Two weeks ago today, I was asked to check each school's website for admissions decisions. This reminded me of college decisions back in high school (actually 5 years ago exactly this time) when I had all 15+ school websites booked marked on my browser to facilitate the rapid refreshing of contents at a exponentially increasing rate as we approached the end of March. This time, I only had two schools (which was actually more intimidating given the odds), and there was a specific time of release (11 AM EST on 3/5), so thank the lord, I only started refreshing at 10:50 AM EST at a steady rate of 6 times per minute. 

For 5 minutes, nothing happened. Then at 10:56 AM, the link for ESCP Europe suddenly appeared. There was a list. A very long list pf names and ID numbers. I control F'ed my name. No results. I control F'ed my name again. No results. I control F'ed variations of my name, my Chinese name, my middle name, my last name, still NO RESULTS. This was not possible, I thought to myself. Out of the two schools, I was confident I would at least get into ESCP...if I didn't get into ESCP...well, then HEC would be impossible.

For 5 minutes, my mind went racing. What happened at the interview? Why? Why did they not accept me?? I prepared myself for the worst. "I'm so sorry bebe", my boyfriend texted through Facebook.

HEC's website went live at exactly 11 AM. I was shaking when I signed on to type in my name and birth date. I was still in a state of shock. I almost didn't want to know the answer...

"Congratulations. You are admitted to HEC Paris."

That's all it said. I had to read it over five times, and didn't actually believe what I was seeing until I received an official email 10 minutes later.

I couldn't believe it.


Interviews: HEC Paris and ESCP Europe

Last Friday, I interviewed at New York's Alliance Francaise (French Language Institute) for my Masters in Management programs at HEC Paris and ESCP Europe (through the admissions council SAI).

I would consider myself a pretty seasoned interviewer with a pretty good track record (including a $1300 interview I flew half way across the world for). I'm generally good at first impressions and relatively good at expressing myself (well, at least under pressure - I ironically have trouble formulating sentences in daily conversation, probably because my brain thinks faster than my mouth can speak). Anyway, despite two whole hours of preparation (which is a lot for me because I don't like to sound scripted), I was not so pleasantly surprised by some of the most thoughtful (read: hardest) interview questions I had ever been asked in my life. Wait what? Let me write a research paper on this before I provide you my one-paragraph conclusion. But seriously, we were discussing topics that would make hour-long conversations. 

Granted, HEC Paris is the #1 business school in Europe, and the Masters in Management also happens to be their flagship program. I did not expect the interview to be easy, but what struck me was how with just a few targeted questions, I was having a deep, thought-provoking conversation about my career path and how I could realize those aspirations. Instead of scripted responses to the equally scripted questions I was used to being asked, I was being pushed to think creatively and intelligently about my background, my strengths, and how this program could benefit my career. 

Three French interviewers, one young self-identified strategy consultant, an older man in his 40s who was probably too accomplished to talk humbly about his profession, and an African American man who gave me the vibe of working in the Fashion industry, sat across the table from me in a very small room. The first question was easy enough - tell us about yourself. This was a no brainer. I gave a positive, concise, but also detailed overview of my academic background, interest, and future plans, weaving in a few facts about the schools and how they would contribute to my career plans. 

The next question asked me to describe a consulting job on my resume and what I learned from it. This was posed by the strategy consultant who at the end, seemed pleased with my answer - my conclusion being that as a consultant, you can't expect to make monumental challenges in one day. It's all about small impact, little bits at a time, and hoping that something you said or did will shape management's decision moving forward in some positive way.

Then came the first challenge - stemming from my somewhat ambiguous career aspirations. I was asked, rather pointedly, if I could elaborate on the specific goals I had after graduation. At this point, I was conflicted about answering truthfully (that I had narrowed my choices down to three career paths) or telling them what they wanted to hear: a well-defined plan in a specific area. I hesitated and told them the truth -the whole truth. I said I made the mistake in undergraduate school to focus on one career path, only to find that it was not meant for me (namely, banking). I realized from this experience that I am far from a well-informed decision about my final career destination, but I do have three very specific career paths that I hope to explore in graduate school: luxury marketing given my background in psychology/consumer behavior and fluency in Chinese, strategy consulting given my current and past work experiences, and finally tech startups given my startup project and interests in technology. I told them I was still exploring and keeping my options open, but in a focused and disciplined way. This was surprisingly well-received. But then I got my two worst questions.

Imagine that I am the director of L'Oreal, the middle-aged man, who very well could have been a director at L'Oreal, said to me, sell yourself to me. I had never had to pretend to sell myself in an interview where I was already pretending to sell myself. My brain got confused and they had to cut me off.

Then came another question about a subject I had no actual knowledge about - Tell me how I would sell luxury French wine to the Asian markets in a way that would stand out from other international brands. My heart dropped because I knew nothing about the luxury french wine industry. I somehow miraculously spew out something about playing the French exclusivity / limited-supply card to differentiate itself from the American mass consumer / volume-driven sales strategies. The interviewers, though not elated, seemed content with this response. It was a bull shit answer, but at least a well-constructed bull shit answer, my boyfriend later told me. 

At the very end, I was asked to speak some French "off the record". This was rather easy since I got to pick the very basic sentences and say them perfectly. I got some nodding frowns ("not bad"), and then was just as quickly escorted out as I was escorted in.

How did I think I did? I honestly have no idea. All I can say is I tried my best, and I can only hope that they liked who I am. 

Results come out next week! So I'll keep you updated.

until next time,



The Cheaper, No Work Experience Required MBA

I woke up this morning to very exciting news: I had been invited to interviews at both HEC Paris and ESCP Europe for their Masters in Management programs!!! I am now in the admissible stage, meaning my resume, transcripts, and GRE/GMAT scores have met their requirements. The interview at the end of February is the last stage to ensure I am the right fit for their program. 

