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INSEAD or Cambrdige?

#1 INSEAD or Cambrdige?
10/04/2016 19:51



I have been accepted to INSEAD, met 6 alumni, and am interviewing with Cambridge and will know my response there shortly after.

My impression of INSEAD is well-ranked this year, party school, extremely international, fast etc. How that comes together in my mind is a bit of a machine school that churns you out in 10 months without much of an education or true strength in gain other than a rubber stamp. I know the rubber stamp theory is a true one for all business schools, it just seems more so for INSEAD and I am not one to want an MBA just to travel and escape, I am dual citizen and could do that on my own.

Cambridge seems a bit more elite due to small class size and I get the feel the name is stronger than INSEAD - a very qualitative measure. Quantitatively, I understand Judge is younger than INSEAD and obviously had a fraction of the alumni network. They also have an Energy and Environment concentration which is relevant to my aspirations.

I know the industry and role I want to be in post-graduation, so which is stronger, INSEAD or Cambridge?

I am from California, so my biggest fear is taking myself away from my network here only to find that coursework does not challenge my mind and the network I am building isn't there to do big things, but more for a vacation.

Thoughts? Thanks, All.

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#2 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
11/04/2016 07:44

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Sheels (#1)

Insead seems to require people to start with two languages and leave with three. That alone would prevent people like me from going there, people who have no desire whatsoever to learn additional languages (my philosophy is, if you are going to do something, do it well... unless I end up as fluent as a native then there's probably not much point).

More broadly however, what do you expect the ROI to be from a heavy investment in an MBA (taking into account working hours and any additional career-related stress post-MBA)?

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#3 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
11/04/2016 10:42

Frio to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#2)

I'm certainly not the resident expert in MBAs, as I've said before I work with a bunch of people who have them and those who do not. I have never really seen a difference between the two groups, other than the group who do can be slightly more smug.

In terms of which one is best, it's really difficult to say when we really don't know you. If I were you, I'd write down exactly I wanted from an MBA and give Cambridge/INSEAD a mark (or a weighed mark if you really like) then you'll get a winner. If you feel sad when Cambridge or INSEAD win, then you'll know which one to go for.

You certainly couldn't go wrong with either choice.

For what it's worth, whenever I've had to make a choice between educational institutions or companies, I've picked the one I've felt most comfortable in. It hasn't let me down yet.

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#4 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
11/04/2016 12:30

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Frio (#3)

I'd also recommend cutting out some sheets of paper into shapes that are approximately the size of a five-found note. Then, pile them up in order to simulate a pile of cash equivalent to what you would be spending on your MBA (don't forget to include lost earnings, too!).

Then, sit down and gaze at that pile. Or, more likely, those piles (as it will be so high it will topple over if put into a single pile).

Look long and hard at that big pile of pseudo-money. Touch it, feel it, think about what you could do with it. Maybe pack it into a briefcase and imagine how you would feel if somebody gave you that as a treat one day. Maybe even pick it up and throw it into the air like confetti and imagine what it would be like to win that much money on the lottery. Sit there looking at it. Imagine it's real money, think about how much it is.

Then think to yourself: If this were real money, would you swap it for an MBA and a year of hard studying? And a lifetime of "valuable" contacts, recognition, opportunity to live in another country for a bit, maybe higher earnings in the future but also longer hours and perhaps more stress and so on? All that lovely, lovely cash. What would you do with it?

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#5 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
11/04/2016 12:47

marsday to Sheels (#1)

What is your experience and what are you aiming to achieve with the MBA that you couldn't achieve (or could but not on the same timescale) without it?

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#6 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
11/04/2016 13:02

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to marsday (#5)

What is your experience and what are you aiming to achieve with the MBA that you couldn't achieve (or could but not on the same timescale) without it?

A very good question indeed! That's the key point!

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#7 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
11/04/2016 14:12

Happy to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#6)

Generally perceived wisdom is that you should go to the best school that you are able to get into - and in this case INSEAD is the clear winner. It has better brand recognition at MBA level - don't compare Cambridge Undergrad with the MBA (As an American, how much do you know about the Yale or Princeton MBAs?)

As an addition to some of the points raised above:

Don't expect an MBA to transform you into a totally different person. People that were stellar pre-MBA will be stellar post-MBA. People that were mediocre will remain mediocre. There is a mix of both at all the top business schools

Don't expect the MBA to make you particularly knowledgeable in Finance, or strategy or whatever - there is not enough time, and frankly if all you want to do is learn some theory then get on Amazon and get yourself some books and save some money

Do expect the MBA (INSEAD much more so than Cambridge) to open some doors and put you squarely where the types of firm that you (presumably) want to work for go to recruit their new employees - that's what you are paying for and that's why it's critical to go to the best school you can.

There is always someone that will question the financial return. Whether an MBA is financially worth it depends on your circumstances and what you are looking to achieve. Only you can answer that.

