What are the differences between the September and January intakes?
The curriculum, course structure, class size and composition, and campus exchange opportunities are identical for the September and January intakes. The primary difference is that if you choose to begin in September, you will complete the MBA in ten consecutive months. If you choose to begin in January you will have a two-month summer break during which you can pursue an internship or other endeavours.
For my own clients, the internship has clearly been a major reason for choosing the January start. Also beyond having an internship, the additional two months does extend the MBA experience a bit and create some additional breathing room before returning to a career.
Other reasons for choosing January or September might have to do with timing, such as when they want to leave work, company sponsorship for their degree, or major life events (birth of a child, marriage). Sometimes it is simply a question of application timing.
Another major consideration, which is likely to running through the minds of those considering whether to apply for Round Three for September 2014 or for Round One for January 2015 is the chance for admission. Since the September and January intake are equal in size and composition and are equally competitive, this is simply an issue of applying Round 3 versus Round 1. INSEAD states that the chance for admission is the same for all rounds, but if you want scholarships apply in Round 1 or Round 2:
Each round is equally competitive as the ratio of acceptance is the same for all rounds. We allocate more places in round 1 and 2 than in round 3, but we also receive more applications in round 1 and 2 than in round 3. When choosing a round in which to apply, the most important consideration is to dedicate enough time and thought to your application so that it accurately represents your strengths and talents. However, we encourage you to apply to round 1 or 2 if scholarships are a priority or if you need more time to relocate to your starting campus.
Working with large number of clients who have been admitted to INSEAD (27 since I began my own consulting business and additional admits between 2001 and 2007 when I was working for a consulting service), I can say the above statements by INSEAD align completely with what I have observed. While I assume on the margins it might be harder for applicants coming from very large pools like Indian male in an IT position, I have had such clients admitted in Round 3. I have never noticed any real distinction between the rounds or January versus September when it comes to chances for admission. That said, selecting January 2015 Round 1 is better than September Round 3 if you want to maximize your chances for a scholarship.
Another consideration would be the essays. Please see my posts on the January 2015, September 2014, and repurposing September 2014 essays for a January 2015 application. Frankly, I think this is a real mixed bag and it is not obvious which essay set is easier in general. If you have already written the September 2014 essays and are happy with them, don’t care so much about scholarships, and prefer starting in September, I would suggest applying for the September intake. If you are either in the midst of writing or have not started and want to increase your chances for a scholarship, want an internship, or have other timing considerations that favor the January in take, January is a better choice. If I was discussing this issue with client who was completely indifferent to a January or September start, I would assess what kind of essay content they have and use that as the basis for my advice.
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.