students and the different tracks and different options of certificates. So that will be really reshuffled and new topics will be brought into the program.

Linda Abraham: Debmalya asks, “We have corresponded over email. I have questions. What is the difference between the HEC program starting in September versus the one starting in January? Secondly, I know that the September intake Round 5 deadline is April 19th, so are admission slots available? And what are the chances for scholarships if you apply by that deadline? And do you think it would be better to wait a couple of months and opt for the January program rather than the September program? What are the pros and cons of applying for a later program first round as opposed to an earlier program in a later round?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Regarding the first question on the difference between the programs, in the content of the program there is no major difference between September and January because obviously we want participants from both the September and the January intake to finalize their curriculum with the same content. So in the content of the different classes, there is no difference between September and January. It’s the period when you will attend certain classes that will differ. In September, you obviously start in September, and you have until April to finalize all your different fundamental classes. And then you enter the specialized phase with a project for four months, and then you go along for four months into doing an internship or running a specific project.

For the January intake, it would be slightly different because you would have still your core phase, and then you would enter your personalized phase, and you would do it in the reverse. You would have the internship or the consulting project in the first four months of the personalized phase, and then you would do the professional phase, specifying your major in a choice of four different topics: strategy, marketing, finance, and entrepreneurship and innovation. So it’s a slightly different way to run your MBA, but in the end you will have exactly the same classes.

Another thing I would like to add about the differences between September and January is the size of the intake. We have in total, roughly about 330 people in our program. We have a larger intake in September. We have approximately 170 people in September and a group of 50-60 students in January.

Linda Abraham: Is that by design or is it a result of student demand?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: It’s a result of demand. Students applying for MBAs are much more inclined to start in September, and that is a trend. We have a much smaller demand in January, so that is the main reason.

I just wanted to add a quick mention that although the September intake will be much larger than the January one, we will split this large group into subgroups of roughly 50 people. We do this to have smaller classes which will make it much more convenient for the professors to have an interactive classroom because we base our learning process on an exchange of ideas between the academics and students, but also amongst students. So in order to have this process, we need to have a small class, and we feel that 50 students is a good size class to have this kind of interaction.

Linda Abraham: Both Namita and Lindsey are asking, “Is it easier to get an acceptance at the January intake because of the smaller demand? Does it make a difference?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: I would say the reverse. Because we have a limited number of seats that will not exceed 60 students in January but we have quite a large demand for January, I would say that the acceptance rate in January is much smaller than September. So it is much tougher to get accepted in January than it is in September.

Linda Abraham: Debmalya also asked about the differences in chances for scholarships between the January and September intake. Is there a difference? And Debmalya and Sergiu both ask, “Do you still have places for the September intake?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: We have a budget for scholarships that we split between the different rounds that we have. So whether you apply at the beginning of the rounds or at the end, it wouldn’t make any difference because we’ll have the same amount to budget. We just split the annual budget that we have into the different rounds, so we have just as much money at the beginning as we’ll have at the end. So whether you are applying for September or January, it will be really very much identical in terms of scholarships. And I would like to invite you to go on our website to look at all the different scholarships that we have because we have merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and different kinds of companies are offering different scholarships in leadership, etc., from L'Oréal and others. And it’s very well explained on our website, so please refer to the website.

Linda Abraham: Konstantin asks, “How can applicants with no international professional experience demonstrate their “international profile”?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: That’s a very interesting question. To that question I always answer, especially in some regions of the world where there is a huge melting pot of communities, that although you have a nationality, you might not have the culture of that nationality. Sometimes you may have been brought up with a double culture. You may have been brought up with parents coming from two different cultures. Or maybe you’ve been brought up in a country which is not the country where you were born, so you have this exposure to international backgrounds. So your international focus is not necessarily professional; it can also be personal.

Linda Abraham: Ankit asks, “Is the number of years of work experience considered from the time of joining the program or from the time of application?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: We will always consider the years of experience at the time of entering the program. Let’s say that you apply for the January 2012 intake today and you have just two and a half years of work experience, don’t be too scared of applying because we will consider all your work experience until you join the program.

