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.

new-call-to-action ~ Helping You Write Your Best

2013 Virtual Panel European MBA Admissions Adcom Interview Available Online

International Experience

Some of the benefits of pursuing a European MBA.

Thank you so much to Marie-Laurence Lemaire, HEC Paris Senior Development Manager, Jeroen Verhoeven, ESADE MBA and Executive Masters and Associate Director of Admissions, and Lisa Piguet, IMD Assistant Director of MBA Admissions and Marketing for an outstanding panel discussion about the European b-school experience.

In the following excerpt, our panelists discussed some of the benefits of pursuing a European MBA.

Linda Abraham: Diego asks “Why choose a European MBA instead of a U.S. MBA? What is the main difference/advantages?”

Marie-Laurence Lemaire
: Yes, this is a tough one…Well, a simple question, what do you want to do after your MBA? If you want to work in the U.S. and be happy with your job…stay in the U.S. and you will be happy. You will get a great education, because you have great schools there, highly ranked and so on, so that’s fine. But if you want to have a really strong diversity, get mixed up with different cultures, people coming from all over the world to have a very rich sharing of experience from people coming from countries that are so remote, sometimes you don’t even know where they are on the map, an MBA in Europe is really the place. I’m sure in Spain, in Switzerland, as well, this is happening, but really the major difference between doing an MBA in Europe or doing an MBA in the U.S., [is] if you want to make that jump into becoming international and to have that experience, an MBA in Europe would be the big difference that it will make on your CV.

Lisa Piguet: Sure. I’m American, I actually can relate to the person who asked that question….The one thing about the U.S. is that you have a different kind of…education process there. But [regarding the] international focus of Europe, the programs here, it’s very different…for example, I would be sitting in a class of 90…but everybody spoke like me. They might have considered themselves Mexican, for example, or Argentinean, but in fact, they were born and raised in the U.S. just like I was. But in the European schools…you’ll actually see the true international diversity that is represented worldwide. So in our program this year, we have 46 nationalities with 90 MBAs, and they’re true…we have one Swiss….There are still a lot of multinational headquarters here and a lot of people want to work in those companies, with the hopes of going elsewhere. I think Europe is one of those places you can do that. Like Marie said, if you really want to stay in the U.S., you’re probably going to attend a 2-year program and you probably will end up staying in the U.S., more likely than not….If you want a global career, my advice is to go to Europe.

Jeroen Verhoeven: I’m completely in line with Lisa and Marie…but I would also link that somehow to back home in the United States, [you] somehow have a differentiating factor. There are a lot of top, top schools in the U.S., but there’s also a lot of different people who go to those schools. If you can present yourself in front of a group to having said, “Okay, I’ve done my MBA in Switzerland, in France, in Spain,” it is definitely something different. It will make you stand out. Standing out, I think, is very important when you’re looking for a job….Competition comes from anywhere, anytime.” So in order to be successful in that fast-changing, interconnected world, having that cultural savviness, hopefully with some additional languages, as well, that can really give you the added advantage to land a job also back home, not even including all the interesting options that we might offer in Europe…I think there are a lot of additional advantages, apart from the cultural richness that you can have, studying here in Europe…from a business perspective, there’s also a clear added value to considering European options.

For the complete discussion, please see the 2013 European Virtual Panel transcript and mp3 audio file.

Still not sure where you should apply, or even if you should apply at all? Check out our B-School Zones for detailed info on individual MBA programs (in Europe or anywhere else) and our Why MBA special report for tips on answering the big “Why MBA?” essay question.

To automatically receive notices about these MBA admissions chats and other MBA admissions events, please subscribe to our MBA event list. To listen to the Q&A recordings on-the-go, please subscribe to the Accepted Admissions Podcast. ~ Helping You Write Your Best


Drop in UK MBA Applicants

Visa policies change in UK

Visa policies change in UK

According to Poets & Quants, “applications to Britain’s business schools plunged 20% last year as a result of government changes to visa policies that made MBA programs there a less viable option for international students.” These students comprise 90% of MBA students at UK business schools, and were deterred due to the possibility that they wouldn’t be able to stay and work in the UK post-graduation.

Yet, the Association of MBAs reports that part-time MBA enrollment in the UK has increased this year by 16%. This figure, according to P&Q, was “propped up […] by accepting a greater proportion of applicants,” and that applications actually “fell by more than a quarter to part-time MBA courses, where European students, who are not affected by the visa changes, are in the majority.”

Positive trends can be found regarding distance learning, with more students enrolled in these programs in the last three years than in any other “mode of delivery.” In fact, in 2011, 29% more students were enrolled in distance learning than in full-time programs, and 26% more than in part-time programs.

In total, however, applications to all types of UK MBA programs had dropped this year from 30,777 to 26,090, which contrasts with other international figures. AMBA accredited schools in China and Latin America, for instance, experienced a large rise in enrollments—30% and 20%, respectively. ~ Helping You Write Your Best


Admissions Straight Talk: Interview with Matt Symonds

Matt SymondsWelcome to the second episode of Accepted Admissions Straight Talk, a biweekly podcast about what’s new, thought-provoking, and useful in the world of graduate admissions!

For advice, insight, and info, check out the full audio of our great conversation with Matt Symonds:

00:24:00  –  Meet our guest, Matt Symonds. This guy is not bored. Or boring.

01:39:00  –  How Matt got involved in the business of business education.

06:27:00  – Informed, informative, and international.

09:16:00  –  Matt’s global perspective on the MBA.

14:13:00  –  GoGMAT: The new online GMAT prep alternative with plenty of instruction & practice where you want, when you want.

