Strategies for Integrating into HEC after a Challenging Preparatory School Experience

Lucas Charbonnier

Hatched by Lucas Charbonnier

Jan 07, 2024

4 min read


Strategies for Integrating into HEC after a Challenging Preparatory School Experience


Integrating into HEC, one of the top business schools in France, can be a daunting task, especially if you come from a "small" preparatory school. However, with determination, strategic planning, and the right mindset, it is possible to achieve your goal. In this article, we will explore the journey of a student who successfully integrated into HEC after facing various challenges along the way. We will also discuss actionable advice and insights that can help you navigate the process more effectively.

Overcoming Challenges and Setting Goals:

The journey to HEC can be a long and challenging one, especially if you come from a less prestigious preparatory school. However, it is important to remember that success is not determined solely by your background, but by your determination and efforts. In the case of our student, he initially targeted schools like EM/EDHEC before considering the top 3 schools (HEC/ESSEC/ESCP). At one point, he even considered taking a gap year to improve his chances of getting into a top 5 school. This decision helped him reduce stress during the exams and focus on the BCE exams.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Assess your strengths and weaknesses: Before entering preparatory school, it is crucial to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Begin working on your weaknesses during the summer before starting the program. This will give you a head start and help you improve in areas that need more attention.
  • 2. Read classic literature: Reading classic literature before entering preparatory school can be beneficial, especially for the culture general exams. Since time is limited during the program, it is advisable to read these classics beforehand.
  • 3. Improve language skills, particularly English: Language skills, especially English, are essential for success in business schools. Work on improving your language skills, attend oral exams at schools like ESCP and HEC, and stay updated with current economic news by reading publications like The Economist.

Strategies During Preparatory School:

During your time in preparatory school, it is crucial to have a clear plan and strategy to maximize your chances of success. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • 1. Identify target schools: Determine which schools you are most interested in, as well as some backup options. This will help you stay motivated and focused throughout the preparation process.
  • 2. Create a study group: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who are also aiming for the same schools. Collaborating with others can enhance your learning experience and provide support during challenging times.
  • 3. Develop time management skills: Learn to manage your time effectively during exams. Allocate specific time frames for different sections of the exam, and identify "quick wins" to prioritize when time is running out.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Focus on long-term subjects: Differentiate between subjects that require long-term preparation, such as languages and culture general, and those that need more short-term focus, such as math. Initially, prioritize long-term subjects and gradually shift your focus to short-term subjects as the exam dates approach.
  • 2. Utilize study materials: Use resources like textbooks and online platforms to enhance your understanding of economic theories and historical events. Create concise notes on economic theories and update them regularly with current data and historical dates.
  • 3. Practice exam-style questions: Solve a variety of past exam questions to familiarize yourself with the exam format and hone your problem-solving skills. Focus on subjects like AEH/Economics, where practicing questions can help you identify essential knowledge and learn effective problem-solving techniques.

Preparing for Interviews:

Interviews are a crucial part of the admissions process for HEC and other top business schools. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • 1. Film mock interviews: Request to be filmed during mock interviews to review your performance later. This will enable you to analyze your strengths and weaknesses and improve your interview skills.
  • 2. Prepare an elevator pitch: Craft a concise and compelling introduction that highlights your background, achievements, and professional aspirations. Be flexible and ready to adapt your pitch based on the interviewer's focus.
  • 3. Research the school: Familiarize yourself with the school's history, associations, specializations, and international academic partnerships. This knowledge will help you answer questions about why you are interested in that specific institution.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Reflect on personal qualities and failures: Prepare to discuss your strengths, weaknesses, and significant failures. Choose flaws that are not detrimental and demonstrate your ability to learn from them. Reflect on the lessons you have learned from failures and how they have shaped your personal growth.
  • 2. Stay informed about current events: Keep up with general news and developments in areas that interest you, such as economics and technology. Be prepared to discuss and provide balanced perspectives on current events during interviews.
  • 3. Ask thoughtful questions: Take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. Prepare a list of relevant and insightful questions about the school, its associations, and academic offerings. Personalize your questions based on the information you gather during the interview.


Integrating into HEC or any top business school requires dedication, perseverance, and strategic planning. By identifying your strengths and weaknesses, setting clear goals, and following the actionable advice provided, you can increase your chances of success. Remember, the journey may be challenging, but your determination and efforts will ultimately determine your outcomes. Good luck on your path to success!

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