Linda Abraham: Sergiu asks, “Could you please tell us more about the bilingual option of the program as well as the dual degree? Does it have an impact on admission?” I’m assuming he is asking here whether it impacts admission if you express interest in those programs. So could you tell us about the two options to start with?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Just to answer very quickly on the admission, there is no impact whatsoever if you tick the box that you want to do a dual degree or a bilingual track. This has no effect on your application. I’d just like to define dual degrees and the bilingual section. They are really two different things. The bilingual section is meant for people with very good knowledge of French, who would really like to acquire business expertise and business language on a specific subject. So for people with a very good knowledge of French, if they want to work in France, I’d advise you to go for the dual degree option because it will really give you a very specific language in the topics that we’ll cover in French, and it will give you a really solid background in the specific topics. So it is very interesting for people who would like to work in France.

The dual degree programs that we offer are quite specific and we have quite a large number of partners around the world -- in the US, in Asia, and we also have partners in Europe. How this dual degree works is that most of the time for most of the partners that we have, you earn two MBAs. You start either at HEC or at the partner school. You do fundamental classes at whichever university, and then you move to the second university for the personalized space of your MBA. At the end, you will earn two MBAs, plus obviously access to two networks and two career services. So it’s a real added value for the candidate to apply for a dual degree.

Linda Abraham: What are some of the partner schools?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: We are a partner with NYU and Fletcher in Boston; we have a joint degree with MIT, Fundaçao Getulio Vargas in Brazil, ESADE, and several others in Latin America. We have LSE as well in Europe, so we have quite a few listed for double degrees.

The partner school is really the body that will decide if the applicant will be granted the double degree or not. HEC has no input whatsoever in that choice. So it’s up to the partner to decide whether this candidate will be accepted or not. Since they are delivering their own diploma, they have full right to accept or refuse a candidate. For this double degree, there is also a cost involved. Because you are not doing the full HEC curriculum, we will only charge you for the number of months that you will spend at HEC. And the partner school will charge you for the period of time that you will do at the partner school.

Linda Abraham: Tony asks, “What is the average age of students at HEC Paris, and how many years of work experience do they have before their enrollment?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: The average age is 29 years old, and the reason for that is because we require a minimum of three years of work experience.

Linda Abraham: So you value work experience, quite clearly.

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes, exactly. And I know that it is quite specific to European schools where you really need a minimum of three years of work experience. As I mentioned before, we base our learning process on the sharing of experiences. Therefore, if a candidate hasn’t got enough of that work experience, he will be gaining a lot from the other classmates but won’t be able to give back as much. So we really put a very strong emphasis on this work experience.

Linda Abraham: I think the pendulum is swinging back a little bit in the United States towards acquiring at least some work experience. Maybe not three years, maybe two years, but I think it is swinging back. I want to ask the applicants a question. Are you concerned that you have too much experience? 38% said that yes, they are concerned. 62% said that no, they are not concerned that they have too much work experience. The next question is -- are you concerned that you have too little work experience? 33% said yes and 67% said no. So most of the people here today are actually pretty confident that they are in the right range in terms of quantity of work experience.

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: It’s interesting to see that most of the people joining the Q&A today have the right amount of work experience. It’s a very good ratio, I would say. But for those 37% who feel that they have too much work experience, it really depends as well on what you want to do. If the aim of your MBA is really to change your career completely and really switch to a completely different sector of activity, different job, different country, I would say that it might be a little bit difficult. That is because you have so many years of work experience, so you might expect a job that would give you the earnings that you used to have in your previous job with all those many years of work experience. You will need to start from scratch again after graduation, and sometimes that is very difficult to accept when you have so many years of work experience. It’s more difficult to accept a lower salary in the field that you are starting again from scratch, so that is one of the drawbacks of having “too much work experience.”

But if you want to stay in the same sector of activity, but just maybe change countries, then obviously it is an asset. Because you’ve been in a job for so many years, you know the job very well, so you can easily do it in a different country. Instead of doing it in Asia, if you want to do it in Europe and get that experience, then it’s not an issue at all. We can take on students up to 30-years old in the program. So regarding too much experience, it really depends on what you want to do after the MBA.

Linda Abraham: A few participants ask this same question as Tony. Tony is apparently working in France right now, and he is wondering how important knowledge of French is in the program. He says that according to his experience, he’s been told that it’s not important, but his experience is that it is very much the contrary – that it is important to speak a good French in the MBA program.

