2017-2018 INSEAD MBA Essay Tips

by on November 3rd, 2017

INSEAD essay tipsINSEAD, “the business school of the world,” is a dynamic, diverse and highly international MBA option. INSEAD is looking for ability to contribute, academic motivation, leadership potential and international motivation. Along with the basic MBA questions most other schools ask, INSEAD is looking for significant exploration of your career goals and background. Along with career aspirations and leadership experience, an international focus is important to INSEAD.

Along with this set of essays, INSEAD has a required video interview, which has to be completed within 48 hours after your intake deadline. INSEAD admissions tells candidates that “The video should be seen as a unique opportunity for you to share your passions, your motivations and who you truly are. “ Visit the INSEAD admissions overview for detailed instructions on the video essay and other components of the application.

Job Essays

Job Essay 1: Briefly summarize your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (short answer)

INSEAD advises that the job essays are more short answer than full essay, and that candidates should feel comfortable answering in one line or twenty, depending on the depth of background and information needed to answer the question.

This question focuses on your current (or most recent) work situation. Though you may want to provide relevant context for your current role, make sure you are devoting most of the space to describing the details of your day-to-day responsibilities and oversight. If you are lighter on supervising others or managing a budget, you have the opportunity to highlight some key responsibilities and results.

Job Essay 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (short answer)

Once you have described what you do at work currently, INSEAD asks for you to imagine what you will do in the future. Because you are ambitious enough to be applying to an MBA program like INSEAD, you are likely on a serious career track in your current company. If your boss has already talked to you about the next step this is an easy question to answer.

If you have not explicitly discussed promotion at work, what would be the next role you would ideally pursue? If you are pursuing an MBA because you want to make a career change or because the next step at your current company is undesirable for other reasons, this may be a place to describe what that next step would be and why you do not wish to pursue it (with more context provided in the long term goal section).

Job Essay 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (short answer)

This essay will likely be the longest of the set of job essays. INSEAD is seeking to understand your career trajectory and how you have grown and progressed through your career. Think about the choices you have made in your career, and how your past experiences have combined to provide you with your current skill set.

Even if you have a fairly straightforward career path you can take the opportunity to comment on some of the learnings from each position to create the story of your past, present and future plans and build an overall career narrative.

Job Essay 4: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (short answer)

By essay four you have covered your current role at work, your hypothetical next step at your company and how you arrived at this place, now you can bring the story together to explain what you are pursuing an MBA from INSEAD.

While the best candidates for an MBA might be able to succeed without one, typically a top tier MBA like INSEAD is an accelerator for your career – introducing you to a broader network than you would otherwise have, expanding your skillset into new functional areas and exposing you to people from around the world.

Think about how you plan to use your MBA to advance your current career (or change paths entirely). If you did not attend INSEAD, how would you achieve your goals otherwise? Think of this essay as a thought experiment to show that you can plan two routes to one goal, while perhaps demonstrating the superiority of the MBA path.

Optional Job Essay: If you are currently not working or if you plan to leave your current employer more than 2 months before the programme starts, please explain your activities and occupations between leaving your job and the start of the programme.

If you are not employed at the moment, you will want to answer this question to show how you are utilizing your time without full time employment. Ideally you are currently involved in an activity that is going to further your career or personal goals at this time. The best answer is one that shows you are self-motivated and do not need paid work to continue developing yourself.

For example, perhaps you are volunteering in a non-profit that is related to your career goals. Maybe you are working with a friend on a start-up. Or you are consulting and building contacts in your industry.

If you are out of work only briefly or planning to take just a few months off before school starts, it’s also perfectly reasonable to be pursuing travel or other activities that develop your international awareness and perspective. However, make sure that your activities can tie back to your long-term goals or other key aspects of your application strategy.

Motivation Essays

Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (approximately 500 words)

Strengths and weaknesses are a common topic for MBA applications and seek to reveal your level of maturity and self-awareness. This is an opportunity to highlight some of your skills and attributes that demonstrate leadership, teamwork or other qualities that will drive your future career success.

Examples aren’t explicitly required, but consider that the admissions committee is reading a number of essays and therefore concrete examples can help you stand out and lead to a memorable essay.

When describing weaknesses, you will want to focus on those weaknesses that you have taken concrete steps to address, or that have been a route to learning more about yourself. Often strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin, in which case you can even tie your key weaknesses to your key strengths.

Because it is often difficult to write about one’s weaknesses without sounding overly humble or even as if you are positioning a weakness as a strength inappropriately, this is an especially important essay to share with others to seek feedback on tone and impact.

Essay 2: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (approx. 400 words)

This essay is an opportunity to showcase one of your most important achievements. Impressive achievements that stand on their own are great, but you will want to pay equal attention to explaining why these accomplishments are valuable to you. If you concisely explain the accomplishment and how you were able to bring it to fruition, you will have room to provide the context for your personal pride in the accomplishment.

If you don’t have an achievement that you think is incredibly impressive on its face, consider an example that demonstrates the activities you value. Remember, not everyone has sold a company or won an Olympic medal prior to business school!

The flip side of achievement is failure, and INSEAD wants to understand how you view both. When approaching any failure essay it’s important to use a real failure that has emotional resonance for you. An accomplishment framed as a failure will be easy to see through and will not demonstrate anything about your maturity or ability to grow.

Your failure should be real, and also something that led you to grow or learn. If you can describe how you have changed your approach as a result of the failure that is an excellent outcome.

The third part of the essay deals with how these experiences impacted your relationships and what you learned. Whether you were part of a team or the main impact was on a loved one, this part of the essay encourages you to step outside your own narrative of success and failure and think about how other people felt about your actions.

Most obviously a success likely led to happiness from a team or a manager, while a failure was disappointing to those around you. However, your particular achievement or failure could have led to a learning experience for your team, an opportunity for someone else, or a chance for you to be closer to another person through a team challenge. Think creatively about this aspect.

Note that your application to INSEAD ideally covers both the personal and professional. This essay could be an opportunity in this essay set to bring in a new angle on your profile through describing one of your most substantial accomplishments outside of work.

Essay 3: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (approx. 300 words)

Nothing is more personal than what you choose to do outside of school or work. What are the most meaningful pursuits you have spent your time on? You should both describe the main interests you have outside of your professional pursuits and explain why they are meaningful to you and why you spend time on them.

Ideally you can also explain how you will continue your involvement while at INSEAD and cite some specific clubs or groups where you see your interests contributing to the community.

Optional Essay:

Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (approx. 300 words)

This essay is 300 words you can use for anything you would like to showcase and that you were unable to work into the rest of your application. Because INSEAD’s questions are quite thorough you may have covered all aspects of your candidacy and personal qualities in the other essay questions, in which case you can feel comfortable skipping this question (it IS optional). If you did not have a place for an interesting hobby, new aspect of your background to describe, or key accomplishment, it may be appropriate to use this space to tell that story.

It is far better to fully explain any issues in your application than to leave the admissions committee to guess what happened. If you have any challenging aspects to your candidacy like a low GPA or a failing grade in college, this is the correct place to address those concerns. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue.

For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the essay demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since rather than focusing on the negative. Avoid blaming anyone else for your issue, and relentlessly show why this one incident is in your past and will stay there.

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If you are looking for guidance on your MBA application, Stacy Blackman Consulting can help with hourly and comprehensive consulting services. Contact us to learn more.

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