INSEAD MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines: 2021-22

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INSEAD, "the Business School of the World," brings together people, cultures, and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society. The one-year MBA program offered by INSEAD is quite intense, but the international student body makes it worthwhile.

Application Deadlines for August 2022 Intake

Round 1

Application Deadline: September 07, 2021
Final Decision Notification: November 12, 2021

Round 2

Application Deadline: November 02, 2021
Final Decision Notification: January 14, 2022

Round 3

Application Deadline: January 06, 2022
Final Decision Notification: March 11, 2022

Round 4

Application Deadline: February 22, 2022
Final Decision Notification: April 29, 2022

Application Deadlines for the January 2023 Intake

Round 1

Application Deadline: March 01, 2022
Final Decision Notification: May 06, 2022

Round 2

Application Deadline: April 19, 2022
Final Decision Notification: June 24, 2022

Round 3

Application Deadline: June 14, 2022
Final Decision Notification: August 19, 2022

Round 4

Application Deadline: July 26, 2022
Final Decision Notification: September 23, 2022

INSEAD's Admission's Criteria:

• Ability to Contribute
• Academic capacity
• Leadership potential
• International Motivation
• Ability to contribute

For more information on application requirements and advice on video essays, please visit the INSEAD MBA admissions.

Essays

You will find the INSEAD MBA essays within the online application. Once again, INSEAD asks applicants to answer a series of short-answer job description essays and motivation essays. The essay questions (Job description and Motivation essays), as well as the video essay component, remain unchanged this year as well.

INSEAD's job description questions and motivation essays allow candidates to discuss various topics related to their interests and experiences, thus providing them ample opportunity to present each aspect of their candidacy- their personal stories, triumphs, and failures. The "job questions" ask for a factual account of your current position and career progression, as well as short-term and long-term career goals with an MBA from INSEAD. The three motivation essays call for short reflections and discussion of various topics, e.g., strengths and weaknesses, failures, accomplishments, extracurricular activities, etc. With careful thought and planning, you can use these essays to present your well-rounded personality. Here is your chance to be creative and present your case precisely, keeping the soul of your story intact.

From INSEAD Website: This is a critical part of our evaluation process. As such, we advise you to spend a significant amount of time on your application essays. Your responses provide the best opportunity to be creative and tell us about yourself. We would like to get to know you and to find out what motivates you. The essay questions are not meant to be academic articles or business memos but rather your personal stories. You can fill in the essay questions online or copy/paste your answers in the text boxes directly within your application.

Here is MER's analysis of INSEAD's job essays and motivation essays:

JOB DESCRIPTION ESSAYS: The job questions are not essays. Hence, the number of words is not so important. People need to be comfortable writing 3 lines or 20. Some applicants work for companies that are well known and only 3 lines are sufficient to describe them; others work for small companies where it is more important to give the full picture.

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 the budget, clients/ products and results achieved. (200 words max)

This question requests a snapshot of the 'applicants' current or most recent job. Keeping in mind that this will be your introduction to the admission committee, you should also provide information to help the reader understand your place within the organization and the work that occupies your days. Please stay focused on the details of your present job, nature of work, primary responsibilities, supervision, budget size, number of clients/products, and most importantly, results achieved. While detailing your current job, you should also focus on the impact you have made on your organization. But please avoid elaborating on your most significant achievements as you will get an opportunity to do that in the second motivation essay.

Job Essay #2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company instead of going to business school? (200 words maximum)

It would be best to show that your next job should be more challenging than your current one for this question. But if an MBA at INSEAD is your next step, you probably don't need your next promotion. The admission committee wants to determine whether you have a clear sense of your career trajectory through this question. You may outline a next step that would entail increased responsibility in project size or complexity, or the number of employees managed. You may also mention an estimated timeline for promotion into this position, if applicable.

Job Essay #3: Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (300 words maximum)

You may consider this question as a walk-through of a resume in the essay format. The goal is to get an understanding of how you have progressed along your career path. Your best bet is to focus on each full-time position you have held, the reasons behind each move, increased changes in responsibility, and the lessons/ skills learned. It is essential to show progress at each stage of your career, which is straightforward if you have worked for the same company and received regular promotions. If you have changed companies, make sure to explain the reason how and why you made your career move.

Job Essay #4: Discuss your short and long-term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words maximum)

This is a straightforward career goals essay asking you to explain your short-term and long-term goals. However, it is a tall order with only 100 words to define your short-term and long-term goals. Begin by explaining your short-term (3-5 years after MBA). Next, identify the position you hope to hold immediately after your MBA, specifying role, function, industry, and 1-2 organizations/companies you would like to work for. Then, articulate your goal and explain why this goal is exciting and important to you. Please note that your post-MBA goal shows a logical progression from your current skill set and acquired skills and knowledge through an MBA degree.

