Getting into IMD, An Elite 1-Year MBA Program at the Heart of Europe

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: July 28, 2013)
IMD Campus

IMD is one of the leading MBA programs in Europe.

While recruiting season is just starting in North America for the class of 2016, several European schools are still recruiting candidates for their class of 2014. This is the case of IMD (International Institute for Management Development), arguably one of the best European business schools along with London Business School and INSEAD. The Swiss school has 5 application deadlines every year (February 1, April 1, June 1, August 1, and September 1).

When applying to Business School I strongly considered IMD, and had I not been admitted to HBS, I would have joined the school’s class of 2012. IMD’s intimate MBA program appealed to me for the rigor of the education provided (students sometimes describe their experience as a “boot camp”), the international student body and faculty, as well as the outstanding career placement statistics (more than 60 organizations recruit on campus every year from a pool of only 90 students and the school does an amazing job promoting its resume book to potential employers). Top companies regularly recruit at IMD, including consulting powerhouses such as McKinsey and BCG, tech giants, and leading CPG firms. However a significant proportion of IMD graduates end up working for major industrial groups (81% of the class of 2012). At $131,566, the average starting salary for 2012 graduates was among the highest across EU schools.

Interestingly, the IMD program runs over only 11 months, allowing MBA students to minimize the time spent away from the workforce. The opportunity cost is therefore much lower than for traditional 2-year MBA programs, and some students actually attend IMD while on a sabbatical. At CHF60k in 2014, the actual cost of the program is also much lower than that of top US MBA programs.

The admissions process is quite rigorous; the school requests applicants to submit 7 application essays (with a very strict 1500 character limit for each) and 3 letters of recommendation. Shortlisted applicants are then invited to a full assessment day on campus. There, candidates go through one on one interviews with members of the ad com, interact with other applicants during mock case discussions, present individually in front of an audience, and get the opportunity to have lunch with current participants in the program. Having taken part in this recruiting day, I remember leaving Lausanne completely exhausted, but also very excited about the opportunity to join the incoming class.

For potential applicants, it is worth noting that IMD candidates skew older than US B-school candidates (average age at entry: 31 at IMD vs 27 for most US programs). Although it doesn’t mean that less experienced MBA hopefuls should not consider IMD, they should strive to demonstrate in their application how their professional experience could enrich classroom discussions. Having worked in a unique industry or demonstrated well above average career progression might be a significant plus for applicants with fewer than 4 years of professional experience. The school also greatly values international exposure, either through proficiency in multiple foreign languages (applicants are expected to speak at least one language on top of English), or significant academic or professional assignments abroad. 92% of students (class of 2013) have lived or worked at least 6 months out of their home country.
Getting into IMD may seem like a daunting challenge, but it’s definitely doable (the school admits roughly 25% of applicants). The rewards for admitted participants may however well be worth the effort looking at the school’s placement statistics and based on participant’s feedback who praise the school for literally transforming them (e.g. through a 20-hour introspection program with a personal coach) and pushing them to their limits (for the best). If you are considering applying to IMD, the school offers to perform a preliminary profile analysis and provide feedback over email. Make sure to seize this unique opportunity before starting what is probably one of the lengthier B- school applications you may have to go through.

If you are familiar with IMD, or are considering applying soon, please leave a comment or reach out to us. Having been admitted to IMD a couple of years ago, I’ll be happy to share my experience.

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