The European Bias: Myth Busting U.S. Business Schools

This post is aimed at prospective students from Europe.

alexis mellon

Guest Blogger: Alexis Mellon, Former Regional Director, Europe

If you’re from Europe, you’ve probably heard all the reasons the United States is not the place to go for an MBA. The assertions might include that your classmates will all be from one industry, it is too expensive across the pond, and you won’t learn global business. Are these fact or fiction? The following are the 5 most vocalised myths I hear during interactions with prospective students from across Europe:

Myth 1: Your classmates will all be bankers and consultants

An MBA is designed to provide critical thinking and business tools to individuals who want to have engaging, successful and varied careers. As a result, they are industry agnostic. Not only can an MBA be a great learning experience for people in any industry, but business schools also recognise that part of the attraction of the MBA experience is the network of peers you will build during the programme. In our interdisciplinary world, you need a global network of professionals from a wide range of industries, functions and geographies. This means that most top U.S. business schools, such as Duke, are actively recruiting as diverse a class as possible each year. If you’re looking at a business school that seems to attract students from predominantly one industry, I would seriously advise you to rethink your choice of school.

Myth 2: U.S. B-schools can’t/don’t teach global business

Any business school worth its salt should be offering ways to help its students understand global business; both by academic and faculty-led means, and through practical experience and real-world engagement. Europeans accuse Americans of a multitude of sins, and an egotistical, myopic view of the world is one of the most common accusations. Alumni at Duke and other top U.S. schools accept exciting jobs in a variety of fields all over the world. International organisations recruiting for global positions wouldn’t recruit from a school which didn’t teach global business. Duke’s programmes feature different opportunities to see the world through residencies, Global Academic Travel Experience courses, and exchange programmes. Most top-notch U.S. schools have a similar global focus. But make sure you ask school representatives how they do this to ensure it’s done in the format that will work best for you.

Myth 3: Going to a U.S. B-school will hamper your chances of a career in Europe

Perhaps your goal is to stay within Europe throughout your career. Some of the most successful MBA students are those who, while having a clear set of professional ambitions, use the MBA to open their mind to other possibilities. If you’re European, with a European education and European professional aims, studying for your MBA in Europe will likely not challenge your mindset. Whereas a U.S. experience might make you deeply consider where you want your career to take you and open new global horizons. Similarly, a wholly European experience will be less attractive to a future employer than someone who has worked or studied abroad; going to the U.S. for your MBA might give you a competitive edge.

Myth 4: It’s more expensive to study your MBA in the U.S. than in Europe

Education is expensive and different geographies employ different funding models to support educational activity. The European model relies heavily on government subsidy, while the U.S. model is more privately funded, with even ‘state’ schools receiving a significant proportion of revenue from donations. Having said that, when it comes to graduate and professional schools, faculty, facilities and experiences are compared in a global marketplace so the cost of an MBA is more comparable than you might think. I know financial solvency is important: you have a family to support, a lifestyle to maintain, and a healthy aversion to being in debt. But remember that education is a critical investment of your time, energy, and money. The most important decisions you will make about your MBA are the personality of the school you will attend, the network you will build, and the skills you will learn. There is plenty of research out there that demonstrates an MBA’s return on investment. There are many ways of funding an MBA — hundreds of thousands of Euros of funding for education is unclaimed every year — but I urge you to find the school and programme that suits you first, and think about how to afford it second. After all, you’re an aspiring business student — you must be able to think of something …

Myth 5: You need a GMAT over 750 to be accepted to a U.S. B-school

No one is going to tell you the GMAT isn’t important. We wouldn’t ask you to do it if we didn’t think it provided insight into your candidacy. There is a correlation between those who perform better on the GMAT and those who perform well in a rigorous MBA programme. And it helps indicate your quantitative and verbal skills. But we don’t look at your GMAT score in a vacuum. Honestly. It is one part of your application and we review each item we ask you to submit, and make a decision about you based on a holistic assessment of all your application pieces. We have denied candidates with a score of 800, and have accepted those who scored below 600. There is no magic number that will guarantee you admission to any programme – we are looking for the quality of your work experience, how you have shown yourself to be a leader, and what unique value you will offer your classmates. We’re looking for a lot more from you than just a perfect GMAT, so don’t focus on your preparations for that exam at the expense of the rest of your application.


About Alexis

Based in London, Alexis Mellon is the Regional Director for Europe, for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is responsible for all business school activities across Europe, with a particular focus on corporate business development, strategy for admissions and alumni relations, and management of Fuqua’s partnerships and operations in the region.

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One Response to The European Bias: Myth Busting U.S. Business Schools

  1. Megan Overbay says:

    Fuqua has regional teams based in China, the UAE, Russia, and India, in addition to Alexis and her team in Europe. They wear many hats, and one of them is to be a wonderful extension of the Admissions team with deep regional roots. As with our Admissions team, we collect 25 Random Things from our regional team members to get to know them better. Here’s a selection from Alexis’ list:

    • I have never given up on reading a book, and I only read one book at a time. This means I sometimes rattle through literature like it’s going out of fashion and also that I’ve been known to take almost a year to read one book (Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad: great book, just heavy going).
    • I love cities. Especially neon skylines at night. Hong Kong, New York, and London are my favourites. Light pollution and other environmental concerns aside, I think man-made creations are beautiful.
    • I am an only child. Although I recognise the benefits of being so, I spent my childhood creating imaginary siblings, and my adulthood collecting a very close group of friends who are my “urban family.”
    • During my first 5 years living in London I stayed at 8 different addresses. Don’t move to London until you earn a decent wage or don’t care about living in squalor.
    • I am not really a pet person, but it has long been my goal to have three guinea pigs called Kennedy, Castro and Krushchev, and to call their hutch the Bay of Guinea Pigs. One day …

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