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HEC Paris Wants Women to ‘Dream Big’ with Laidlaw Scholarship

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HEC Paris recognizes the financial barriers that deter many talented women from considering an MBA. With the support of the Laidlaw Foundation, the Laidlaw Scholars Program at HEC Paris aims to change that by offering dedicated financial aid and support to women from diverse backgrounds. The collaboration ensures 100 percent tuition coverage, encouraging women who previously thought an MBA was unattainable to dream big, apply to the program, and join the HEC Paris community.

Beyond the financial support, the scholarship program has three main goals:

1. Empowerment: Enable outstanding women to pursue a high-level MBA education regardless of financial constraints, helping them reach their full potential and contribute significantly to their organizations and society.

2. Bridging the Gender Gap: Build a strong network of diverse women who will drive organizational growth and promote diversity in leadership positions through targeted support and mentoring.

3. Promoting Inclusiveness: Invest in the education of talented women from underprivileged backgrounds to create a more diverse and inclusive business environment, inspiring future generations of courageous women.

Join us as we explore how this initiative is set to transform the lives of many aspiring women leaders with insights from Sara Vanos, the Executive Director of Marketing & Admissions for the MBA Programs at HEC Paris, including the full-time MBA, the Executive MBA and the TRIUM Global MBA. She has over 20 years’ experience in higher education and has worked in roles across Alumni Relations, Careers and Marketing in B-Schools in France and Canada.

HEC Paris and Laidlaw Foundation Support Women on a Path to Leadership with Full MBA Scholarships

Clear Admit: Who makes an ideal candidate for the Laidlaw Scholarship program?

Sara Vanos, Executive Director of Marketing & Admissions for the MBA Programs, HEC Paris

Sara Vanos: This scholarship is for extraordinary women who have strong leadership potential, who do not have financial means to support their dream of doing an MBA. The hope is that this will encourage women, who may have thought they could not pursue an MBA, to dream big, apply to the program, and join us.

We look for overall excellence in our candidates – well-rounded, high-achieving candidates, who have at least two years of professional experience and have shown career progression. In addition, we take into consideration their international exposure, academic background, goals and what they do outside of work.

We want to know why the candidate wants to do an MBA and why now. And we want to hear about how the HEC Paris MBA in particular will help them achieve their goals.

CA: What would you like MBA candidates to know about the Laidlaw Scholarship program?

SV: Through the HEC Paris partnership with Laidlaw Foundation, we look to encourage exceptional women with strong leadership potential who, due to demonstrable financial constraints, might not have otherwise been able to consider or afford to pursue an MBA degree.

We seek to help build a pipeline of outstanding women from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and provide them with access to a top-tier business program with enhanced career opportunities and networks. We strive to increase the number of women with influential roles in business, leaders demonstrating ethical and exemplary leadership, who will help build a more diverse and inclusive business environment, helping to inspire and sponsor future generations.

CA: Laidlaw Scholarship applicants need to complete two essays. 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?

SV: Candidates should take time to think about the questions before drafting their responses. We are looking for genuine responses so candidates should write from the heart, and spell check and proof read their essays. We are hoping to get to know you on a deeper level – how you achieved what you have thus far, and how we can help to propel you to your future heights.

Candidates should familiarize themselves with Laidlaw’s mission and be able to express how they as a candidate align with the foundation. As for common mistakes, I’ll say being too generic or not doing enough research into the mission and objective of the Laidlaw Scholars Award.

An important thing to remember, beyond the above, is that financial need is a key element. This need should be expressed in both the essays and also in the follow-up questionnaire that the admission team will send each candidate later in the process.

Our Laidlaw Scholars should also be motivated to give back to the community, once they’re here.  If you can show how you are already involved or share how you plan to play it forward, it’s a plus!

CA: Take us inside the selection process. What happens between the time a candidate clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision? How does your team decide which ten women become Laidlaw Scholars?

SV: We connect with applicants from the moment they make first contact with us, so the time before submitting an actual application is just as important as the time after they have submitted it.  At HEC Paris, we try to get to know each and every applicant through email or phone before they apply, so we understand them and their goals.

For the Laidlaw Scholarship, a candidate submits the full MBA application and two mandatory Laidlaw short answers. Once they submit, the relationship doesn’t end.  As applicants move through the process, their Marketing & Recruitment Manager stays in touch—they send a follow-up questionnaire to each Laidlaw applicant requesting them to answer more in-depth questions around their financial circumstances and financial need. Given the Laidlaw award seeks to allow excellent women to pursue an MBA, whom otherwise without financial assistance wouldn’t have been able to, completing this questionnaire is key.

Once a complete application is submitted, applicants will know within 2-3 weeks if they have made it to the final round of consideration. If they are selected to move into the final round, alumni interviews will be scheduled and the applicant will hear from both their Admissions Officer and Marketing & Recruitment Manager, who will offer them advice on their upcoming interviews with two MBA alumni.

In the 2 – 3 weeks following pre-selection, the candidate will meet two MBA alumni for one-on-one interviews. They will have the chance to both present on a topic of their choice and discuss with our alumni to assess fit. The interviews are traditionally in person and take place in over 80 countries. After the alumni interviews, we host the official jury, wherein we make admissions decisions. The whole process takes 5 weeks, which means applicants will know if they’re admitted within 5 weeks of submitting their applications.

In the end, we really want to find the best fit for our program and we want to make sure that the candidate also feels HEC is the best fit for them. It is also important to HEC Paris and Laidlaw, that our ideal candidates show a commitment to helping boost others, as they move forward in their careers. The process is competitive, however, should students not be selected to receive a Laidlaw Scholarship, they will be considered for our other scholarships.

CA: Would you like to elaborate on the alumni mentoring part of the program? What can Laidlaw Scholars expect from these connections?

SV: Upon graduation from the HEC Paris MBA, candidates will join our expansive and impressive alumni network of more than 70,000 people in 150 countries across the globe.

Laidlaw scholars will have access to mentoring and networking opportunities with alumni, as well as additional events and workshops to nurture their personal and professional growth:

  • Sessions with a matched mentor, small networking events specifically for Laidlaw Scholars.
  • The HEC Paris Teams will match each Laidlaw Scholar with a mentor who speaks to their background and goals
  • We will have timely events to connect the Laidlaw Scholars across intakes, and also with the Laidlaw community at large
  • We will have career sessions dedicated to our scholars

CA: Beyond the Laidlaw Scholars program, how does the HEC Paris MBA support women? (Please elaborate on them—e.g. curricular offerings, activities, networking, career support, etc.)

SV: From before they join our Program, we have in-person and online sessions for women interested in our MBA.  On-campus, we have dedicated clubs, dedicated recruitment and career activities, as well as resources for families and family housing.

Our Women in Leadership Club, one of the most popular clubs on campus, envisions a world in which women and men have equal representation, impact and influence; and fosters a community that nurtures gender equality.

Women-focused career events are held throughout the year. Last year, we had a Women in Finance conference on campus that included panel discussions and a networking session with professionals in the finance industry. Panels included women alumnae, who work in M&A, Private Equity, Capital Markets, and Asset Management. In addition, a Women in Tech Roundtable was held online, providing a unique opportunity to hear and discuss strategic career and business insights among a variety of talented company representatives across sectors. The discussion focused on how businesses and business units are taking the correct steps to integrate more women into the field. Companies included Cartier International, Capgemini, Orange, IBM, Microsoft, and Better World.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.