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#8 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
12/04/2016 08:23

Tony Restell ( to Happy (#7)

I have to echo Happy's answer. I studied undergraduate at Cambridge and the last year of my studies was at the Judge Business School there. However INSEAD is in a different bracket when it comes to the value of the MBA - both in terms of the network of contacts you'll build for the future and in terms of the employers that'll be queuing up to hire you when you graduate. Every top consulting employer will be on campus trying to hire you if you go to INSEAD.

On a more general point, it's always worth doing a LinkedIn search to see where alumni have ended up working after their MBA as a good way of assessing MBAs. If one school has a much better track record of getting people into the types of companies you'd aspire to joining then that should be a strong indicator of where you should be heading.

Hope that helps and good luck with your choice.


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#9 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
13/04/2016 20:27

Sheels to Tony Restell ( (#8)

Thanks everyone, and Yes, I have done all of that but for some reason my gut questions INSEAD, while Cambridge (just surface thinking) seems to have more prestige. I could be wrong, though.

I am at a Big4 in relationship management for a top account. I want to get into cleantech post-graduation in the corporate development or investment capacity. I do not want consulting.

Cambridge has an energy and environment focus and is 12 months, while INSEAD doesn't have that option (I can shape an elective or two but they will be very short time-frames) and is 10 months.

Cambridge intakes ~150/yr, while INSEAD ~1000 (across campuses). This is good size-wise, but does it also reflect the prestige that comes along with a Cambridge degree?

I've searched LinkedIn plenty. It's sort of a mixed bag as far as where it looks like people end up. Everyone I want to "become" are Harvard / Stanford / Wharton alum etc. I didn't get into Harvard and didn't apply to the other two. Also, I see an advantage to having a global degree against the others who have a top US MBA if I can rely on my existing network and make the most of my global experience.

Any further thoughts?


I realize there is a lot that can be done with $100k, however, I do believe in the soft skills that an MBA can help build.

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#10 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
14/04/2016 04:24

Dan! Dan! Dan! to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#2)

All the talk of MBA ROIs is fair enough given the cost. I would just suggest not overlooking the broad array of things one might want to include in the 'R', beyond future earning potential. Given how short life is, what value should one put on some of its unique benefits:

* Learning, just for the sake and privilege of knowledge (and no, it's not the same to just buy the text books and try to read them yourself when u come from work nackered at 9pm)

* Meeting so many new people of similar interests and aspirations: maybe you get to forge lasting friendships with some, maybe u get to have lots of s3x with others

* Potential for development of soft skills, self confidence, and the associated lifestyle and health benefits

* The opportunity to appraise your career path and explore different options, potentially putting you on a much more fulfilling course

* etc

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#11 RE: INSEAD or Cambrdige?
14/04/2016 11:48

Happy to Sheels (#9)

A couple of additional thoughts, A bit long, apologies:

1) You should do whatever feels right - if that means Cambridge, then go for it without regrets. Whatever you choose, you'll never know if it was the wrong decision because you won't experience 'what could have been'

2) The Harvard/Stanford/Wharton thing: This is self-perpetuating. More people go into VC from these schools because students with a relevant background (physicians / tech start-up people etc) know that VC companies typically recruit most of their new hires from these schools. They therefore apply there and, because they have stellar backgrounds, get admitted. The VC companies know these potential hires are highly concentrated in these three schools and so know where they can easily find them. And so the circle continues. These people don't get into venture firms simply because they are at Harvard or Stanford, they get in because they have the right background for VC and so are able to get into Harvard or Stanford, and because the venture funds know how to find them.

3) Typically, business school will help you change one of industry or function, changing both does happen but is exponentially harder. If your background is not relevant to VC, then it is unlikely you will get a VC job, even from Harvard". I don't know what Big 4 relationship management is, but it sounds like quite a jump to get into cleantech VC. No harm in trying, but I guess the point here is to have realistic expectations and back-up plans in place, wherever you end up

4) If I was recruiting I really wouldn't care about MBAs with a specific concentration - basically because having done an MBA where people have done this, I have seen the level of detail/expertise you come out with... I don't know anything about 'energy and environment' or how much you can learn about it on the Cambridge MBA, but if I was recruiting in my field I would be looking in the best business schools for people with deep and relevant expertise

5) Related to "Cambridge intakes ~150/yr, while INSEAD ~1000 (across campuses). This is good size-wise, but does it also reflect the prestige that comes along with a Cambridge degree?" - in my view, the answer here is no. INSEAD is harder to get into, so your question re prestige doesn't follow. It probably reflects simply that INSEAD is bigger, has more than one campus, and can admit more students. Cambridge undergraduate is obviously as good as it gets in the UK, but that's not what you've been accepted to. Simply put, INSEAD is a more prestigious business school than Cambridge.

Disclaimer - I didn't study at INSEAD. I know plenty of people who did. I know one person with an MBA from Cambridge

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