How RSM achieves the most international MBA classes

Every business school in the world claims to be unique in some way.

At Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), it’s something they can back up. No other business school has a higher ratio of international students (99%) in their MBA program. According to Vasileios Zaravellas, the school’s Associate Director of Recruitment and Admissions, this diverse cohort comes naturally to them.

“We don’t put quotas per nationality because this diversity comes in an organic way every year. We travel around the world, we organize fairs and online events for all countries around the world, so we have a natural flow of applications coming in from all the different continents,” he explains. (01:08)

“Of course, we definitely keep an eye on maintaining a specific level per nationality, per region in order for us to be able to deliver that diversity and for people to truly feel they’re in an international environment,” he clarifies. (01:31)

Why RSM doesn’t let rankings dictate their admissions process

Having a high ratio of international students tends to work in a school’s favor when it comes to MBA rankings. According to Vasileios, RSM doesn’t admit this many international students because of the positive impact on the school’s ranking. Instead, he believes the real benefit of this diversity is the range of different perspectives it brings to the classroom.

“As a school, we don’t let the rankings dictate the profiles of the students that we accept into the programs,” he tells us. “Our approach is we’re looking for the best diverse candidates out there – people who are able to come into the classroom, offer their knowledge, offer their experience, and [share] what they’ve gone through in their career and life.” (01:50)

The international makeup of the RSM MBA class is a product of the school’s admissions work around the world. Fittingly, RSM wants its global impact to be mirrored by its students. Vasileios says that RSM wants to act as an instrument that helps its students achieve their own global ambitions.

“We want to have graduates who are going to have an impact in the world, that will have an impact on others around them. People want to pursue an MBA because they want to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. We are here to help them through that process,” he says. (02:32)

An MBA application is your chance to tell your story

Your MBA application form is only one small element of the application process. No matter how skilled you are at communicating your story, skills, and experience, you will inevitably have to omit a few things in your application. Vasileios says the key to overcoming this is to talk with the school before, during, and after you’ve applied. It’s your chance to tell your story.

“As an admissions officer, a lot of the time you receive a file from a candidate but you’ve never spoken to them,” he explains. “Having that discussion beforehand helps you to know more about the candidate, know more about their stories, [and] where they’re coming from.” (04:19)

He continues, “For example, you read the transcript of an applicant and maybe he or she didn’t do that well during her undergraduate work. This might have happened not because they didn’t put the effort in, but perhaps they were also involved in extracurricular activities. But if you don’t have the chance to hear their story, they might not have the chance to be admitted.” (04:37)

Think of an MBA application form as your social media profile. You choose what goes on there, you choose how to present yourself, you decide what to leave in and leave out. But of course, a social media profile never tells us the full story about a person. To get the full picture, you’ve got to get out there and have those conversations that Vasileios is talking about.

Becoming part of the RSM family

So, how does Vasileios help you go from a name on a piece of paper to an MBA student at RSM?

He says his job is all about figuring out how RSM can help you achieve your ambitions in work and in life. He’s not there to reject you or discourage you from applying.

“I’m not there to make the process more stressful than it [already] is,” he states. “I’m there to help them out, I’m there to help them realize more about their dreams, their aspirations, and how we as a school can help them achieve those aspirations.” (06:13)

“We’re called admissions. We’re here to admit people, we’re not here to reject people,” he smiles. (06:38)

In the end, Vasileios says that applying for an MBA comes down to two things: being true to yourself, and making sure the school you’re applying for is the right fit for you. That, of course, is partly his responsibility too.

“It’s about who you are. Don’t show something that you’re not, because at the end of the day you’re making a large investment in yourself,” he urges. “Most importantly, you will become part of this [RSM] family. Ten, 15, 20 years down the road you’re still going to be part of this family – so you need to make sure it’s the right one for you.” (10:30)

RSM is one business school that can truly say it has the most international MBA program in the world.