This may come as a complete surprise to you, but HKUST’s MBA program is the only one I’ve applied for.

Why HKUST, you ask?

Actually, quite a few of my colleagues raise their eyebrows when I tell them that yes, I’ve resigned to go back to school, and yes, it’s a small campus in Hong Kong called HKUST.

The school needs to do a lot more branding, man… though they have leap-frogged achievements in a mere few years, HKUST has yet to achieve cult-like status unlike Wharton, NYU, Colombia and LBS, schools btw that I have planned to apply for earlier on when I was thinking about where to get my MBA.

Yes, I could’ve gone to these Ivy League school.

My interest was Finance and I could’ve chosen the best globally. Wharton, NYU and Colombia were all shining schools I would’ve loved to have as my alma matter. London Business School would’ve been terrific diversity wise, and London – wow – the gateway to Paris and all those European cities! No more 12- to 14-hour flights for me, baby!

However, after joining the information sessions for INSEAD, London Business School and University of Chicago, ultimately, it was HKUST that I decided on. After HKUST’s information session and sample class last December in Clearwater Bay, I’ve decided that this was the most ideal school for me for certain reasons:

1) HKUST’s foundation in finance is solid – and technical skills are what I’m seeking to get from my MBA.

I don’t care if you would want to change your career, expand your network or increase your salary floor, but for me, the reason why I’m getting an MBA is that my years in finance highlighted the huge gaps I have on my knowledge.

It’s the things you take for granted if you’re a finance practitioner, and would come to hate — financial modelling, company valuation, investment analysis, etc. All these numbers and Excel datasheets. These are my weaknesses, and boy, do I want to strengthen all those things that I currently lack.

Bummer, right? Some people are in an MBA for different reasons. I’m maybe one of those crazy enough who is actually forgoing almost 18-months of salary for an education.

Fortunately, HKUST’s financial tilt is solid. I’ve seen their electives and am impressed. These are classes I wanted to get into and learn more about.

2) It’s in Asia. And supposedly, it’s the best in Asia.

Everyone talks about China and the importance of studying in a program that’s close to where the action is.

I do not disagree.

Despite the market’s volatility (imagine, just the last couple of months brought censorship by Google, the ups and downs of the China proprety market, the reserve rate hikes, amont others), China is still the place to be. That’s where growth is maintained to over 8 percent (!) per annum. Imagine that, where the world is crumbling, China is just waking up!

However, my reasons for staying in Asia has less to do with China, than being close to my love ones.

I remember when Trader and I first got together. For some reason, men take less time getting to know women before making them their girlfriends. In any case, I told Trader that I wanted to get an MBA.


You could’ve seen his reaction. I don’t really know if he teared up but he really did pick a fuss.

Why is it that so many couples try to stay closer together, when you are trying to move farther away,” he almost shouted. Well, I’ve always been a firm believer that distance can make the heart go fonder or further so que sera sera but Trader was not as pleased as peach to hear my news of an MBA.

My traditional mother was nowhere better. She was ecstatic that finally, here was a guy who was willing to seriously date her obstinate daughter with her quirks and all. Her advice? “Choose between your career or a family, Bonita,” she admonished me. “If you get an MBA, you’ll even be more arrogant and heck, you will never ever find a husband!”

My mom exaggerates, but you can imagine my pain and conflict.

Ultimately, we all agreed that a happy compromise was to find a school in Asia.

There were only three choices I was willing to consider — CEIBS in Shanghai, INSEAD in Singapore and HKUST in Clearwater Bay.

The information sessions cleared a lot of things.

INSEAD unfortunately left a bad taste in my mouth (as to that is the alumni’s intention, I wouldn’t know but for some reason, I thought of Insead as the party school where you get to tour Singapore and France without studying too much) and it was not particularly known for its strength in finance; CEIBS were mostly too local for me and was better attended by manufacturing managers; while HKUST was great in finance.

