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A guest post from Emma Bond, Fortuna Admissions

As people look for refuge from an uncertain economy, my colleagues and I at Fortuna Admissions have seen a surge in interest from candidates applying to business school. And, while MBA applications to the world’s top business schools are climbing, specialized business masters—tailored to early career professionals looking to kick-start their career in business and increase their competitive advantage—are seeing an even greater growth in demand.

London Business School, where I served as Senior Manager of MBA Admissions, reported a record 46% rise in applications for its Masters in Management (MiM) program, while the same programs at Imperial College Business School and HEC Paris are up 128% and 52% respectively. Meanwhile, the MSc in Business Analytics is becoming one of the most highly sought-after degrees for university graduates who face a difficult job market because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to this increase in interest, my Fortuna colleagues and I are hosting a free webinar, Specialized Masters Programs: Admissions Insights & Strategy this Wednesday, October 28 at noon ET (register now to reserve your place). This one-hour strategy session is designed for anyone seeking to learn more about various programs and their benefits, what admissions committees are looking for, and how to position a standout application. It’s also a chance to get your questions answered by a panel of industry experts.

“In such a challenging job market many college graduates are opting to reinforce their credentials and networks,” says Fortuna’s Matt Symonds, business columnist for Forbes and our webinar host. “The fact that these specialized masters are more affordable than the MBA is partly responsible for their increasing attractiveness. The average cost of the top 10 Masters in Management in the Financial Times 2019 ranking was €25,625 (approx. $29,900) compared to as much as $150,000 for the top 10 MBAs. With such interest, there’s a real need for applicants to understand how Masters programs differ around the world, and how to create a winning application.”

Specialized masters programs are designed as a launchpad for a career in business for younger candidates with little to no work experience (as opposed to the MBA, traditionally designed for those with 3+ years on the job). Programs range from the Masters in Management (MiM) and Masters in Finance (MFin) to Masters in Business Analytics, Accounting, Information Systems, IMC, or Supply Chain.

While top U.S. business schools like MIT offer specialized business masters, the highly popular MiM degree is internationally oriented by design, and European schools dominate the Financial Times MIM Ranking 2020. An increasing number of U.S. applicants, with an eye toward a career in global business, are pursuing an MiM degree to give them an edge in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace.


What is the admission committee looking for and how can you position your application for maximum success? Below are five top tips from my experience working with MiM candidates at Fortuna Admissions.

  1. Evidence of practical work experience.
    Candidates do need to have some form of work experience behind them, so if you’re applying directly from undergrad, internships are key. London Business School (LBS), for example, is looking for two or three internships on your CV. They don’t need to all be blue chip companies, but if they’re internships that give you a breadth of experience, or are aligned with your potential career goals, so much the better. Whether or not it’s required, having an internship will allow you to get the most out of the degree.
  1. Strong academics and quantitative skills.
    Without years of work experience, your academics inevitably carry more weight. It’s harder to explain a poor GPA when you’ve only just graduated. To some extent you might be able to mitigate lackluster grades with a strong GMAT, but a weaker GPA may be perceived as a lack of effort or commitment—even if you’ve had a few strong internships. However, don’t assume you have to be an economics or business major to apply. Business schools are looking to build a diverse cohort with a wide array of perspectives in the classroom. So, if you’re a liberal arts major, that’s very welcome; you just need to prove you can handle the quant-heavy coursework. It’s wise to have a class like statistics under your belt. 
  1. Focused career vision & clear goals.
    MiM admissions teams want to understand what drives you and what kind of impact you hope to have. This is about being crystal clear about your motivations, goals, and ambitions—know why you’re seeking the MiM and communicate a clear understanding of your longer term vision. While the MiM is inevitably a transformative experience and your ambitions may change along the way, the admissions committee wants evidence that you’ve put in the effort to think through where you’re going and why. Like creating an MBA career vision, it’s a process that requires considered self-reflection about what you’re looking to do and how it aligns with where you’ve been (in this case, what you’ve studied).
  1. Track record of leadership & engagement.
    Noteworthy extracurricular engagement and evidence of leadership are even more vital when you’re lacking in real-world career experience. Community engagement can speak volumes about values, character, leadership potential, and the desire to have a positive impact. Think broadly here—perhaps you were treasurer of the Investment Club, organized the student board, captained a sports team, chaired a fundraising committee, or launched a volunteer effort to support families hard hit by the COVID epidemic. Perhaps you can cite a standout individual achievement (like scaling the Seven Summits) that underscores your drive, determination, and excellence.

    As Fortuna Director Judith Silverman Hodara says, “Find experiences that you’ve had in college that are reflective of who you are as a person and what matters to you; you may not have a ‘title’ as of yet professionally, but you have been able to make an impact on your undergraduate community both academically and outside of the classroom.”

  1. Powerful letters of recommendation.
    Your letters of recommendation provide the admissions committee with a valuable insight into how you’re perceived by others. LBS will be looking for third party validation of your leadership potential, interpersonal skills, teamwork abilities, and fit and readiness for their program, in addition to impact and character—not just someone who ticks the boxes academically, but a candidate who is well-rounded, involved on campus, and poised to make a contribution to the classroom and community.

    Ideally, you’ll have completed a couple of internships and can seek a professional recommendation, preferably from an immediate supervisor who can speak with substance and specificity to your skills and leadership potential. If using an academic recommender, try to ask a core supervisor or someone with whom you’ve worked closely.

Finally, know that it takes time to put together a thoughtful application. There are many steps that require thoughtful planning—from GMAT or GRE prep to essays, recommender letters to interviews. It’s never too early to start thinking about the process, even if it’s just refining what your interests are, so that you can better determine what masters program is the right fit for you.

To learn more, join Fortuna Admissions’ webinar this Wednesday, October 28 at noon ET: Specialized Masters Programs: Admissions Insights & Strategy (register now to reserve your place). You can also learn more about Fortuna’s Specialized Masters coaching services or sign up for a free consultation to discuss your candidacy.

About the Author

Emma Bond  is a Director at MBA consulting firm Fortuna Admissions Director and was previously responsible for MBA admissions at London Business School.

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