Admissions Director Q&A: David Simpson of London Business School
Welcome to another edition of our Admissions Director Q&A series, featuring David Simpson of London Business School. There, David is Recruitment and Admissions Director for the MBA and Masters in Finance (MiF) programmes. He has been with the school for 25 years, starting in admissions, moving through various roles in marketing and business development, before returning to admissions.
In his time at LBS, David says he has enjoyed travelling the world to meet prospective applicants. He has read thousands of applications in the search to select the most talented candidates for the MBA and MiF, learning something new every day about global business and different cultures. David leads the MBA and MiF Admissions Committees, setting policy and advising on candidate selection; and sits on the MiF Strategy Board and MBA Curriculum Committee. He has also served on the School’s Governing Body.
Read on for David’s insights into LBS MBA admissions, what to expect during the admissions interview and more.
Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
David Simpson: London Business School is a global and vibrant business community in one of the world’s most dynamic cities.
I wish applicants could experience a day in the life of an LBS student. If they did, they would see how special our community is!
They could attend lively classes with world-class faculty and experienced students from more than 65 nations, take a quick Tube ride to companies representing every sector, discover the power of student clubs and the LBS network, and perhaps meet their study group for dinner in one of thousands of great restaurants in London. Every day is exciting at London Business School!
CA: Will the applicant experience look different this year due to COVID-19? Will prospective students have the opportunity to visit campus?
DS: Our students are studying from our London and Dubai campuses. We are travelling again for Global Experiences. Just last month our students were learning in Madrid and we are rolling out several other new Global Experiences this year.
We learned a lot through the COVID-19 period, and developed some amazing virtual and hybrid learning provisions. We’re fortunate to now be in a really strong position to quickly reintroduce those flexible delivery methods should we ever need to.
Even though we are reintroducing some in-person visits for applicants, we will continue to conduct most of our admissions activity virtually going forward. Our applicants are all over the world, so we want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to get to know us – wherever they are.
I encourage anyone interested in London Business School to lean in more and connect with our community in the following ways:
- Download a brochure to learn more about our MBA
- Download our Employment Report to see where our students go on to work
- Check our events to meet staff, students and faculty
- Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
- Read our admissions and students blog to hear student experiences and discover admissions top tips
CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?
DS: When you apply, our Operations team prepare everything for the Admissions team to read. Your application is initially read by at least two members of our team. Then, if we think you could be a good match for us, we invite you to an interview. After that interview, your application and the interviewer feedback will generally be read again by at least two team members before the final decision is made. The whole process takes 8-12 weeks, depending on the admissions round. You may be offered a place, denied, or placed on the Waitlist. We have a manager who specifically looks after candidates on the Waitlist, as we know it can be a stressful time.
CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?
DS: We only have one compulsory essay. It is very practical and asks you: ‘What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School programme contribute towards these?’ We want to know about your general plans and career direction. It’s not a contract though. One of our new Student Ambassadors recently wrote a blog about this topic, which is a very interesting take on what’s required.
We ask a lot of shorter questions throughout the application, which we think is a better way for you to tell your story.
This is your opportunity to show us that you have researched us and can see how we could fit into your future career and life journey.
One key writing tip: When you’re telling us about your career so far, be sure to talk about your roles and company descriptions in language we can understand. Answer all the questions we ask about your roles and organisations worked at, so we can understand what experience you have.
Tell us about yourself in detail, but not too much detail!
Another top tip when writing anything: Have your reader in mind when you are writing. Ask yourself, “Who are they?” and “Will they understand what I am writing?”
CA: Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Who conducts the interview (students, admissions officers, alumni) and what is the nature of the interview?
DS: The interview is nearly always with alumni, (senior admissions staff also carry also out a few interviews), and will be arranged by your own dedicated Regional Manager. They will match you with alumni who are often from the same country as you and employed in the sector you hope to work in. The alumni will meet you in-person or virtually and send their feedback to us for final review by the Admissions Committee. You will also complete a video submission, comprising two questions linked to LBS and our values.
We typically interview less than half the applicant pool.
The interviewers have a comprehensive feedback form to complete covering lots of different elements. They are given guidance and a set of example questions, but we trust them to conduct the interview in the way that they can best learn as much about you as they can. They’ll explore your career history, personal work style, leadership and team experiences, and potential contributions to the community they are so proud of. Utilising local alumni communities means they can explore everything in greater detail, as they’ll understand your working environment, cultural reference points and life stories better than we in the admissions team could. Students often tell us that the interview was their favourite part of the admissions process, as they had the opportunity to speak to someone who had been in their place, completed the programme and then started a successful career.
CA: Tell us briefly about two notable professors at your institution (ideally one student favorite, and one up-and-coming).
DS: Anna Pavlova has been a Professor of Finance at London Business School since 2005, teaching on the MBA core Finance course among others. Her lively, humorous and engaging approach to teaching is very popular with students across the programme. Her ability to make all aspects of Finance interesting, challenging and enjoyable is noted regularly by students, who rate her as one of the best professors they’ve ever had. She has a natural ability to teach passionately and with humour to students with strong Finance backgrounds and equally to those with little to no prior experience, creating both an accessible and challenging learning environment.
Up-and-coming: Colleen Cunningham is Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, with research interests in Innovation and technology strategy and a prior background in healthcare policy and management. She teaches Strategy on the MBA core and made the Thinkers50 Radar list this year.
CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?
DS: I’d like to highlight a quote from our Dean, François Ortalo-Magné:
“We bring together outstanding faculty and students, recognised around the world for their expertise and impact as well as staff whose professionalism and dedication set us apart. We draw strength from the diversity of our community and our shared ambition for the future… to have a profound impact on the way the world does business and the way business impact the world.”
The applicant experience is a two-way process, where we get to know you in detail and applicants to get to learn all about our amazing community. Applicants, show us through the application process that you understand what makes London Business School special and how you can have an impact on our community and later, the world.