And Ansuman also asks, “How important is fluent knowledge of French in terms of getting a job in France after the program?” I would guess that for that, it is very important. But could you comment on the importance of French fluency both at HEC and beyond?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: You have two issues here. One is regarding knowing French prior to entering the program. I would say that is not a requirement, so you don’t need to have French to enter the program. All the classes will be in English, except if you choose the bilingual track that we talked about in the beginning.

Linda Abraham: Right. But that bilingual track presupposes a good knowledge of French?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes, but if you don’t have a good knowledge of French or if you don’t know French at all, you stay in the normal English section and therefore all your classes will be in English. So there is no issue. But learning language is part of the curriculum at HEC. So if you don’t have any knowledge of French or if you have just a little bit, but you want to improve because you want to find a job later on in France, we put in place language classes and you need to take French because we want to give our participants all the different tools for them to be able to find a job at the end. Because indeed even if it’s not necessary to have French to enter the program, in order to work in France, you will need to have minimum knowledge of the language. And it would be the same working in Germany or working in Spain or working in any European country, or in the US.

Linda Abraham: The point is that you have to know the language of the country in which you are working.

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Exactly. And this is quite understandable. So I would say to work in France, you need the basic knowledge of French. Even if you work in a very international environment, a very international company, you would need to have that basic knowledge. Knowing that, we offer those French classes. And at the end of the program, we see students who came with absolutely no understanding of French being able to give a short presentation in French. So we give you the tools now and it’s up to you to use those tools and acquire those skills.

Linda Abraham: How many of you know at least two languages? That’s pretty impressive. 11 out of the 16 attendees know at least two languages. Now how many of you at this point in time know French? 37% or 6 out of the 16 know French at this time.

So if you are interested in studying at HEC, you can do so in English. If you are interested in working in France, you have to learn French somewhere along the way, either before or after getting to HEC.

Keenan asks, “Who are the biggest recruiters at HEC, and what are the main industries that graduates go into upon graduation?” Do any specific companies stand out more than others?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: I would like to answer giving you some information about the funding of HEC. At HEC, we get our funding money from the Chamber of Commerce of Paris, but in the school, from a pool of companies under the HEC Foundation. So there are about 40 of them in this pool of companies, coming from all different sorts of backgrounds; in the industry sector, luxury market, consulting firms, finance banks, insurances, and so on. Those companies put together on the table a sum of money that will go to the faculty, to the professors, for research. It will also go for scholarships for students and so on. So those companies want something in return. What they are expecting is CVs on their desks, so they will be the main recruiters that we have at HEC. We work hand-in-hand, really as partners together with those companies. At HEC, we have undergrad students as well as master’s students as well as MBA students. And at different levels, those companies will say that they need more undergrad students for this job, a more junior person or a more senior person for a different job, and therefore we will obviously give different types of CVs to those recruiters. So the list of all those companies is available on our website. I think the best thing would be to go on the website and check over there because you will have the full list there.

Linda Abraham: Debmalya asks, “Earlier, you listed the four concentrations – strategy, marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Can a student wanting to get a better understanding of social entrepreneurship, select the appropriate classes? Will they have flexibility to customize their MBA?"

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: I need to clarify this because I gave you the list of the four major concentrations, but I haven’t spoken to you about all the other types of options that you need to take on. You have to concentrate on one of those four topics, but at the same time, you need to acquire skills in different aspects of management, and you can do so through the portfolio of electives. So on top of focusing on one of those four topics, you would need to take electives. So you have a portfolio of about 70 electives in the major subjects of management, including personal development. Just to give you an example, we have electives in theater where you will be able train yourself in your oral presentations. We have electives in mergers and acquisitions, in specific strategic topics. So there is really a vast portfolio.

Linda Abraham: And there is flexibility in the program to customize it, let’s say, for social entrepreneurship, as opposed to just full-profit entrepreneurship?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Exactly. We have specific certificates that are cross-disciplinary certificates with the undergrad students, the master’s program students and the MBA students. We have several different topics, and social enterprise is one of the certificates that you can attend. So instead of focusing on the portfolio of electives, you would take a specific focus on social enterprise. We also have a specific certificate in luxury marketing; we have one in real estate, another one in finance and the energy sector, and also in innovation in enterprise. So you can also focus on those different topics through the certificates.

