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  • Writer's pictureSam

Visiting IESE: Europe's heaven for consultants

Updated: Feb 1

Whizzing through rush hour traffic on a bright green electric scooter was not how I envisioned my time in Barcelona, but I had a b-school to tour. In Spanish style, I was slightly late.

My former client, Vish, was waiting for me at the front gate of IESE’s south campus, where the school building’s classic Spanish architecture caught my eye. Vish, a current student at IESE, had kindly agreed to show me around the school.

Chatting with Vish

It was our first time meeting face-to-face. “You look bigger in person!” Vish immediately joked. Not something I’ve been told before, but maybe my zoom filter takes off a few pounds?

After I was handed my bright red guest badge, we began our walking tour of the IESE campus. We checked out the academic buildings and modern lecture theaters, and sidestepped waiters setting up (delicious) canapés on the lawn for a networking event. I paused for the obligatory photo in front of the stunning ivy-covered facade that IESE uses in its marketing.

After the tour, we found a quiet spot in the shade to reflect on Vish’s experience at IESE so far.

“I reckon 40% of my classmates were either in consulting before, or plan to transition into consulting after the MBA” he explained. This comes as no surprise - IESE is widely known for being one of the few schools outside of the US that almost exclusively uses the case method. Naturally, this teaching method attracts consultants, who benefit hugely from developing their problem-solving skills and applying them to real-life problems.

“Sometimes, the course load can be intense, though” he continued. “I have three cases to prepare for tomorrow. Several of my classmates have basically given up and want to focus on recruitment”. Typically, a “case” is 10 or 20 pages, which students must read and understand beforehand to get the most out of a class discussion. It’s extremely time-consuming. To a lesser extent, I remember facing a similar balancing act at Oxford 5 years ago.

But Vish is a champ. Despite juggling coursework and recruiting, he told me he had already secured an internship with an IESE partner - a biotech company pioneering treatments for drug-resistant diseases. Amazing work!

So, what was his key takeaway from his year so far? “Honestly, it’s the impressiveness of the rest of the cohort. My imposter syndrome has mostly worn off now, but I still feel challenged every single day. It’s incredible.”

On that high note, I thank Vish for his time and honesty (and take another selfie in front of the school). After one final glance at the view, I hopped back on my scooter and headed down the hill to re-enter the throng of Barcelona traffic.


Adding to Vish’s insights, there are quite a few things that are special about IESE. Here’s what else you need to consider when applying for an IESE MBA:

1. Global Presence

85% of the IESE MBA intake is international. Students come from over 50 countries and the faculty demographic spans 20 nationalities. The school also has campuses and alliances across Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. So if diversity and international experience are high on your list, IESE delivers.

As an applicant, demonstrating internationalism is important to align yourself with the school’s global mindset. If you are thinking of applying, use examples from international projects, teams, or clients you have worked with. Identify and capitalize on opportunities to widen your global network, learn a second language, or pursue a secondment abroad.

2. Bilingual Advantage

Spanish is the 4th most spoken language in the world. At IESE, classes are in English, but in Barcelona you’ll be immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment and have full access to language classes, native speakers, and a multilingual campus.

IESE offers students a bilingual MBA diploma option, as well as an intensive Business Spanish program (for which prior knowledge of the language is not required). You can also opt to be taught select subjects in the language.

A multilingual business education unlocks fresh perspectives on international business and increased career opportunities and tools. There is more scope to enter non-English speaking environments like LatAm, especially if you work with teams or clients from the region or plan to pursue your career there. Let AdCom know how you will leverage the multilingual experience at IESE.

3. Case Study Method

This is one of IESE’s unique strengths as a European b-school. With a heavy emphasis on practical applications of business ideas, it allows students to develop their business skills in a simulation environment. The diverse class make-up means that you will learn from multiple viewpoints and experiences.

As a result IESE attracts more consultants, who seek to analyze real problems and the impact of their decisions. Explain why and how you will benefit from the case study method in your field.

4. Sustainability

IESE is ranked the #1 MBA in the world for Corporate Social Responsibility by Financial Times.

It’s clear that IESE cares about responsible leadership. Through research initiatives, a variety of courses on sustainability and impact, and sustainability-focused conferences and events, IESE hones in on social impact.

Focus on your awareness of how businesses impact the world and your contributions to improving businesses, communities, and the environment. IESE wants to see that you are a purpose-driven leader who knows how to “make change happen”.

Applications to IESE

If you’re looking at European schools, you MUST consider IESE. The school is known for its excellence - every IESE student and faculty member you meet will tell you about its high standards! But don’t mistake this for a cut-throat MBA culture. The school’s supportive learning environment, a faculty that actively wants you to drop by for a chat and a diverse campus makes it one of the world’s top MBA programs.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the IESE 2022-2023 application essays to help you get started:

IESE essay analysis:

Essay #1

Tell us about a time that you created impact on an individual, company or community? What did you learn from it? (word limit 300 max)

A quick peek into your personal life, this question asks you gently to reflect on your experiences and identify a time when you felt that you did something that created a difference in someone’s life, helped improve a community or created an organizational change. An action that created change that you find meaningful. An experience that brought you a new sense of realization about your perspectives, objective in life or the direction you want to take for your future.

Through this question, IESE intends to learn your values, ethics, perspective, stance, intentions and observe if its in alignment with the school’s community centric culture with a deep belief in socially responsible leadership.

With 300 words as your limit, pick your story wisely and structure it using SCAR method (Situation, Challenge, Action and Result).

Essay #2

What are your short-term and mid-term post-MBA goals? How will the IESE MBA program help you achieve them? (word limit 300 max)

IESE places heavy focus on getting you recruited in your target role, industry and geography. The school organizes the IESE Career Forum, one of Europe’s leading recruiting events twice a year, Career Treks, Industry Meetings and Company Presentations. This essay plays a key role in helping the AdCom understand your career aspirations.

To fit the 300 word mold, succinctly discuss your immediate short-term goal post MBA and mid-term goal in approximately five years time.

Make an attempt to explain the rationale behind picking your goals and how this jump (single, double or triple) is achievable.

Be ambitious but don’t punch too much above your weight! Your goals must seem achievable too.

Lastly, fit IESE MBA program into your career plan and discuss how you’d leverage academic and extracurricular opportunities at IESE to reach your destination.

Optional Essay

What would you like to highlight about yourself or your journey which may have not been captured in your application? (word limit 300 max)

Breaking away from the usual framework of optional essays, the IESE optional essay not only gives you the scope to discuss any career or educational gaps, low GPA, lack of extracurriculars, low GMAT/GRE score, choice of recommenders or any other weaknesses that need addressal, but it also gives you room to pick up something about yourself or your journey which could make your profile stand out.

This is a great place to highlight any awards or accomplishments you’ve picked up, write about a hobby/extracurricular or some community work, an entrepreneurial venture. Anything that could help give you an edge.

If you feel the need to describe any gaps in your profile, be absolutely earnest in your explanation and do not make any excuses. Try to objectively and succinctly capture what happened and what went wrong and how you’ve made an attempt to compensate for it.


If you are considering applying to IESE for your MBA, book a free 20-minute consultation with us to know how you can leverage our expertise and position your profile for a successful admit.


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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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