It was later on after I’ve decided to apply at HKUST that I heard that its rankings increased from No. 16, to No. 9 in a year according to the Financial Times. Talk about coincidences. Hence, arguably, it is the best, if not one of the best MBA programs in Asia.

So given my limitations, HKUST is the best school for me.

Not only is it closer to my family and Trader, but it’s also gaining visibility in Asia. Imagine, if it can consistently maintain its ranking (and who says I’m not a long-term investor) and its educational quality, what’s not to expect it to be later known by everyone.

Slowly and steadily wins the race, but hey, can you fault me from making a calculated bet that HKUST has the potential to actually be THE B-School to be in Asia?

3) I liked the faculty and campus appeal.

The campus is in Clearwater Bay which to many is still the middle of nowhere. However, you can imagine just how beautiful the scenery is just being in the midst of nothingness. Check it out:

The campus itself is as peaceful on a blue sunny day. The library is huge and accommodating. Just the perfect place to do your class bonding and cramming. 🙂

Besides, it seems that the university itself stresses that though MBA may be fun, it’s also very stressful and challenging. Ha, as if that would push me away. Stress and challenges? Bring it on and the more the better!

Overall, it’s the most ideal school for me so much the even the practical side of me only allowed me to apply to a single school. Crazy, I know. However, it’s not that I am too arrogant into thinking that I could actually get in (in fact, the admission also came as a surprise to me), but rather because I found a school that fits MY needs (and note that it doesn’t mean that MBA is for everyone).

Loyal readers of this blog know very well that MBA is a dream come true for me. My mother warns me that I may be magnificently disappointed and thoroughly bored when I realize that MBA would be a waste of time given that I already know what is being taught but I must differ.

One does not pay HKD420,000 of tuition fee (at least for Year 2010) and expect themselves to be bored. Quite contrary, I do not expect any less than a world-class education, a wide diverse of classmates who have much to offer in the classroom, and a lifechanging experience that prepares you for the future.

It’s not that I am worried about the future per se. However, it does give me a bit of comfort that I am more organized and ready to face what the world would like to throw at my face. As mentioned, an MBA is not really for everyone and even Trader thinks it’s a complete waste of time (Trader btw believes that work experience is more valuable than education), but it is for me.

And I am so looking forward to August to start getting it on.

Btw, I just resigned today and now serving my 1-month transition period. Here’s wishing me all the best and that I can finalize all travel plans before I say bye-bye to my company I worked in for almost 4 years.

I feel like a stranger now, but that’s another blog post.

Have a great week everyone!

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40 thoughts on “Why HKUST?

  1. Hi,

    As you are in singapore, do you want to meet up? I am joining HKUST in Aug as well. I am working in singapore as an analyst with a hedge fund, and looking forward to the next phase in life. Please email me at vjammy@gmail.com if you want to meet up.


  2. Hi Vivek! Unfortunately, I will be leaving in Sunday and working on an uber tight schedule! Fortunately however, August is just right around the corner and we’ll be meeting each other face to face in a few more weeks.

    I’m as excited as you are though a bit nervous. It’s really a big step for me especially since I had to quit a comfy job like you did and once again immerse myself into a no-income lifestyle. Ultimately, I’m hoping we’re both making the right decisions. Regardless, I am looking forward to seeing you come August and learning more from each other! 🙂

    1. Hello!

      I am joining HKUST in January 2011 next year for my PhD studies.

      I only selected HKUST as my choice for pursuing my PhD…same as you!
      Many questions asked by many people when I could easily opt for a “better school”. Why Hong Kong? Everyone asks. Why quit my job in Singapore?
      A lot of questions…hahaa…

      I am the only Singaporean to receive the fellowship…hope to meet up with fellow Singaporean in HKUST doing postgraduate studies….

      Hope that I have made the right decision too……

      email me, if you can!