Linda Abraham: Rajasekhar asks, “Could you let me know the job placement for international applicants, given that most companies do not sponsor candidates easily for work permits?” If I could rephrase the question a little bit -- what is HEC’s job placement record outside of France, if you are not planning to stay in France?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: I’ve got a few figures here, but first I would like to clarify the class profile. I’ve mentioned the age average and the number of participants, but I need to quote this figure: 85% of our students are not French. I think it is quite self-explanatory. It means that most of the French people that are actually in the program are expatriates, which means they were working outside of France when we recruited them. We recruit throughout the world.

And once the students finish the MBA and they want to find a job, depending on where they come from, they will work in different areas of the world. If the person comes from the Asian region, that person might want to stay in France or in Europe to work for a couple of years, and then move back to Asia. If the person comes from the US, same thing; they might want to work in France or in Europe for a couple of years and then maybe move on to the US or to Asia. If the person is French or coming from Europe, they might very well want to work in the US or in Asia. So in order to do so, they might want to go for an exchange program in a partner school based in the US or in Asia, or they’ll choose to do a double degree in one of those two areas. That means that they will gain access to a second university.

Just to quote some figures on placement, we place 31% of our students in France, 14% of our student in North America, 5% in Western Europe, 2% in the Middle East, 23% in Asia, 15% in Central Asia, 2% in Africa, and 8% in Latin America. So you can see from those figures that we don’t necessarily place our students in France or in Western Europe, but really as a global marketplace.

Linda Abraham: Those figures are very persuasive in terms of the international reach of both the career placement and the alumni network. And it kind of leads into the next question from Ansuman. He asks, “Does HEC offer any alumni-connect programs? How can I connect with any Indian HEC alumni?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: It’s extremely easy because you have quite a lot of blogging that goes on, on LinkedIn, Facebook, and on all sorts of social networks. And if you are interested after this Q&A, you can always send me an email, and I will put you in contact with alum throughout India, throughout the Asian region. It’s definitely not a problem at all; we have plenty of people out there. Throughout the world, we have about 40,000 alumni in 110 countries. HEC is a big family; we have the undergrad students, the master’s students, the MBAs, and the E-MBA students. And once you graduate from an HEC program, you are part of the HEC family, regardless of your program. So if you are an MBA graduate and you want to have information on a specific job or sector of activity in a specific region of the world, you can ask a question to an HEC alum regardless of the program. And that person will always get back to you and will always give you consideration because they are part of the family.

Linda Abraham: Lindsey asks, “Is admission more challenging for the dual degree programs?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: When you enter HEC, you will just enter HEC. Your choice of doing a double degree program will take place a little bit later on in the program. Let’s say, if you enter the program in September, you will have to decide and apply for the double degree in January. So admission at HEC is not involved for the double degree. Once you decide you want to apply for the double degree, obviously it is a tough application. And also it depends on the school. If you apply to MIT or NYU, those schools are obviously very difficult to get into. So you would need to show them a very strong HEC GPA, a very strong GMAT, and you need to show them that you are very qualified for the type of program that they offering, and that your project really fits the double degree program. And all that is done through the different aspects of the application. So yes, it is a tough process, but at the same time, it is worth it. For all the reasons I’ve mentioned before, it is a great asset to be able reach two degrees.

Linda Abraham: Dickson asks, “What proportion of students take up the exchange option? And will this track still be available for the September 2012 intake, because you mentioned at the outset that the options will change from next September?"

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: If I understand correctly, the question is regarding the exchange program and whether it will still be operational for 2012.

Linda Abraham: Right, and then what percentage of students take advantage of it?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Okay. So we will definitely not touch the exchange program because it is a key asset to our program to be able to go to a partner school to do an exchange program. So this option will still be available for 2012, and we are actually trying to increase the number of seats that will be available for our students. Out of 180 participants, this year, we’ve just finalized the exchange placement and 60 students will be able to go on exchange this year.

Linda Abraham: Ankit asks, “What program does HEC generally admit from? For example, from engineering, from commerce? Is there any particular profile that predominates?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: We get quite a lot of our applicants from the engineering and technical background. But we do recruit quite a large number of people in general management as well, and people coming from different types of industries; so we have people coming from accounting, finance, and consulting, like any other business school. And we have people coming from operations, marketing and sales, from different types of management.

