PrepAdviser had the opportunity to meet Nathalie Naveda, Manager Admission, Recruitment and Marketing for the Master in Strategy & International Management at the University of St Gallen. Our exchanges with her reveal what it takes to gain admission to the programme.
[0:30] Q: How can Masters applicants demonstrate their suitability for the programme?
[0:36] A: We are looking for coherent profiles. We are looking for people who understand the opportunities, which are being offered to them, and show experience that is compatible with these opportunities. There is no single way to demonstrate your suitability for the programme because we are looking for diversity. I guess the answer to this question is: authenticity. That’s the only way we are going to see whether your aspirations match those of the programme.
[1:44] Q: What are some common mistakes that applicants can easily avoid during the application process?
[1:50] A: The most common mistake is that candidates focus too much on finding out how to get in rather than why they want to get in. So we get a lot of questions like: “What are my options?” and “What are my chances of gaining admission?”, and this is very hard to answer, even for us, because applications are reviewed not only on an individual basis, but also against the background of the entire applicant pool. What really makes a candidate stand out is when they have thought about why they want to apply and why the programme is a great fit for them.
[3:13] Q: What is most important to know about the application essays?
[3:20] A: We require one application essay. We introduced it in 2016 and it proved to be a very valuable component of the application process. It is based on a single question which is announced at the start of every admissions’ round. It is a question designed to provoke critical thinking more than anything. We give very few guidelines and that is on purpose. We want to see their standards, their way of thinking, and other things that are important to us. They should focus on their own opinion while answering the question. Writing a good essay is the best preparation for the interview. That’s a tip that I can give to any candidate.
[5:09] Q: What about academic experience? Is this required from candidates and what are you looking for exactly?
[5:18] A: The Master in Strategy & International Management is a specialised Masters programme, which means we go deep into the subject of business, so it’s a programme designed for students who have some knowledge of business administration and economics. Students need to have a graduate degree in Business Administration or Economics, or if it’s in another field, at least 60 credits must be in the field of business administration or economics. If someone is in doubt, we offer pre-assessment, so they can send us their transcripts and we will tell them for which programmes they are eligible. In addition, if you have a Masters degree already in any field, the rule for business administration educational background does not apply. In this case, you can apply for the programme straight away.
[6:26] Q: Do you require GMAT and GRE? Or do you have a school-specific test?
[6:39] A: We do require a GMAT or GRE score. We do not have any preference for either exam. The exam score has a 20% weight for the application package. It is important, but it is not the deal breaker for the admission process. Just view it as one of the components of the process. We do not have a lower threshold for exam scores, and a low score can be easily compensated for if the rest of the application package is strong. We advise candidates whose scores are lower than the average score of the applicant pool to retake the exam if they already have a strong interview or a strong essay behind them, but we will never eliminate an applicant just because of a low GMAT or GRE score if there is time for them to retake.
[8:00] Q: Do you view some sections of the GMAT or the GRE as more important than others?
[8:07] A: No, we look at the scores as a whole.
[8:28] Q: How do the different admissions’ requirements affect scholarship possibilities?
[8:38] A: The Masters programme is heavily subsidised by the Swiss government. The University of St Gallen is a public Swiss institution. This means that tuition fees are quite low compared to similar Masters programmes on the market. That’s why we do not have the need for a fully developed scholarship programme and we don’t have specific scholarships that we award each year. However, we have different programme sponsors, programme partnerships, and partners that adhere to the same values as our programme, and they sometimes sponsor our candidates and our admitted students. If the admissions’ committee decides that a particular candidate is wanted in the programme, we are going to support this candidate as much as possible. We wouldn’t want to lose that student because of financial reasons. We look at every candidate on a case-by-case scenario and how we can help them. These decisions are not influenced by any single element of the application process because our process is very holistic. But we can’t systematically support students because we are a public institution and we don’t have access to a big scholarship budget.
[10:32] Q: What are some good examples of questions applicants can ask during the interview or during meetings with school representatives?
[10:46] A: We value authenticity a lot. We are not looking for certain questions that would make a good impression. We want to hear questions from candidates that really concern them and not questions they believe we want to hear. At the end of the day, we don’t tick boxes in our programme. We look for diversity that comes from coherence, authenticity and genuineness. We want candidates to ask the questions they really feel they need to ask.