Barcelona, Spain, home to IESE Business School.

How to Get Into IESE Business School

September 10, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. About IESE Business SchoolPart 3. IESE Acceptance Rate and Competition LevelPart 4. Complete Requirements and How to ApplyPart 5. Top Tips on How to Get Into IESE Business SchoolPart 6. FAQsPart 7. Conclusion


IESE Business School is one of the most influential and competitive business schools in the world. Located in Barcelona and with campuses worldwide, it provides the perfect environment to become the business leader you aspire to be.

If you’re thinking about applying to the IESE MBA program, this guide will cover everything you need to know about the institution, level of competition, how to apply, and how to stand out from the crowd. 

About IESE Business School 

IESE Business School is the graduate business school of the University of Navarra. The main campus is located in Barcelona, where it was founded in 1958. 

IESE prides itself as one of the most diverse business institutions, encompassing a global mindset, a general management approach, and a people-centered vision. As per their website, their mission statement is simple yet powerful.

“We develop leaders who strive to have a deep, positive and lasting impact on people, companies and society through professional excellence, integrity and spirit of service.

They have a clear vision of success and strive to be the top business school in the world, accompanying people on their lifelong learning journeys by bringing profound meaning to doing business. IESE does this through a diverse, global mindset and global business programs.

The values of the school are based on the Christian tradition; integrity, a spirit of service, and professional excellence are, among others, the fundamental values of the school, which help instill a sense of responsibility and belonging. 

The rights, freedom, and dignity of each individual are very important since they are considered the heart of any organization. They teach their students to have a positive outlook in solving problems and respect every human being’s dignity and beliefs. Diversity is critical to IESE and they consider their openness enriching and beneficial for all. 

IESE is also an initiative of Opus Dei, a Roman Catholic organization. While the institution comes from a strong Catholic background, the school is one of the most diverse business schools in the world. It welcomes students from all around the world, all backgrounds, cultures, and religious beliefs, if any. 

The school offers a wide variety of programs, including masters and PhDs. Their most popular one, the MBA program, is a two-year program delivered over 15 or 19 months that places its graduates in industries such as finance, consulting, entrepreneurship, tech, and more. The program offers the option to get hands-on experience working in international business, spanning five continents. It’s also customizable, with various electives, internships, and exchange programs for you to choose from. 

The school places great importance on management competencies and deems them as an essential tool. Because of this, IESE offers a wide variety of ways to strengthen your management skill set, as they consider management competencies an essential tool.

During the program, you will also have the opportunity to intersect and create connections with executives from international companies, learn to brand your own company, position it, and improve your decision-making abilities.

The first year of the program provides an essential foundation of competencies and knowledge. Then, over the summer and during year two, it’s time for you to determine your trajectory, while having access to overseas modules and exchange programs.

You will learn and acquire these skills and knowledge by using active-learning methodologies. By taking ownership and responsibility of what you learn, being part of projects and teamwork, and connecting and working alongside faculty and peers, you will gain the necessary skills and insight to make decisions as a future business leader. 

IESE Acceptance Rate and Competition Level

You need to know several things as a candidate and potential IESE student to approach your application in the best way possible. The admission rate for the MBA program is 26%, which is not too bad considering the institution’s prestige. The average GMAT score is 681, with 800 being the highest score possible.

The class of IESE usually comprises around 350 students, and international students make up the majority of the population, with 85% and 55 countries being represented. The average age is 29 years old, and the average work experience is five years. Of all the students, 43% come from STEM undergraduate majors, 42% from business, and 15% from humanities.

As you can see, IESE is a competitive institution with a diverse body of students from all kinds of cultural, professional, and academic backgrounds. Bringing your best qualities and achievements to the table will significantly increase your chances of getting admitted, as will a strong undergrad GPA and GMAT or GRE scores.

Complete Requirements and How to Apply

The average GMAT score at IESE is 670. For the MBA program specifically, it’s 681. As we mentioned earlier, the average work experience is five years, although the institution doesn’t mandate a minimum. The tuition of the MBA program is around 90,000€ for two years ($109,820.25).