  3. I guess you have to ask yourself why you want a PhD, and why at UST? Personally, I just needed the technical skills and continue working in HK afterwards. UST is a good Finance school in Asia, so it’s a logical choice.

    As I stay here longer, I like it more. The classes are technical enough and the atmosphere very cooperative. 🙂 Hopefully you made the right decision. What do you want to do btw post grad?

      1. Singaporean HKUST PhD, Bonita and SK Teh – I’m not Singaporean, but as far as I knew the business school almost didn’t have any international PhD students (though I’ve heard of a new Taiwanese and an Indian in Finance this year), so I’d also be happy to meet others.

        Fili (filination@gmail.com)

  4. electronic and computer engineering.

    How is life there in HKUST as compared to Singapore?
    Maybe compare with Singapore Uni culture with HKUST?

    Accomodation, food and language?

    Are there a lot of singaporeans there?

  5. Hi Bonita,

    Really liked your post about Why you chose HKUST for your MBA. I just got accepted for this year’s intake and in the process of making my final decision, and a lot of the reasons why I applied to HKUST resonate with yours.

    I’m really curious how you feel about the MBA now that you’re just over 1/3 of the way through. Do you think I could drop you an email about it?


    1. Really about what you want, and what your options are. For example, what other schools are you considering? If you got in HKUST and CEIBS, I would strongly suggest you go for UST. If you got in INSEAD and HKUST, it really depends the type of career you want to have, or whether you don’t really want to change careers.

      Overall, an MBA is all you make of it. You do get what you put in, and there are also lazy people here who manage to graduate with lower grades. Up to you. The best thing about HKUST is the location. You are in an international finance center and right at many financial firms’ doors. It’s less advantageous if you want to go into consultancy (e.g., Insead is a better choice), but in terms of finance or general management, I think we have a pretty good curriculum. People are also super friendly and nice and I heard, not as competitive or aggressive as those from American schools. Also, if you want to work in Asia, it may be better to have it here as you get the time to build a stronger network. the MBA office is good and supportive too.

      The downside: The brand is not that strong yet though it’s getting stronger as HKUST is now a #6 school based on the newest Financial Times ranking. That means, it may be harder to get placements than if you went to Insead, Wharton, Harvard, Stanford or any of the better brand named school. You just have to take note of that. Class size is smaller too at a little over a hundred. Better and cozier networks but not as large.

      Overall, am happy I’m here. There are a lot of many frustrating stories I can share and sometimes, I wonder whether people should be more aggressive and competitive. But I see the direction HKUST is going and happy with the results. I think HKUST would be one of the top 3 MBA programs in Asia if not already, and am proud ot be part of it. What’s your email? Let me know if you have any other queries, and happy to answer. Congratulations once again!

  6. hi bonita,

    splendid blog you have. I have been accepted to CEIBS and I was wondering why you think HKUST is a better choice? I’m having trouble deciding between the two and which program would best fit me.


  7. Bvee, depends on what you want from your MBA. I would go NUTS in CEIBS.

    CEIBS would be perfect if you really really want to build your network in China, you somewhat speak Mandarin and are okay with the bureaucracy that surrounds the Mainland. I don’t think their career services is better than HKUST though, and the MBA Office support from what I heard isn’t as strong.

    Depends on how gung-ho are you about China. I think HKUST offers a better balanced choice of going into an Asian MBA program without the limitations of being inside China.

  8. thanks for the quick response, i really love the blog although i stumbled upon the blog mainly bc of my mba research, i will continue reading it cause i find the topics you write about very interesting. in the meantime i will have a lot of thinking to do… thanks for the feedback!

