During my recent visit to London, I spent the morning at London Business School. I have several posts worth of thoughts and material. The first one will focus on the Sloan Fellows program at LBS. I spoke interviewed Balbir Guru, Recruitment and Admissions Manager, Sloan and Executive MBA
Although I am presenting our conversation in interview format, her responses are not verbatim quotes. They are based on my notes.
Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy (12 month program)
LA: Two of the things that are distinctive about the Sloan Fellows Program are that it’s a full-time residential program and that the applicants tend to be more experienced than regular MBA students. I noticed that London Sloan Fellows have 15-16 years of experience on average and that they need to be in decision –making roles when they apply. What are the minimum and maximum years of experience that you would recommend for a Sloan Fellow applicant?
BG: Although we look closely at the quality of an applicant’s work experience, the minimum amount of work experience is ten years. The maximum? There really isn’t one. Last year I believe our most experienced student had 25 years of work experience.
In terms of qualities we really want to our students to have progressed in their career and have worked their way up to a strategic decision-making role when they join our Sloan Fellows program. They will have been proactive in managing their careers, and many are at a turning point where they recognize that this is a crucial year to build skills and knowledge for the next phase.
What do you want to see in an applicant? What are the criteria for admitting Sloan Fellows?
We want our Sloan fellows to have had strategic decision-making experience. That quality is key. We want to see that they have moved up in their careers, that they have had successes and failures and more importantly they learned from these experiences.
Naturally we also want to see evidence to the intellect necessary to succeed in this program.
What are the typical educational and professional backgrounds of participants in the Sloan Fellows Program?
It varies widely. We tend not to focus so much on undergraduate grades, but we do want to see either in the GMAT or the transcript or the work, that an applicant can handle the coursework, specifically the quantitative aspects of the program.
Given the importance of experience in the Sloan Fellows program, how important is the GMAT? Is it a major factor in the admissions decision?
It is one element in the decision-making process. Our GMAT average is about 650, and we don’t place as much emphasis on it as does the regular MBA. It is not the be-all and end-all of the decision-making process. Again, we want to see somewhere evidence that an applicant has the quant skills and can handle the work. The GMAT is one way to present that evidence especially for applicants who have been out of school for ten or more years.
Sometimes we see that evidence from work experience or the essays. Sometimes we see it in the references, which we review carefully. Occasionally we will see it from a candidate’s performance in a previous MBA.
The application process is already tough, with a lot of information and essays that should stretch you to demonstrate your candidacy. The GMAT supports this and also helps us position successful candidates in study groups.
Do you accept the GRE?
As a business School we are always reviewing selection tools however at present the GMAT is required.
Is London Business School’s Sloan Fellows program experiencing stable, increasing, or declining application volume?
Last year they trended down slightly. At this stage in a candidate’s career, the level of self selection is very high, and this is a niche program. The application quality indicators have been good – even improving.
What percentage of Sloan Fellows is sponsored at this point in time?
20-25% are sponsored at least partially. Sponsorship numbers can also vary by geographic region. For example, students from Japan and Korea are almost always sponsored.
Does sponsorship play a role in the admissions decision?
Somewhat. It is vote of confidence from a third party who is willing to invest in an applicant. Sponsored applicants also have a clear path and job waiting for them when they complete the program. It’s great to know someone can go back.
Do fellows have access to the career services even if sponsored?
Yes. They have access to all career services’ events and services. Our career services provide an opportunity to network even if someone is returning to a previous employer. They teach valuable resume and interview skills, which a fellow may use at a future time in his or her career or may use as an employer seeking to hire staff.
There is a suite of skills development that inter-connects with the Leadership development strand of the curriculum, this offers valuable self analysis and frameworks to help a Sloan develop their career strategy.
We expect the fellows to act professionally, but the understanding that fellows have with their employers is between them and their employers. We provide the career services for our students.
What does Sloan Fellows offer self-sponsored students or those interested in entrepreneurship.
We offer a range of electives in entrepreneurship and just had an entrepreneurship fair. The courses cover different areas and sub-topics in entrepreneurship as well as finance, managing growth or new venture development. The Sloan program offers those fellows interested in starting an entrepreneurial venture a place to prepare to launch that venture as well as a safe environment in which to develop and test their ideas.
What is the purpose of the online Pre-program and orientation?
The purpose of the online pre-program is to strengthen the fellows’ quant skills and prepare them for the demands of our core courses. It’s a foundation for the classes that follow.
It also includes a thorough leadership questionnaire which will serve as the basis for our 360-degree leadership assessment.
The pre-program is entirely online, but the orientation is in residence and it provides an opportunity for fellows to get to know each other and the school. In that sense, it is a traditional orientation program.
Fellows can socialize with the people who will be in their study groups. They can get comfortable before the hard work starts. And they can learn about the 70 active clubs at London Business School. There are clubs for professional interests, recreational interests, and geographic regions, and these clubs are really the heart of the school. In addition students from all the programs participate in the clubs. So students in the Private Equity Club can come from the Sloan Fellows, the MBA, the EMBA, or the MS in Management programs.
It seems like the Third Term and the Optional Elective Block are optional. The site says “you have the flexibility to balance your elective choices with your reintegration back into the workplace.” What determines whether one stays in the classroom or returns to work?
London Business School prides itself on its flexibility. In that vein, the Sloan Fellows program offers fellows the option of completing their coursework in a very intensive two terms as opposed to the more typical three. We don’t recommend it and not many do it, but some are here for a sabbatical of a defined term and can’t take the full year. Others may get a lucrative job offer or simply have to get back to work. This option is there for them.
They still have to fulfill all requirements including at least one component in Term 3 so as I said it is very intense and compressed.
I realize that London Business School attracts students and professors from around the globe, but does it provide study opportunities outside the UK?
Yes. Sloan fellows take a trip to Shanghai every year. This is a one-week study trip where they learn about the Chinese economy and meet with business leaders to get insight into the Chinese business environment and economy.
In addition, and this is true of all London Business School programs, the education is internationally focused. Students learn organically how business differs from country to country.