3 Insider Tips on Applying to INSEAD

by on September 9th, 2014

The next b-school on our Fortuna Admissions list of ‘Top Tips’, for insider advice on applying to selective b-schools, is INSEAD. One of two top non-US based b-schools in our Insider Tips series (alongside LBS), INSEAD rightfully sees itself as “The Business School of the World”.

With over 80+ nationalities represented in the program, and with an equally international faculty, b-students at INSEAD are surrounded by diversity throughout the program. With a choice of campuses to choose from, in Singapore or Fontainebleau, INSEAD students can also take classes at the school’s Abu Dhabi campus or at partner b-schools in the US. For anyone looking to prepare for an international career, INSEAD should be on the list of MBA programs to consider.

Fortuna’s Caroline Diarte Edwards, former Director of Admissions at INSEAD, shares her insider tips for INSEAD, with the first three tips listed below. To receive the full list of tips, click here. Be on the lookout for other insider tips over the next few weeks, as we’re providing tips on admission to Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Columbia, Kellogg, NYU Stern, INSEAD, and LBS. Just check the Fortuna blog!

INSEAD Tip #1 – Overcoming limited international work experience

INSEAD takes great pride in the international diversity of its MBA program: both as regards the range of nationalities represented and the international experience of the students. But not everyone at INSEAD has a lot of international exposure. Typically those who gain admissions without much experience beyond their own borders are from emerging markets (they may not have had financial means to travel) but can demonstrate that they have the ability to fit in well in an incredibly diverse environment (for example they show openness, flexibility, curiosity about other cultures, maturity—all of these characteristics help). They have also demonstrated that they need to join such an international community—that it will be highly relevant for their future career plans. Someone who has never traveled abroad and who has no interest in business beyond his or her own national border should think twice before applying.

INSEAD Tip #2 – When to apply

Many schools advise candidates against applying in the final round. INSEAD, on the other hand, works hard to keep the level of competition fair across all rounds. It makes sense really: they want the best of the entire pool and do not want to reject someone in the final round who would have been admitted in round 1 (or accept someone in round 1 who would be rejected in rounds 3 or 4). They achieve this through making an informed guestimate of expected application volume by round, and through the use of the waitlist for borderline candidates. In general it’s better to apply in round 3 or 4 with a really well-prepared application, than apply in a rush in an earlier round. One word of caution, though: if predicted application volume for the final round is higher than expected, then the level of competition could increase. Also, do remember that the earlier you apply and are admitted, the more time you have to plan for your move to campus. Finally, be aware that more scholarship options are available to round 1 and 2 candidates than final round candidates.


The average GMAT at INSEAD is 703; the range is typically around 600 to 800. INSEAD advises candidates to target the 75th percentile on both the verbal and the quant; they look more at this breakdown than at the total score. If you get less than 70th percentile on either part of the test, you better have a very strong academic track record and /or have a profile that the school loves. So INSEAD is perhaps not as flexible as some top schools as regards the GMAT—this is largely because it is a one-year program, so the pace is fast, and the school really needs to be sure you have the academic smarts to keep up. And although many love to hate the GMAT, it’s actually a fairly good predictor of academic performance on the INSEAD program.

For the additional top 10 insider tips on INSEAD click here, and for other b-school application tips see our Fortuna videos.

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