Moving to Paris just got a whole lot more real, so I decided to take a closer look at pursuing an MiM in lieu of an MBA.


A Master in Management (MiM) is a two-year business school curriculum very similar to the Master in Business Administration (MBA). They are both graduate level degrees for students from any discipline wishing to study business management. However, they are critically different in the following ways.

1. WORK EXPERIENCE. The MiM is for students with little to no work experience, while MBA students have worked at least 3-5 years. This means that MiM students are in their early 20s while MBA students are older. From a recruitment perspective, MiM students are really just beginning their careers while MBA students are most likely changing and/or developing their careers.

2. COST -$$$. An MBA costs 2x as much as an MiM (50-60,000 USD/year vs. 20-45,000 USD/year - tuition only). 

3. REPUTATION. The MBA is the "default" business degree in the US, while the MiM is more popular in Europe. This means US recruiters may need to be educated about a European MiM degree. That being said, the MBA has been forming at many institutions in Europe (for the last few decades) while US has also begun to develop MiM programs as well (more recently). For example, Duke as well as MIT have developed a similar MiM programs, and Harvard has created the 2+2 Program to meet the demands of students who want to attend business school at a younger age. Business school will continue to evolve to fit the current educational landscape, and it would not be surprising to see the MiM become increasingly popular in the future.

4. CURRICULUM. The MiM is a Master of Science degree while the MBA is (as the name implies) a Business Administration degree. This means an MiM may focus more on theory while an MBA will focus more on practice. That being said, many students say there is no real difference in the curriculum, and MiM programs invest heavily in student internship and job prospects after graduation as do MBA programs.

5. SALARY +$$$. The MBA graduate will earn more than the MiM graduate. In 2012, the average HEC Paris MiM graduate salary was 90,000 USD (65,700 Euros) while the average Harvard MBA graduate salary was 120,000 USD. But this difference makes sense when you take into consideration that the MBA graduate is on average 4 years older than the MiM graduate (27 vs. 23) with significantly more work experience. 


Average Age: 23

Nationalities: 37

Median GMAT: 710

Female: 47%, Male: 53%

Avg. Salary: USD 90,000


Average Age: 27

Nationalities: 60

Median GMAT: 730

Female: 41%, Male: 59%

Avg. Salary: USD 120,000


In my opinion, getting an MiM or MBA will depend on each person's situation. For me, an MiM is a 1) low cost way to 2) get business school out of the way at a younger age while 3) becoming fluent in a third language and 4) getting international study and work experience.

Other advantages for me include:

5) I plan on having kids in my mid-to-late 20s and do not want to be in school at the same time.

6) I personally prefer a more theoretical/academic curriculum over a more "practical" one because I feel the material may be more thorough. 

But at the end of the day in business, it is not what kind of degree you have that matters, but what you make of those opportunities. 

Both the MiM and MBA are graduate/advanced business degrees. Both offer tremendous learning and networking opportunities. While some recruiters may prefer seasoned MBA candidates with lots of work experience (while others prefer younger professionals who are cheaper and easier to mold), it is the individual who will have the most impact on his or her job prospects depending on the opportunities he or she seeks out, the people he or she meets, and the effort and attitude he or she puts forth towards advancing their career. 

Just like college, business school is not the be all end all, but rather a training ground that teaches one how to effectively think and operate in the ever changing world of business. 


Further Reading:

Applying to Business School in Paris

This week, I finally finished my applications to business schools in Paris!

Louvre December 2013. Paris is a wonderful city to studying in!

While there's really only one type of business graduate school (the MBA) in the States, there are many different options available for business graduate students in Paris (and in Europe).

I applied to HEC Paris and ESCP Europe for their Masters in Management programs, which is similar in curriculum to the MBA, but is different in that 1) while work experience is encouraged, it is not required (YAY!) 2) MIM is very common in Europe/Paris, as most top business school students complete a Masters degree immediately after their bachelors, while the MBA is more common in the States after students work for some time.*

But wait - I'm going to studying in Paris? Do I speak French?!?!? Oh la la! Well, the good news about many business school programs is that they are actually taught in English (it will explicitly say that on the website)! This is because business is very international, so students come from all over Europe and the world. Many of Paris programs will, however, require French fluency upon graduation AND they will offer you classes to accomplish that! Amazing right?!

The SAI**

I only submitted one application to a portal called the SAI (similar to the Common App), which allows you to complete one application for five schools (YAY!).

The SAI requires:

  1. GRE or GMAT scores
  2. Two academic letters of recommendation 
  3. One-page resume highlighting your academic background, achievements and work experience
  4. Academic Transcripts from all undergraduate schools attended
  5. English proficiency test scores if your native language is not English

I will be hearing back for interviews in just a few weeks! Then interviews in late February and decisions in March!!!!!

What if I don't get in?

Well good news is that there are several application sessions throughout the year, so even if I don't get in in March, I can still apply to other programs in April and even June! 

Why Europe?

To this day, I'm still amazed by how few American students decide to study in Europe. And I don't mean just studying abroad! Not only is the cost significantly lower than American schools, but it's also a great way to get international experience, meet people from around the world, challenge yourself to become fluent in another language, and differentiate yourself in the workplace in the future (everyone has studied abroad, but how many have actually WORKED there?)

OKAY, that's it for now! I'll be back in a month or two to share with you my results! STAY TUNED! :D

until next time ;)



*There are also one-year specialized masters, the MBA, as well as a whole series of different kinds of programs you can apply to! The options are limitless! Just do your research ahead of time.

**The SAI process is only for international students who have studied 3+ years at an undergraduate institution outside of France. French candidates must apply through EMAT or CAD.