Delivering STAR in an American Context

Guidance for every step of the MBA admissions process!

Culture dictates the way we approach everything, even the STAR format of interviewing

This is a guest post by Grayson Leverenz of MBA in the USA.

It was late in the spring, and the international student sitting across from me was nervous because she didn’t have an internship yet. She had solid skills, a flawless resume, and she prepared for her interviews. What was the problem?

We started her session with a behavioral question. I asked, “Tell me about a time when you worked on a virtual team project.” She launched into her answer using the MBA STAR framework: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

About two minutes later, I recognized the issue. The student was still explaining the Situation.

Americans communicate directly. We value clear, concise messages, and don’t require a lot of background (or context) before the main point.

This student was from a highly indirect culture. She was taught the value of nuances in word choice, tone, and non-verbals. Her culture also required significant background in communicating messages. The Situation and Task were important to her because they provided the context.

I explained the cultural dimension of Communication to her, and gave details about the range from direct to indirect. “Americans prefer a direct communication style and are highly results-oriented. What that means for STAR is that you spend very little time, no more than 45 seconds, on the Situation and Task. You focus the majority of your answer on the Action and Results.”

Her eyes brightened. She understood. We practiced again, and she integrated the new information perfectly. The student ended the season with multiple internship offers, and used her new cultural communication skills to succeed on the job.

Culture dictates the way we approach everything, even the STAR format of interviewing. As you’re preparing to be Accepted, communicate with the receiver in mind, both in interviewing and in writing.

Advice for demonstrating leadership in you application essays.

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

IE & MIT Launch New Program in Malaysia

MadridAccording to a blog post in IE Business School’s IE & Asia-Pacific blog, IE and MIT have collaborated to create a new MBA/MSc program for international MBA students. Until now, when international MBA students complete their MBAs (a one-year program at IE), they then choose between pursuing either a Master’s in Logistics and Supply Chain Management in Zaragoza or a Master’s of Engineering in Logistics in Boston.

Now, these dual-degree students will receive a third option: an MSc in Supply Chain Management in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For this program, students will complete the core MBA courses at IE, and then jump to the MSc component of their studies in Spain, the U.S., or Malaysia in place of other international MBA electives.

These dual degrees comprise part of MIT Global’s SCALE (Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence) Network. See the IE site for more info.

For more info on IE’s MBA program and for advice on how to get accepted, please see our IE B-School Zone.

Funding Options for International MBA Students

Student LoansA recent Financial Times article discusses the numerous alternative lending options available for foreign b-school students. Because international loans from schools have been on the decline since the financial crash a few years ago and an increase in international default risk, international students have been turning to non-school and non-government loans. Here are a few of the options:

1. SoFi  – This is a “peer-to-peer” lender that allows b-school alumni to provide loans to international students from their home countries. Interest rates are about 6%. (CommonBond is a similar peer-to-peer option.)

2. Pave – This crowdfunding start-up lets students raise funds from backers who will receive a share of future income as an investment. (A similar crowdfunding option is Upstart.)

See the FT’s article “Overseas students are lent a financial helping hand” for more details on these.

Getting A European MBA: A Unique Experience

International Experience

A More International Network

When choosing between business schools in Europe and the United States, the main thing to keep in mind is that the decision is very personal. Take a good look at the available options and do not let yourself be influenced by rankings. If your background fits in better with a school that may be a little outside the top 10, 20 or 30, don’t let that worry you. Here are some of the advantages European business schools have over their overseas counterparts.

Less Expensive. The two-year program is still considered to be the American standard for the full-time MBA. In Europe, the duration of an MBA program is one year or eighteen months, which becomes less expensive than a two-year program and entails lower overall living costs. Nevertheless the quality of the programs can be very high, which explains the growing number of triple-accredited business schools in Europe.

More Specialized MBA Programs. Europe boasts schools that are known for certain specific core competencies. Ranked the best European business school by the Financial Times in 2012, IE Business School is, for example, the perfect place to develop your career with its focus on  innovation, diversity and  entrepreneurship.