  9. Hey Bonita,

    I was thinking of applying to HKUST too. Please share your profile so that I know what the school expects

  10. Preeti: Formal requirements are:
    • a strong bachelor degree;
    • a satisfactory GMAT1 score;
    • a minimum two years’ of full-time work experience after the first degree; and
    • a good TOEFL2/IELTS result if English was not your language of instruction at the undergraduate or postgraduate level

    They’re looking for future leaders, who is at home with cultural diversity and has a good story. Specifically, “high-quality students from a diversity of backgrounds with a broad spectrum of valuable experience. When we consider your application, we will be looking for the extent to which you can contribute to the program by exchanging knowledge and sharing experience with your peers. In fact, interaction with your peers will be a key element of learning throughout the program.

    Most importantly, we are looking for outstanding candidates with leadership potential who have the capacity to make lasting contributions to the region or industry in which they are working. Our students are dynamic and talented individuals who balance an ethical, responsible approach to business with the ability to move ever forward in their pursuit of success, contributing to both their professions and the community at large.”

    My profile: born/bred in the Philippines (coming from a less “popular” culture), who had moved to Taiwan to learn Mandarin from scratch (something that made me different), and accumulated 6.5 years experience working in both Taiwan and Hong Kong (interestingly, at the height of the financial recession) in a leading tech firm and in equities at one of the larger investment banks (so broad work experience). I’ve been active extra-curricularly having been an organization leader in uni, and heading another organization for young professionals in Taiwan (some leadership experience).

    Good luck!

  11. Why does HKUST ask for 7 essays!!!? 🙁
    Is it easier for women to get in? Does an “Indian female telecom proffesional” also fall under a POPULAR culture? Will it be difficult for some1 like that to get thru?

  12. Preeti, compared to other programs, 7 essays were not a lot. I think other school’s even have longer word requirements. I thought the essays were quite easy to do – besides, if you think 7 essays is a lot, there will be more than that when you start your MBA.

    Our batch only had 6 Indians out of 115 incoming. I remember that the admissions for Indians are quite competitive given the need for diversity. A lot of people are competing for a few available spots. So do your best regardless but ensure your essays shine. Good luck!

  13. Hi Bonita,
    Thank you for the amazing blog and posts. I have been researching HKUST for some time and this post is one of my favorites.
    I’m from Canada and after much thought I’ve decided to apply to HKUST for 2012 intake. and I’m not considering any other schools!
    I have many reasons for this decision, but the most important ones are HKUST’s solid foundation in Finance and the fact that it’s one of the best in Asia where I’m planning to be for the next 5 years because of my involvement in a charity project that is currently expanding in China.
    What’s the percentage of students from Canada/states at HKUST?
    I have a strong background and could get into any of the Ivey schools in the states, so I hope I’m not making the wrong decision..
    I’d really value any advice or insights you might have.

  14. Thanks a lot Lida! First, I LOVE Canadians. The Canadians in my batch are just amazing and we need more of you guys. Secondly, choose UST if your needs matches what the school provides. If you want a chance to work in Asia, it’s good to go to UST. If you want a more Asian/China focused education, UST is great.

    Downside is, the fact that UST is the best in Asia doesn’t mean however that it’s the best in the world. The brand equity is still not the same as the Ivy Leagues and you will feel that during recruitment. So if you want to go back to Canada for work, telling other people of your school may be met by blank stares. So finding a great job is all your effort. The Career Services support will of course be there, but you have to do the work too vs. in other schools where the job is given to you in a silver platter.

    We had around 6 Canadians in 115 students. But overall, we have 27-28 nationalities in our small batch. Do see other schools as well to see if UST is truly the school for you. It’s not for everyone and I personally had hoped at times I chose elsewhere, but in general, I dont have any regrets for choosing it. Hope this helps!

    1. Thanks Bonita.
      I think a smarter approach would be applying to a few schools and after receiving the admission decision, choosing the best one rather than limiting my options from the start by applying only to one school.
      Your reply was very helpful, wish you a successful and fulfilled life..