Here are the complete requirements to apply and how their admission process works. 

The documents needed to apply are the following:

  • Completed application form
  • Official transcripts from the undergraduate institutions you attended 
  • Resume 
  • Application fee
  • GMAT or GRE
  • English test if applicable (if English is not your first language)
  • Mandatory essays 
  • Passport-size digital photograph

Steps to apply: 

  • Apply online through the website, submit the documents needed and pay the application fee (~$200) 
  • Once IESE has received all your documents, your application will be reviewed and considered. 
  • Supposing the admissions committee decides to move forward with your application, you’ll go through a personal interview. The interview can be held via videoconference, face-to-face at the Barcelona campus, or across the world with admissions directors who travel to meet potential students. 
  • If your personal interview is successful, but the admissions committee still wants to know more about your candidacy, you’ll be invited to participate in the assessment day. The assessment day is an opportunity for you to share your candidacy, experiences, and what you can bring to the table with potential future classmates. This part of the application process is not mandatory for applicants, even if they are invited. However, it’s highly encouraged and recommended since it can significantly increase your chances of getting accepted. 
  • Once the selection process is finished, your candidacy is presented to the final committee, which will make the final decision. 

Key dates to keep in mind: 

  • Early Decision MBA application deadline: around Sept. 1. 
  • Round 1 application deadline: around the beginning of October.
  • Round 2 application deadline: the beginning of January. 
  • Round 3 application deadline: around Mar. 10. 
  • Round 4 application deadline: the beginning of May (last round). 

Top Tips on How to Get Into IESE Business School

1. Shine in your essays.

IESE application essays usually assess aspects of your personality and background to determine if you’re a strong candidate. IESE, like many other business schools, gives significant importance to personal essays. It’s a critical part of the pre-interview application, where admissions committees can get an idea of who you are and your essence; work hard to create the image you want to portray.

However, the IESE essays have a 300-word limit, meaning you have to be concise, which can be challenging. Let’s have a look at some examples of essay prompts from past application seasons. 

  • If you had to come up with a motto for your life, what would it be and why? Please give an example of how you have demonstrated it (world limit 300 max)

This prompt gives you a chance to showcase your essence and creativity. Keep in mind that while this has to be unique, it should be relevant to your candidacy and support the entire theme of your application. One way to approach this kind of question is to start by stating a well-thought and intelligent motto, followed by an explanation and the example that best illustrates it. Be sure to reflect personal values, something that has probably shaped your life in a certain direction, and link it to your desire to make a positive impact on society through your professional career. 

  • Describe your short and medium post-MBA goals. How will the IESE MBA help you achieve them? (word limit 300 max)

This is a very common essay prompt: talk about your career goals. For the IESE application, there’s an added challenge; you’ll have to explain how your goals relate to the skills you’ll gain from an MBA and connect them to your particular interest in IESE, in 300 words or less. Be brief but concise and confident; it’s preferable to talk about specific, well-thought and mapped goals rather than general and ambiguous ones. Doing so will increase your chances of standing out with your essay. 

  • What would you like to highlight about yourself or your journey which may not have been captured in your application? (world limit 300 max) 

This is usually the prompt for the third and optional essay, which allows you to explain things that you haven’t otherwise had the chance to talk about in the application. Given the word limit of IESE essays, it’s recommended that you also complete the optional one. If you belong in an overrepresented group, this might be your chance to stand out from the crowd. Explain any gaps in your education, work experience, or anything you’d like to clarify for the admissions committee to consider when reviewing your application. 

IESE business school also includes an essay to address finances, in which you have to explain how you’re planning on financing your, probably international, business education. This is a good opportunity to talk about why you think you deserve a scholarship, if you’re applying to one. Emphasizing your desire and motivation to join the school, and further explaining how you can contribute to the community and what you can bring to the table is a good way to demonstrate your commitment and be considered for a scholarship. 