A More International Network. Reports by GMAC state that 38% of participants in US business school are from foreign countries. The percentage of international students in European MBA programs is 83%. Due to this, the teaching language at most business schools in Europe is English. University alliances and exchange programs contribute to highly diverse and international student bodies, and ultimately expand personal networks and ability to work on a global level. IESE Business School, which offers the fifth best worldwide MBA program according to The Economist in 2012, has between 26 and 28 exchange partners including 16 top US schools, such as Columbia and NYU-Stern. In 2010, IESE became the first European school to open its New York City campus.

High MBA Salaries. During times of economic growth or in times of crisis, it is important to have a diploma that employers favor. 87% of the European business school graduates of the class of 2012 were employed after graduation, according to a GMAC survey. Getting a European MBA is also a great opportunity to change careers or find a better job, as 43% of graduates found new employers after graduation. The median starting salary for all management program graduates in the Old Continent is higher by more than US$22,000. Last year, MBA employees in Europe were even better paid than in America – US$108,355 compared to US$100,000.

Better Return on Investment. The Financial Times value-for-money rankings show that European schools are doing better than their American counterparts. With all due critical attitudes towards such calculations and lists, the top 10 European and American schools would be as follows: The first 10 are made up of European institutions and the second 10 are American. The question of business school quality is open to debate, and can never be fully resolved. Although, in terms of ROI, the European MBA seems to be gaining the upper hand.

More Experienced Classmates. The age of MBA students in Europe is generally higher than that of American schools. This may give experienced professionals who want to go back to school an argument in favour of the Old Continent. On the other hand, US institutions accept a larger number of students in their programs.

Smaller Classes, More Individual Attention. The size and culture of a school are often overlooked when considering business schools. In general, US business schools are larger, with an average intake of 287 full-time MBA students, compared with 124 in Europe. Professors in the US may therefore have a limited amount of time for individual work with each student compared with professors in Europe.

Better Career Mobility. Thanks to the Bologna higher education accord, European degrees are recognized in most countries within the Eurasian continent, giving unprecedented access to career opportunities worldwide. This also means that MBA graduates are not confined to working in the country they graduated, but can benefit from the pan-European job market.

Cultural Diversity. Cultural differences between European countries shouldn’t be underestimated when considering the added value of an MBA program. Historically-built attitudes and social order vary greatly and create a secondary learning environment outside the classes.

Language Learning Options. It is a well known fact that a new language is most efficiently learned when in the foreign country. Even though English is the teaching language of MBA programs, students have the option to perfect their language skills with native speakers outside of the classroom.

By Access MBA Tour


Created ten years ago, the renowned Access MBA Tour travels to 65 cities every year with a hundred international business schools. Access MBA gives selected candidates the chance to meet individually with Admissions Directors of top-tier MBA programs. Being held for the sixth time in New York, representatives of Full Time, Part Time or Distance Learning programs will be present at the One-to-One event on Wednesday, May 22nd 2013 from 4pm to 9:30pm at the Warwick New York Hotel.

Some of the business schools participating in the Access MBA Spring Tour 2013 include: London Business School, INSEAD, Duke University–The Fuqua School of Business, IESE, HEC Paris, IE Business School, Cass, ESADE, Hult International Business School, Manchester Business School, EDHEC Business School, Nottingham University, University of Chicago–Booth, SDA Bocconi, Northwestern University–Kellogg, IMD, University of Cambridge, Copenhagen Business School, Durham University, International University of Monaco

How can you take advantage of Access MBA’s exclusive services? All you have to do is register online on and bring your CV to the event. Early registration is recommended as places in One-to-One meetings are limited.

European B-School Tackles Rebranding Missions

Vlerick Business School

Rebrand and Transform

On Wednesday, September 12th, Belgium’s Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School changed its name to the Vlerick Business School in an effort to rebrand and transform its identity to reflect the new business education environment.

According to the school’s dean, Philippe Haspeslagh, “Two socio-economic crises in a row have made companies, business schools and individuals think about what it is they do and why. Because of this, we’ve thoroughly scrutinized our organization and processes from program design and delivery, to our reputation and international visibility.”

Planned initiatives include new research partnerships, a new campus in Brussels, a new MBA curriculum, redesigned executive education programs, and the development of education opportunities in China and Russia, including campuses in Beijing and St. Petersburg.

The school also has a redesigned logo to round out its updated identity.

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