Linda Abraham: Ansuman asks, “How good is the placement in the marketing domain?” And if I recall, you are ranked very highly, specifically for marketing. So could you give us a little information about that?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes. We have quite a long list of professors that are big stars in the marketing fields. One of them is Professor Kapferer, who is in charge of the specific certificate in luxury marketing. So HEC is extremely strong on the marketing program. We have the marketing focus that you need to take on, but we also have this certificate offered to our students. And we have a lot of professors writing books and writing papers on different issues of marketing.

Linda Abraham: Sergiu asks, “What are the minimum and average admission requirements for GMAT, IELTS, and TOEFL?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: For the GMAT, the average is 690. So again, this is an average. We have people with higher and lower GMATS. We understand that people coming from specific regions of the world have more difficulty to reach a higher GMAT score. Mainly if the person is not from an English speaking country, that is a big issue for non-English natives, so we do accept lower GMATs from people whose language is not English. But at the same time, we want to make sure that their level of English is decent enough to be able to cope with the requirements of the curriculum in terms of attending the different schools and being able to write in English. So that is why we ask for the English test. I don’t have this specific test average at the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure it’s written down on the website. This is not a test that we normally see in the application; we mainly see the TOEFL or the IELTS.

Linda Abraham: Someone had asked if it is possible to waive the IELTS or the TOUFLE if you had attended an undergraduate college where the language of instruction was English?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes indeed. This is the only case when the English test will be waived. But you have to give us a proof that you’ve been to that university and you’ve graduated from that university. This is the only case where the English test will be waived. So even if someone has spent 10 years in Britain or in the US in the work environment, if that person hasn’t graduated from the school, then they will have to sit a test.

Linda Abraham: Getting back to the GMAT, I’m going to ask our attendees a question. How many of you are concerned about a low GMAT average? You just heard that HEC’s average is 690. 57% are concerned about their GMAT, and 43% are not concerned about their GMAT. What do you advise people who are concerned about their GMAT?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: It really depends on how low your GMAT is. If you have a 400, then you really need to work on your GMAT in order to apply for an MBA program. But if you are somewhere around 610-620-630, you can easily retake the GMAT and get a higher score. This is not a big issue if you need to increase it by 40-50 points. And sometimes, it’s really much better to wait a little bit to retake your GMAT, and then when you are ready, apply to the school that you want. Because if you don’t get into the program that you really wanted because of a low GMAT, it would be really a shame. You might be a really good applicant elsewhere, but your GMAT is not high enough. It’s really a pity to waste your chance to get in just for something like that.

Also, the other reason for maybe giving it another try is to get a scholarship. A lot of the scholarships are based on the GMAT, either by merit or need-based. You need to show the jury that will give you the scholarship that you don’t have enough money and you want to ask for money, but you’ve really tried your best to get the best score at the GMAT. So sometimes it’s really worth sitting it once more to get those extra points to show the Admissions Committee that you’ve made that effort and therefore you are ready for an MBA that would require a lot of work, a lot of input from you. Doing the GMAT is really the beginning of doing an MBA. It requires a lot of time and a lot of input from the candidates. And for us to see that people have sat the GMAT several times to increase their score is really something very positive.

Linda Abraham: At what point do you think that the test-taker reaches the point of diminishing returns? In other words, they’ve taken the test three times, they’ve moved it from a 550 to a 600 and then to a 620, or maybe they’ve just stayed at 610 the whole time. At some point, I think that applicants just have to say this is my score and that’s it. At what point do you feel that they arrive at that point?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: It’s really difficult to tell because it really depends if between the two tests that you took, you prepared. But if you really work hard and you see through the different tests that for whatever reason, you cannot reach a certain level, then give up. And try to get into the program explaining the reason why you can’t reach a higher score. Maybe some people have personal reasons; something happened in their personal life that affects their mental state in front of a test, or for whatever reason you are a very bright person but when you are faced with a test, you lose all faculties. Some people just behave differently. In that case, tell us why this or why that, and we’ll try to understand. And if we can see from your transcript or your undergrad GPA that you have very strong academic background, then we might consider your application.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much Marie. I really appreciate your participation today. I appreciate all the applicants being here today. But I think you’ve done an excellent job of answering the questions and providing the kind of specific details and insights that really give credibility and allow people to have a window into the HEC program.

If you have additional questions for Marie about the HEC Program, please send her an email. We look forward to seeing you at future Q&A and Events. Up next is Cornell Johnson Waitlist.

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