HEC Paris MBA: September vs January intake

By Arvind Kumar

The HEC Paris MBA, ranked #7 worldwide and #1 in Europe (‘The Economist’ Full-time MBA rankings 2022) is a 16-month program that has 2 intakes: September and January.

In this article, we will discuss what is common between the two intakes and the key differences between them, both from the perspective of an applicant and MBA participant. 

We are grateful to Aditya Roy (S’17 HEC MBA), Kedar Singh (J’18 HEC MBA) and Xavier Lusinchi (J’18 HEC MBA) for their generous inputs to this article.

What is common between the two intakes

1. Curriculum

For both the September and January intakes, the curriculum is divided into two phases: Fundamental (Term 1 & Term 2) and Customized (Term 3 & Term 4). 

The Fundamental Phase is 8-months long and contains a mix of academic core courses and experiential learning. This phase sets you up with the business foundations needed to thrive in today’s evolving business world. The purpose of this phase is to provide a common business ground for all participants who come from varied backgrounds and thus possess different hard skills.

The Customized Phase is also 8-months long and one can tailor this phase to suit their professional and personal goals. This phase includes options such as Specializations, Electives, International Exchange, Internships and MBA Projects.

2. Graduation Date

Both the September and January intakes graduate on the same date. For example, both the September 2024 and the January 2025 intakes would graduate at the 2026 HEC MBA Class ceremony, around June 2026.

3. Alumni Network and Resources

Irrespective of which intake you attend, you will be part of the HEC alumni network, and the cohort as a whole. Access to alumni and other resources of the school are exactly the same. Likewise, while you are at school, the access and possibility to join clubs, be part of the MBA council and all other activities are the same.

4. Combined Customized Phase

Candidates from both intakes have the opportunity to merge together into one class during the Customized Phase i.e. Term 2. In other words, combined classes are common for the Specialization and Electives.

Applying to HEC Paris? Learn from Pranjal’s insights on her successful HEC Paris admit with scholarships 

Key differences between the two intakes

1. Recruitment Seasons

In Europe, September to December is the main recruitment season. Hence, if you join the September intake, you get to participate in the main recruitment season twice during your MBA, while only once for the January intake. 

For example, if you join the September 2024 intake, you will participate in several on-campus career activities from September to December 2024, also from January to May 2025, and finally again from September to December 2025. This can be helpful if you want to ‘Explore & Learn’ during the Fundamental phase (September 2024 to May 2025) and leverage these learnings to find a job during the Customized phase. However, this can also be a bit fatiguing for some people. 

On the other hand, if you are part of the January intake, you can take more time to settle-in, acquire the relevant skills from your MBA courses and eventually leverage them to target companies and find jobs. For example, if you join the January 2025 intake, you still get to participate in the career activities from January to May 2025, and then apply for jobs in the September to December 2025 wave. 

2. Nature of Internships

The number and duration of internships is different between the two intakes. 

For the September intake, there are 2 windows when you can intern: Summer and Winter. For example, if you join the September 2024 intake, you can potentially intern during May-August 2025 or January-June 2026. This can particularly help if you want to explore multiple industries or sectors through internships. It is worth noting here that the September intake participants are required to come back to class for their Specialization (i.e. Second/ Customized Phase) after completion of their internship (May-August).

Particularly, for Investment Banking (IB) internships at large banks, the application and selection process happens between September-December. This means, if you seek to do a summer internship in IB from May-August 2025, the application and the selection process happens September-December 2024. Hence, being part of the September intake can be beneficial if you want to apply for such internships at large banks. One can still do an internship in small banks or boutique advisory firms by applying later though.

In this context, the advantage that the January intake offers is the opportunity to do a long internship (upto 6 months) after completing your MBA course-work in 12-13 months. For example, if you join the January 2025 intake, you have the option to complete the MBA course-work by December 2025 and intern from January-June 2026, with the possibility of joining the same company full-time post graduation (i.e. July 2026). This can particularly benefit candidates who are keen to explore a certain sector/function. By leveraging their MBA learnings, they can do a 6-month internship in that domain and eventually join the same (or similar) company/ role post graduation.

3. Onboarding

The September intake coincides with the Masters in Management (MiM/ Grande Ecole) intake for HEC. Hence, the overall induction event is a bigger affair compared to the January intake when only the MBA intake joins. 

This means that several allied activities offered by the mayor’s office, language and cultural exchanges etc. are offered in the September intake. For example, an NGO offers foreign students to pair up with local French families in Jouy-en-Josas as a way of cultural exchange. This particular NGO puts up a stall during the September intake induction week. Hence, the induction is more smoother and ‘happening’ in September. The January intake also enjoys these activities but in the next September induction week, which is 8 months after you join the program.

Since the January intake’s arrival takes place at a ‘calmer’ time, the school is less burdened (compared to the arrival of hundreds of new students in September) and thus can be reached a bit more easily.

4. Class Size

The September intake is typically larger in size than the January intake, with a broader range of nationalities and professional backgrounds represented. This can provide a richer learning experience through exposure to varied perspectives. However, if you prefer a smaller batch size and deeper relationships with your classmates, the January intake may suit you better.

It is worth noting here that, over the past few years, the January intake is also increasingly becoming larger in size compared to earlier.

5. Sequencing of Terms in the Customized Phase

Certain parts of Terms 3 & 4 (i.e. Customized Phase) are swapped between the two intakes.

For details, see the table below:

Term 3Term 4
September Intake8 Electives
(OR)
Entrepreneurship Project + 4 Electives
(OR)
International Exchange
(OR)
MBA Project
Social Impact Project
(+)
Specialization1
(OR)
International Exchange
January IntakeSpecialization1
(OR)
International Exchange
Social Impact Project
(+)
8 Electives
(OR)
Entrepreneurship Project + 4 Electives
(OR)
International Exchange
(OR)
MBA Project
Note: 1. HEC offers 7 Specialization options: Entrepreneurship, Finance, Advanced Management, Strategic Marketing, Strategy, Data & AI for Business Transformation, Sustainable & Disruptive Innovation

If you are part of the January intake, you get to choose your specialization in Term 3 and subsequently select your electives in Term 4 based on which topics you would like to dig deeper into. However, if you are part of the September intake, you get to select your electives in Term 3 and then choose your specialization in Term 4, which can be counter-intuitive for some.

6. International Exchange

The catalog of universities can be different for both intakes depending on the availability of the university’s exchange programs at that time. However, this does not necessarily mean that one intake is better than the other in this context.

Conclusion

Both the September and January intakes of the HEC Paris MBA program offer unique advantages and disadvantages. The choice between the two largely depends on your career goals, preferences and personal circumstances. While we hope these pointers give you an indication of the key commonalities and differences between the two intakes, make sure to consider and weigh in your goals and priorities to determine which intake suits you best.

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