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I am a 26 years old French student. I am thinking about doing a MBA in the next couple of years. My academic background is quite complicated. After highschool, I studied 2 years in a business school in Paris, a bad one. I then decided to study in Sweden, 2 years, so as to take entrance examinations for better schools. I failed a first time and so I studied one more year in Spain, where I got a master degree. I re-took the entrance exams and I got admitted into a top business school, top 5 in France and top 10 in Europe last year for its master in management (the one I am about to get). Overall, my GPA is not that good, I'd say about 2.5. I also studied 1 semester in China.
I did this year a 6 months intership in a BIG 4 as an auditor (MNC department). I am planning to do another 6 months internship as an internal auditor so as to get my degree. I have also been in the military reserve forces since I am 18 years old (military engineering regiment). I was promoted officer two years ago after a 6 months training and I am now platoon leader, first lieutenant.
When I finish my studies, I would like to work 3 years as an auditor, or maybe more so as to get the DEC (french CPA). I was thinking about doing internal audit after that, but I could also work in TAS ou advisory, let's say 2 years before moving to internal audit. The idea is to evolve as a CFO after my internal audit experience. I also plan to apply after having done my company leader time in the reserve, so probably during or after my internal audit experience. I don't know how its works in the US, but french reservists serve during their free-time such as weekends and holidays, so there is no interruption in my civilian work experience.
I think that I am crazy to think about a top MBA : my academic background is chaotic, my gpa is quite bad, audit is not the best way to be admitted to a top MBA and I will be much older than the average MBA student. Nevertheless, it was also crazy to think that I could get admitted into my actual school since my first one was really, really bad and since good french business schools do not even allow business schools graduates to take the entrance exams. I just kept fighting and eventually made it. What do you think ?
It's cool to see a French person here - I did my undergrad in Paris as well.
Let me see if I understand your timeline:
2 years of Prépa or did you actually enroll directly in university (Paris-Dauphine??) ? 2 years of Prépa in Sweden 1 year in Spain - received Masters degree 2014 Finishing up Master in Management in France at top 10 Management program in EU
Currently you are 26 and you are just starting your professional career. You will finish your 2nd internship this year.
You plan to work as an Auditor for a big 4 firm over the next 3 years. You then hope to get your DEC/CPA. Next you would like to spend 2 years working in internal audit. Finally you would like to transition to a CFO role.
So you want to work for 5 years before you do an MBA? You would be 31 or 32 by the time you started your MBA...that is borderline...too old. Also, the value of the MBA in places like France & Germany (to name two) is not the same as in the UK, US and Asia. Would you return to France post-MBA?
My two first years in Paris were in a no-name business school, no prepa. In Sweden, I got a Bachelor degree in business administration.
I would not immediately return to France, I could maybe work 3 years in the US (advisory ?). Indeed, I like travelling : Sweden, Spain and China (my BS has a campus there) for my studies, 3 months in Germany with the Army, I am currently travelling 5 months in Australia. I don't want to spend my entire career in France and I think that it is important to work abroad. I could probably work in the US, then move in Asia before returning to France after a couple of years, and then apply for CFO jobs.
Indeed, my military experience is a plus since it helps me to develop strong leadership abilities. Military engineering is highly technical and I don't have any engineering background. I command people who have more knowledge in this field and more military experience and who are often older than me. The task is tough, but very instructive.
I took the GMAT in 2010 and I got a 620. It was a huge failure since I scored 700 on gmat prep (no re-take). I really improved my English since, and I think that I can score better than 700 with a better strategy and a better english.
I also know that most people applying for US MBAs are younger than people applying to european ones. I think that it would not be profitable to apply after only 3 years of work experience since I already studied a long time. In my opinion, to study in the US will be more instructive to me than to study in France, or even in Europe. Is it a red flag to be older than average for US MBAs ?
You certainly do have an interesting and varied profile. While you are correct that students in European business school programs tend to be older than those in US business schools, it is also the case that international students at some US business schools are older than the average. It goes without saying that for you one key will be acing the GMAT. Without that, you will face a very steep uphill battle at trying to get into a good business school in the US, considering your GPA.
Another consideration is starting to formulate your personal story. More specifically, why all of the schooling? Adcoms will want to know why you went for a MiM and now want to do an MBA. Not that it isn't possible, but it isn't the usual course. When you say "I think that it would not be profitable to apply after only 3 years of work experience," you should consider the income potential pre and post-MBA as well as the fact that your chances change with each passing year. While many internships are unpaid, is your internship paid and if so at the traditional salary level?
Depending on some of the above, you certainly could apply to some business schools in the US as military experience is highly respected. That said, you would have to be realistic with your school choices. Feel free to reach out to me directly if you would like more specific recommendations on the best course of action for you to get into business schools once you are ready.
