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Admissions Director Q&A: Stephanie Kluth of ESMT Berlin

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In this installment of our Admissions Director Q&A series, we welcome back Stephanie Kluth, the Director of Admissions at ESMT Berlin.

Kluth has been working for ESMT since its founding in 2002 and has been heading the Admissions office since 2005. Prior to joining ESMT Berlin, Kluth worked at the Aspen Institute Berlin and the Jewish Museum Berlin. Berlin has been her home for many more years, so she knows the city inside and out. She knows every full-time MBA alumnus/a who has studied at ESMT, and she and her rescue pup would be happy to welcome you to campus and the alumni network.

Read our conversation with her below for her insights into the admissions process and her favorite highlights of the program.

Stephanie Kluth, Director of Admissions at ESMT Berlin.

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

Stephanie Kluth: Candidates might be pleasantly surprised by the close-knit community among the students at ESMT Berlin and the distinctly familial atmosphere. This environment ensures exceptional individual support and facilitates seamless access to a wide array of networks, which significantly enhances both professional and personal development opportunities.

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?

SK: 1. To begin the admissions process, applicants complete and submit an online application. Applications are considered incomplete as long as the mandatory GMAT, GRE or ESMT admissions test (BAT) is missing. 

2. Completed online applications will be reviewed once the application round has closed. If the application meets our minimum requirements, the applicant will be invited for an admissions interview. Otherwise, we will let the applicant know on the day the application was reviewed.

3. The applicant receives an invitation to select a slot for an Admissions Interview.

4. Admission interviews take place at the ESMT Berlin campus or via Zoom. The interview will last 40-50 minutes and help us learn more about the applicant, and assess interpersonal skills, career goals, and aspirations. This is also an opportunity for the applicant to ask us any questions they may have about the school or program.

5. After all interviews in a particular round are completed, the Admissions and Scholarship committees meet to agree admission and scholarship decisions. This means that if the applicants are accepted into the MBA program, they will receive both an admission and a scholarship decision at the same time.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read an essay? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? 

SK: The essay introduces the applicants as individuals and shows how they are unique when compared to other applicants with the same test scores and similar professional experience. Applicants need to take some time to think about some fundamental questions: 

  • What are my strengths and weaknesses? (Not what would I like them to be) 
  • What do I want to achieve by doing an MBA? 
  • Where do I see myself after graduation? 

Having clear plans helps applicants present a compelling picture of who they are, where they are heading, and why an MBA is critical for them to reach their goals. We would like to see something unique and hope that applicants avoid buzzwords or clichéd terms.

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 (resume-based, application-based, behavioral)? Will your admissions interviews be in-person or virtual for the 2024-2025 admissions season?

SK: All applicants who meet our minimum requirements will be interviewed. The goal of admissions is to ensure that everyone (the candidate, the class, and the school) are best served by the decisions made by Admissions. That means the fit needs to be mutual.

The interview is an important part of the process. Our Admissions Team generally conducts the interviews. They help us to learn more about each applicant, and determine if they really are who they say they are in the application. It is essential that applicants convince us that they are the best candidate for the place in the class. Basically, we look for someone we personally would like to sit next to in the classroom and work with in group projects. Applicants should be able to identify their personal priorities, strengths, and weaknesses and define how they will contribute to the class. In a nutshell: Give natural, well-structured, and confident answers. Be aware of the purpose of the interview. Treat the interview like a job interview and show your knowledge of the ESMT program to which you have applied. Be polite and enthusiastic and let us understand your motivation. Most of our interviews take place virtually for the convenience of the applicant.

CA: What is your testing policy? Do you offer exam waivers? Why or why not? 

SK: A Business Test such as GMAT/GRE or BAT (Business Admissions Test) is just one of the criteria we use to assess candidates. 

In addition to the test scores, a candidate’s degrees and grades, professional trajectory, and extracurricular activities are evaluated. A candidate’s gender, nationality and industry experience also play a role since when evaluating applications, we look at each profile as a whole and also think about them within the context of the overall class.  We want to be confident candidates will thrive and bring a unique perspective to the program.

For the Full-time MBA program we do not offer business test waivers. While surely not being the sole criteria used for admission, test scores helps us to evaluate candidates in a uniform and standardized way and to determine their readiness for the program.

CA: In the application data form, many schools ask for information about work experience, activities, hobbies, and much more. What advice would you give to applicants as they approach this component of the application process? 

SK: There is ample space to talk about your last three positions on the application form; the rest we can see in the CV. The application essays give applicants the chance to give us an insight into themselves as a person outside of work. In particular, we ask who a candidate’s Fantasy Dinner guest would be, which never fails to provide a good look inside the mind of a candidate. 

CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.

SK: Course #1:  In managerial analysis and decision making, Prof. Francis de Vericourt excels in making decision-making concepts intriguing and practical, encouraging reflection and open discussions. Students appreciate the real-life applications, structured guidance, and unexpected insights that he helps facilitate. They find the course intellectually stimulating, motivating, and learn valuable tools for future decision-making. Many consider it a transformative course.

Course #2:  Sustainable finance can seem daunting but Prof. Hanna Setterberg ensures all are able to understand this critical subject. As a leading researcher in this field, she combines cutting-edge theory with practical implementation, and invites guest speakers and practitioners to share real-world perspectives and experiences. By the end of the course, students are better able to integrate ESG into financial decisions and how to monetize externalities to measure impact.   

CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

SK: All ESMT MBA and MSc students can do a Responsible Leaders Fellowship after they graduate. Students get the opportunity to work for 3-6 months with a social enterprise in a low- and middle-income country and apply what they have learned to create positive societal impact. It changes lives and transforms perspectives, and is fully supported by the ESMT foundation.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.