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J-Term: The MBA Admissions Mystery Revealed

January 30, 2014 :: Admissionado Team

It’s time to touch on a subject that’s often neglected by the wider MBA Admissions community, but that’s particularly pertinent this time of year. Yep, you guessed it! JANUARY INTAKE ADMISSIONS, more commonly known as J-Term. Between the Columbia Business School’s J-Term and INSEAD’s Jan intake, we’re sure this is on a lot of your minds.

Senior Consultants Ben Koren and Mehdi Assadi attended January intake programs at CBS and INSEAD respectively, and wanted to share the ins and outs of the programs with those of you considering them. So…listen up:

And read on for Ben’s take on January intake…

First off, why apply in the January intakes? I myself decided I wanted to do an MBA after the round 2 September-intake deadlines had already passed. But I did not want to wait an entire extra year before applying. So, rather than risking a difficult round 3 applications slog, I decided to go for the January intakes. For others, however, the Columbia J-Term in particular offers some amazing characteristics that make it stand out among top business schools in America.

First and foremost, you do 4 semesters straight through. That’s right, no summer internship. I have seen some consultants call J-Term the “Accelerated” program. But this is totally wrong. It’s not accelerated, because you actually spend exactly the same amount of time in the classroom. You just do your second semester during the summer. So for people who don’t need the summer internship, it’s a great option. My class had an extremely high concentration of family business people, management consultants (who planned on going back), and entrepreneurs. If that sounds like your crowd, J-Term could be for you.

Second, J-Term is super INTERNATIONAL. 60% international, actually. So there are more foreigners than Americans. If you were to consider J-Term its own class, it demolishes every other American business school in internationality.

Third, J-Term is its own mini community within a larger MBA program. Most people who go to Columbia, Harvard, or Wharton will tell you that they became extremely close to the 60 or so students in their cluster/section/whatever. But in J-Term you become extremely close to the whole J-Term, which is about 180-200 students. You guys have the entire campus to yourself during the summer, which means some great summertime bonding. During your “second year” your classes are all together with the wider MBA community, but those bonds remain throughout the program and after.

Note: if you are a career switcher, or want a job that requires a summer internship to get in the door, you should NOT do J-Term. People certainly do career switch into banking and consulting from J-Term. I have a number of friends who achieved this. But your odds are greater if you follow the traditional recurring path (Sept intake–>summer internship–>GS/JPM/McK/Bain/etc).

If you are considering INSEAD, the Jan intake actually DOES allow for a summer internship despite its accelerated format. In the INSEAD September intake, you do your MBA straight through in 10 months. No internship. The January intake has a 2 month break in which most students will do an internship. So, if you need/want that internship (or just want to travel the world for 2 months with some awesome people), apply for Jan.

A successful INSEAD Jan-intake application is pretty much the same as a successful Sept-intake app. [More on that here.] However, a successful CBS J-Term application must achieve all of the same things as a regular MBA application, plus one additional thing: you need to prove that you don’t need the internship. This is easier said than done, as your entire career story (your “career arc”) must support the no-internship-needed thesis. But here are some simplified examples of successful reasons that applicants have given:

  1. I plan on starting my own company during bschool. I have a very specific idea and plan to use the Lang Center resources to incubate my business during my 16 months. But what I don’t need is a summer break.
  2. I plan on joining the family business after graduation. An CBS MBA will give me the skills and connections to prepare me to take over some day. But it’s better if I go 16 months straight and join the firm upon graduation rather than dilly-dallying during the summer.
  3. I am a rockstar consultant and my firm is going to sponsor me. I will be returning to Bain/BCG/McK after graduation, so no need for that internship.
  4. I work in an industry that doesn’t have traditional recruiting practices (e.g. Hedge Funds). I want to do an MBA to enhance my skill set and gain a credential, but firms in my industry don’t offer summer internships, so the J-Term program is perfect.

Of course, there are many other potential reasons to do J-Term. But no matter what you do, make sure you explain in your MBA essays why the internship is not necessary in your journey. And make sure you touch on some of the reasons outlined above about why J-Term sounds so amazing to you.

As with all MBA admissions, putting together a top notch Jan-intake application is more of an art than a science. So brush off your paint kit and canvas!

Ready to crush that J-Term app? Check out our packages or drop us a line.