Applying to INSEAD - Round 2 vs Round 3

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Applying to INSEAD - Round 2 vs Round 3

by MBAPrepCoach » Tue Apr 06, 2021 6:02 am
MBA applications can’t be rushed. They require lots of introspection, research, and iteration. So, you need to leave ample time for essay writing. That being said, it could still be in your best interest to apply in Round 2, even if that means you need to be done a little sooner than you planned. Here are some things you need to take into consideration when making your decision.


Despite what admissions says, I believe applying to earlier rounds does give you a significant advantage, especially if you are overrepresented in any way. INSEAD has a rule that they will only allow 10% per country, so slots for Chinese or Indian applicants get filled up fast. I strongly recommend applying in Round 2 if this is the case for you. If you are from an underrepresented country, it could be less of a big deal.


If you’re planning to take the GMAT/GRE a month before the R2 deadline, I hate to say it but you’ve woefully underestimated the time you you’re going to need. A solid INSEAD app takes a minimum of 2 months to do well, and that’s if you don’t have anything else going on. Add in more applications and work…you see where I’m going here. If you haven’t left sufficient time to prepare for R2, then I would recommend waiting until R3.

The caveat to that is if you’re able to speed up the process with the GMAT or GRE, or if you are just trying to achieve a perfect test score, then your time is better spent working on the application, because if your application isn’t interesting then your test score is irrelevant. There’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to studying for the GMAT, so if you aren’t taking the exam for a little while, start working on your app at the same time and find a way to get the biggest bang for your buck with GMAT prep – hire a tutor or get up an hour early to study. Your brain will get fried quickly and you’ll need something else to work on.

Introspection and Your Unique Contribution

This is the last point but it’s the most important one. INSEAD has more essays compared to other schools and so it’s imperative that you plan accordingly. Don’t think you can just use essays you’ve written from other applications, either – I’ve covered why that’s a bad idea here. This app requires more introspection and research; trying to cram and jam that into just a couple of weeks (especially with multiple apps) is just going to lead to certain failure.

My overriding guidance when it comes to the INSEAD app is to first take stock of yourself with regards to the 4 criteria: academics, leadership, contribution, and international orientation. Really examine what examples you can provide in each of these areas, and figure out where to include them in the application. Not everyone has to have 100% in all these areas, but I would recommend that you look at measures you can take to mitigate problems.

The key is to understand your unique contribution, that thing no one else could bring to the program, and get that across. Because ultimately good enough is not good enough; adcom is looking for STARS who add value to the program (which, don’t forget, is the product they are selling.)

Make sure you are seeing yourself realistically. Please know that if you plan to “make up” one area for another, there is likely another applicant who does not need to do that. Other applicants are good. They are solid. Keep in mind the GSB mantra: it’s not about evaluation, but selection. Who else is going up for the role? Will you play the part they need?
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