18:53:00  –  Can I get into b-school if I’ve never left Milwaukee?

23:06:00  –  Advice for 2012 MBA applicants: Be yourself (but be humble).

Admissions Smart Talk Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes so you don’t miss any segments! Stay in the admissions know. (And while you’re there, feel free to leave us a review.)

      *Theme music is courtesy of

MBA Admissions News Roundup

  • EMBA Programs Are A’ Changin- BusinessWeek reports that EMBA programs are undergoing a shift, as fewer companies are paying for their employees to get EMBAs. More and more students are enrolling in EMBA programs as a means of making a career change, and they expect their school’s career services to help them. Yet EMBA career counseling still does not include actual recruiting, and programs will have to evolve to keep up with the changing nature of EMBAs.
  • Oxford Announces New Dual Degree Program- BusinessWeek looks at University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School’s new dual degree MBA. Oxford’s “1+1 MBA Program” will offer students the choice of staying one more year at school to specialize in an area connected to their future career and earn a master’s degree at the same time. Currently, the four departments that are part of the 1+1 program are: the School of Geography and the Environment, the Department of Education, the Oxford Internet Institute, and the Department of Computer Science.
  • Moral Humility Could Get You Into B-School- Forbes reports that although getting accepted to schools like Harvard and Stanford may be tough, the key to acceptance is not necessarily in your GMATs or recommendations.  The way to get into top MBA programs is often through humility. If an applicant can show admissions committees that they are being themselves, and that they possess “confidence without the attitude,” that will impress top business schools. In fact, Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School, speaks about the importance of “Practicing Moral Humility” at TEDx New England.
  • Foreign Students Face Rejection- Fortune reports that, according to a new study by Poets and Quants, foreign students from China and India are facing more rejection from US business schools then applicants from Europe, Latin America and the US. Due to the large number of applicants coming from China and India, these applicants are more than four to five times likely to be turned down than their foreign counterparts. B-schools explain that they have no choice, since 44% of MBA applicants come from China and India, and many of them are unaware of the hiring challenges that will face them once they graduate.
  • MBAs and Environmental Responsibility- BusinessWeek looks at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management’s Entrepreneurship Development course, which takes place in Chile’s 450,000-acre future Patagonia National Park. Pepperdine takes 20 MBA students to this remote area to teach them about sustainability and environmental responsibility in business. The goal of the rigorous five-day class is to give students the opportunity to see environmental issues first hand so that they can approach them differently in the business world. ~ Helping You Write Your Best


Law School Admissions News Roundup

  • Does No LSAT = More Diversity?- As part of a conference at the University of Virginia School of Law on improving diversity in the legal sector, a panel of admissions experts didn’t feel that getting rid of the LSAT would increase diversity at law schools. One reason mentioned was that admissions officers might focus on less objective factors without the LSAT. Those in the other camp might point to the fact that Hispanic and African-American test takers have median scores below those of whites. However, “that gap […] is evident across all major standardized tests, not just the LSAT.” Another issue is that some schools rely too heavily on LSAT scores, and perhaps those results should be emphasized less.
  • More First-Time Test Takers Passed NY Bar- As reported by New York Law Journal, of those who graduated from ABA-accredited schools and took the July New York bar exam for the first time, 86.1 percent passed, up by 0.5 percent from last year. However, 69.2 percent passed out of all the 11,182 July test takers, compared to 70 percent, 72 percent, and 74.7 percent in the previous years.
  • Best Law Schools for Externships- The National Jurist has adjusted its externship rankings to only include full-time law students. The rankings are based on a ratio of field placements to enrollment, with University of St. Thomas taking first place. Filling out the top five are Northeastern University, University of Utah, Brigham Young, and Thomas Jefferson.
  • Can Anyone Become a Lawyer?- In an op-ed piece for The New York Times, Clifford Winston argues that anyone should be able to practice law—whether or not he/she has a J.D. or passed the bar. Accordingly, the poor would be able to afford legal services by those with less training, while others can choose to pay higher fees for more formally trained lawyers. Potential competition from “non-lawyers” would also bring down legal costs in general, Winston speculates. He also calls for a better assessment of lawyer quality by consumers, since “in the absence of an open, competitive approach to information about the quality of legal services, the existing licensing and discipline system creates a false sense of security.” Above the Law, among others, takes issue with Winston, noting that he doesn’t differentiate well between quality and quantity, and is not using common sense. A blog from The Washington Post argues that deregulation would not only lower standards, but quality as well. A better solution would be to reform law schools “by offering a better balance of the doctrinal, skills, and values education that students need to become competent legal professionals.” Additionally, the bar exam could become less concentrated, and instead be extended over years and test a number of skills. It seems that whichever side you fall on, some modification of legal education and training is in order.
  • Pre-Law Students Are Facing Reality- Potential law students are taking off their rose-colored glasses. A survey by Veritas Prep revealed that 68 percent of respondents would still apply to law school even with the knowledge that many would not be able to find jobs after graduation, versus 81 percent last year, The National Law Journal reports. More students are expecting to take on loans—49 percent, as opposed to 38 percent in 2010. Plus, the top concern for 73 percent of those queried is to find a job that would enable them to pay back their student loans. Last year, most were concerned with finding an “appealing long-term career.” While location and prestige remained the top two factors in choosing a law school, more students this year are considering affordability as well.
  • Interested in an International LL.M.?- The National Jurist covers everything you need to know, including what to consider when choosing a program, and researching its faculty and courses. While international students are more likely to pursue these LL.M. degrees, U.S. students are increasingly drawn to the courses as well. The article also has a comprehensive guide to all LL.M. programs offered at U.S. law schools. ~ Helping You Write Your Best