I did not do all the schooling because I liked it. In fact, school bores me since primary school.
In France, how prestigious is your university or " Grande Ecole " (mostly engineering and private business schools for those who don't know the term) is very important to get a good job and to have a more than average career. Companies have payscales depending on the name of your school. For example in one big 4, I would be hired for 38 000 euros a year. Someone from my previous school would be hired only at 32 000, and only if he or she manages to be hired, which really tough if you graduated from an average school.
I realized all of that too late. In my family, my sister and I are the first generation to attend higher education and so I did not aim too high. I thought that I could not do better ! Small BS have also a very agressive marketing strategy so as to attract high school graduates. To be admitted in a good school, you need to study in a " prepa " or to get a university degree. Students from other BS are not allowed to take the entrance examination. I had to find another way, which I did when I went to the university in Sweden. I chose to study abroad because it not only helped me to improve my English but it also increased my chances to be admitted. To meet the entrance exams requirements, I needed at least a master. I failed the first time, so I studied one more year in Spain. I hope that it helps you to understand why all the schooling. This is what it took to achieve my goal : study in a good BS. That school is giving me opportunities that I would have never had with the other one. This was by far the best decision of my life.
My next intership will be paid as much as the minimum wage. It is not really good for sure, especially because I had the opportunity to be hired in a big 4 for a far better paycheck. Indeed, when I finished my audit internship, I had an interview with a Partner. He told me that I wound not need any other internship so as to be hired. I agreed with him, but I think that audit as my only civilian experience will make it more difficult to find another job after. I talked with senior auditors, a lot of them are willing to quit but the French labour market and economic situation is currently not as good as in the US. I will lose money for sure, at least in a short term perspective, but a first internal audit experience will be a huge plus in the next few years when I will be applying for an internal auditor job. I am maybe wrong, it's no more than a bet.
Perhaps, executive MBA will be more suitable for me. But I will have to interrupt my career in France and find a new job in the US...
So as to be realistic, what schools could I aim with GMAT scores of 700, of 725 and of 750 ?
Going back to your first post - did you look into or consider the CFA qualification at all? Any thoughts?
As far as business school - you could try working for 2-3 years and then apply....which would put you at 29/30 when you start your MBA. Do you hold a second (more obscure) passport (Morocco, Algeria???) you could use your double nationality to possibly further appeal to schools in the US. If you would like to attend US schools definitely shoot for a 720 on the GMAT. Also US schools value long-term volunteer activities - do you currently do anything community orientated outside of school? One thing that hasn't been discussed is: which schools are you targeting for an MBA?
An Executive MBA is for someone who often plans to stay in the same industry/country/job. Doing an executive MBA will probably not result in you being recruited by a company outside France - so the question arises: is the cost of the executive program offset by future salary prospects (in France?), given that an engineering degree (not an MBA) is more highly valued in France?
I will indeed consider the CFA. I do not hold a second passport. I have not spent more than 6 months at the same place for maybe 4 years ! Because I am moving a lot, I do not have a long-term volunteer activity apart from the army (I have been serving for 7,5 years now), which I attend regularly. I also gave tutoring classes to underprivileged high school students, back in France. I will probably do it again from september to december (my last semester). This is something that I really liked, and I could find a way to continue to do that. Indeed, those tutoring classes are sponsorized by my school.
I don't know what school I can fairly aim at. I am now really sure that I want or need to do a MBA, I am just considering it. I guess that the top 7 is out of range ? What about HEC or INSEAD in Europe ?
Hi Benoit, I think that you might get into a higher ranked school in the US - because they *might* not be as familiar with your undergrad/grad programs as someone at INSEAD would be. Since your case is international and a bit complex and because we still don't have a GMAT score for you - its difficult to start hypothesizing about schools.
+ Being French Military leadership experience GMAT 700+
- Not Grande Ecole Audit is usually not a prestigious role (for an American non-minority male) and I think the combination of audit + coming from something besides a grande ecole might mean top US programs would be difficult to gain entry to (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Sloan, Chicago). I'm not really certain without looking at your CV + GMAT though. If any other consultants want to comment on this point I'd welcome it!
Again I'm happy to have a look at your CV now or later on if you like.
my apologies - I misunderstood earlier and thought that you were not in grande ecole, when in fact you are. So then I'll retract the + & - analysis in my last post.
The McKinsey in Bruxelles used to do a MBA conference every year (MBA2U). They would have a few speakers and then you could meet with reps from the schools. There are similar fairs in Paris & London - you might want to visit one and approach some of the school reps to get a feel.
Once you take the GMAT things will be clearer I imagine.