  15. Hello,
    I am an ECE undergraduate in my final year at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and I would be graduating by September 2013. In spite of this, I still want to apply to HKUST (I have started filling the online application), so that I can resume for the 2013-2014 session, and I hope to transfer credits, in order that I may finish in two years. I really want to come to HKUST because of the nice research opportunities for undergrads which is not available in Nigeria(we hardly do any research here, and we basically cram our way through-no insults intended). Do you guys think that its worth it to apply since I would soon be done? What are my chances of entry as I am one of the top students in my class with a great recommendation letter, and also with leadership experiences. lastly, would I get any form of scholarships as the tuition is high. Thanks, and sorry for the length
    p.s. I hope to pursue a Ph.D after my undergrad either in China or US.

  16. Yes, but a big factor is due to my location (living in HK), and the network of friends that I’ve made when I was working in HK. The school helped but in the end, it’s still your effort to secure yourself a good job.

  17. Thank you. How well valued is an MBA from HKUST by employers in HK? What if your only experience is practicing law at a top firm in Australia?

  18. Hi Bonita,
    I stumbled on your blog while working on my application for Aug’2013 intake. I never had a doubt as to why choose UST, but your blog give strength to my reasoning. I want to ask some specific questions about the UST program, will it be possible for you to share your email address? My email address is jaknap.inos@gmail.com.

  19. Hi Bonita. I am contemplating about applying for the 2014 intake of the HKUST MBA program. I am fascinated about their strength in Finance, but I have some concerns about career placement after reading all of your blog entries related to HKUST. My question for you is, if you did not have any previous experience working in HK before you started your MBA program, would you still have been able to find a good summer internship? I think you mentioned on your other blog entry that you were able to find a great summer internship during your MBA program.

    1. Hi Jane, banks in HK now are looking for Mandarin or Cantonese speakers. Aside from the finance-related competencies you need to have when you apply, some banks also require you to speak the language. This is one of the biggest reasons why a research associate from Brazil is often bypassed by an applying engineer from Mainland China. The latter will unfortunately find himself being offered an internship by GS or ML, while the former has to contend with an internship in Mongolia or Singapore. I could find a great summer internship because I speak Mandarin and flawless English. If I didn’t, I doubt finding an internship would be that easy.

      Given that however, all my classmates managed to find the right paths for them. Not all regret their MBA and for most, it’s a plus and not a minus albeit being in debt. Of course, not all of them ended up working for a bank as they originally hoped for. But almost all found their own niches and thank the MBA experience for helping them to get there. Or at least broadened their horizons in showing alternatives to their old career paths.

  20. Hi Bonita,

    This is the first, and I’m beginning to think, probably the best blog i would read on HKUST. I am in the very early stages of thinking about my MBA, but I would be very grateful if I could get in touch. I guess you’ve finished your course at HKUST. Do let me know whats the best way to get in touch.

    Raghav from Singapore.

    1. Really Raghav, you’re too kind. I finished already my course with mixed feelings. Really depends on what you make of it. Some really loved it, while some classmates didn’t really get their careers of the ground. Please leave your email so can PM you. Then you can email me your background and why you want to get an MBA.

  21. Hi Bonita, I’m applying for HKUST for the deadline of Nov. 12th, 2013. I’d like to learn from you about the employment situation for the HKUST MBA grad into big banks like Goldman. My email is lxz2001@yahoo.com Thank you!

  22. Hi Bonita, I didn’t get your email . Did you send to lxz2001@yahoo.com? I’m submitting my HKUST application tomorrow on 11/12/2013, so it’s a bit urgent:( . How’s the job hunting situation? Were the students able to land a job in wall street banks or do you think HKUST doesn’t give you the brand name to get into those? Thank you so much.

  23. Hi Bonita,

    Congrats on finishing the MBA. I am getting ready to attend a Masters programme at HKUST, and wanted to ask about the mandarin requirements in the financial industry in HK.

    Are you expected to write reports in Mandarin or is it sufficient to be conversational?

    Do they also test you on your mandarin skills during the recruitment process?

    Thank you.


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