Have a look at this article on how to write killer MBA admission essays to help you through the process. 

2. Prepare well for the interview.

The IESE interviews tend to be highly personalized, based on the information you provided in your application. This means that you should be ready to answer in-depth questions about your application in addition to preparing for the standard MBA interview questions. The interview usually lasts 45-60 minutes, and serves as an opportunity for IESE to find candidates who match what they’re looking for.

IESE business school seeks people who want to make a positive impact on the world through their careers, as well as responsible leaders that can successfully demonstrate confidence, academic ability, strong values, personal drive, a team player mentality and an international outlook. 

3. Participate in the assessment day.

Like previously mentioned, the assessment day is a special event for you to meet your potential classmates and share your experiences in an original and unique way. Attendance isn’t mandatory, even if you’re invited to participate. However, the school recommends that you do. We think it’s the perfect opportunity to get your candidacy to the next level and stand out from other candidates. If you have a chance, take part in it, and showcase your skills, abilities, and uniqueness. 


1. What is the average salary of IESE MBA graduates?

The average salary for MBA students graduating from IESE is $110,000, although this varies depending on the industry. Finance and consulting jobs usually have the highest salaries. 

2. Is the employability of their MBA high?

IESE business school prides itself with a highly sought body of graduates, with around 85 and 90% of graduates finding employment within 3 months of graduation. Despite COVID-19 complications, in the year 2020, 87% of graduates found a job within that period of time. 

3. Do I need to speak Spanish to apply to the MBA program?

Spanish is not a requirement for admission. The common language for everyone in the class is English, which means it’s okay if you are not fluent in the language. However, all non-native Spanish speakers are encouraged to enroll in the Business Spanish Program, which offers different levels, from beginner to advanced.

You also have a choice to earn a bilingual MBA program as long as you successfully finish the highest module of the Business Spanish Program and communicate your desire to graduate with the bilingual MBA diploma before the end of March of your second year. 

Students are encouraged to practice their Spanish outside the classroom, as it’ll help significantly with fluency. During the second year, students can choose an elective in Spanish if their language skills are strong enough. Of course, any prior knowledge of Spanish will be to your advantage.  

4. Does the IESE MBA program offer the possibility of participating in an exchange program with other universities?

IESE’s MBA students can apply and participate in the International Exchange Program (IEP), which takes place in the first and second term of the second year, which sends 90 students from IESE every year to universities with which they have exchange programs.

5. Do I need a visa to study at IESE?

Requirements may vary depending on citizenship, but students from the US, as they are not EU citizens, need to obtain a student visa before traveling to Spain to start their MBA. To start, you need to apply for the type D student visa in your closest Spanish embassy or consulate. Within 90 days of entering Spain, you’ll have to apply for a student card to legalize your status. 

6. Does IESE accept transfer students from other MBA programs?

Sadly, the school doesn’t accept transfer students of any kind. 

7. Are student loans available for the program?

Yes, IESE is one of the few business schools in Spain that’s eligible for US Federal Loans. You can also consider financing up to 80 percent of your tuition through the Global loan offered by the Spanish bank, Banco Sabadell. 

8. Do I need to be catholic to enroll in IESE?

No, while IESE is the business school of the University of Navarra, an Opus Dei initiative based on the values of Christian humanism, the school welcomes students from all religious, cultural and spiritual backgrounds who share respect and dedication to individuals and society as a whole. 


As we’ve seen, IESE is one of the most influential and competitive business schools in the world, meaning you’ll have to be ready and well prepared before you apply. Located in Spain and with a highly diverse body of students, this institution is perfect for those who want to get a global view of business and explore different cultures while focusing on their preferred area of expertise. 

One of their main goals is to educate professionals who want to positively impact the world through their careers and are willing to put in the work to make it happen. Graduates from IESE business school pursue successful and enriching careers in many different industries such as consulting, technology, industry, and financial services. Now it’s your turn to take the next step and show your best qualities through an outstanding application. 

About Inspira Futures

At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.
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