Then you will discuss your long-term 5-10-year plan, explaining what role you hope to occupy and the broader impact you wish to create in this position. There should be a logical connection between your short-term and long-term goals. In other words, explain how you will move from step 1 to step 2 and so on. Also, make sure that your goals are realistic as well as ambitious. For example, if you aim for a technology or a consulting role, you will need to demonstrate that you already possess some skills/experience in that area and are now seeking to enhance those skills. Likewise, if you are a career changer, you should provide evidence of how your current skill set would facilitate this transition.

Job Essay #5 (Optional): If you are currently not working or if you plan to leave your current employer more than two months before the program starts, please explain your activities and occupation between leaving your job and the start of the program.

This is the ninth year that INSEAD has included a question that provides unemployed applicants the space to explain their situation. This shows that INSEAD is not excluding unemployed candidates from admission if they are utilizing their time productively. So, it provides them an opportunity to advocate their case and discuss the new skills they are learning, the volunteer work they are involved in, and any conferences and professional development workshops they are attending. They can also share other efforts they are making to secure short-term employment before MBA. This would validate their growth even during the time they are unemployed.

This question also includes applicants planning to take a break of more than two months between the time they submit their applications and the time they would join INSEAD's program. In this case, also they need to evidence how they are actively developing skills, making productive use of their time, and progressing toward their career goals. This essay is also a place for the applicants who are leaving their current employer to join another one, two months before entering the program. They should use this essay to discuss their new employment. Finally, this essay is also an opportunity to explain the actions you plan to take in preparation for MBA, such as getting involved in voluntary activities, attending conferences, and engaging in any other activities for professional development before beginning the INSEAD MBA program.

MOTIVATION ESSAYS

Motivation Essay #1: Give a candid description of yourself (who you are 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. (maximum 500 words)

Through this open-ended question, the Admissions Committee wants to gain insights into your personality and values. Therefore, you will need to do a lot of self-reflection on your life experiences that have shaped your personality and have made you who you are. While it is important to address all parts of the prompt: strengths, weaknesses, and primary factors responsible for your personal development, it is also important to focus as much as possible on the positive traits. Given this, you may want to begin with two or three positive qualities, comment on one or two weaknesses, and then substantiate your traits with real-life examples. This question gives applicants the freedom to select examples from their personal, professional, or extracurricular life, so choose your examples to present a balanced picture of your personality.

What two methods can you use to draft this essay?

You may select either of the following two methods for discussing strengths or weaknesses:

1. Make statements about your character and back them up with examples as 'evidence of your statements.'
2. Find a single story (from your personal or professional life) that will illustrate all your strengths and, if possible, weaknesses.

When discussing your weaknesses, make sure to explain how they have affected you and what you have done or are doing now to rectify them. If relevant, mention which INSEAD resources can help you overcome these weaknesses.

How to discuss factors that have influenced your personal development?

Remember that you should reflect on the factors that have influenced your personality for each personal characteristic introduced. Then, it is up to you to discuss these influential factors while explaining your strengths and weaknesses or after having discussed them.

Roughly, you may aim at allotting 200-250 words to strengths, 100 words to weakness/ weaknesses, and 150-200 words to the main factors that have shaped your character/ personality.

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

Through this question, INSEAD expects you to discuss both your accomplishments and failure in one single essay. So, you need to dig deeper and explain how these experiences have impacted your relationship with others. Since you have only 400 words, it is in your best interest to allow approximately 200 words for each of your stories.

Also, your accomplishment and failure story should tie into your ‘strengths’ and 'weaknesses' essay. That is, your experiences of achievement and failure should illustrate the 'strengths' and ‘weaknesses' you have already discussed in your first essay.

Again, as we always advise, follow the STAR method, and make sure your accomplishment story has four components: Situation, Task/ challenge, Action, Result/ Accomplishment, and significance. That is, you should explain why this accomplishment is meaningful to you both in terms of the challenges you overcame, the results you produced, and the lessons you learned.

For a failure story, you will need to reflect on life experiences when you could not live up to your expectations to spell out your failure story. It would help if you described how the situation went wrong and why. Like the accomplishment story, your failure story should also have four components: Situation, Task, Action, Result/ Outcome. That is, you should explain how that failure taught you important lessons that you later used in your life to better yourself. The failure story can also you in a positive light, revealing your strengths.

To address the second part of this question, spell out how these experiences have impacted your relationship with others and what learnings you have gleaned from your experiences. Discussing two stories in only 400 words is indeed challenging.

Click here to learn some useful techniques to help you say 'more in less.'

Motivation 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, etc.). How are you enriched by these activities? (maximum 300 words)

The extracurricular is an important element of INSEAD’s admissions criteria: (ability to contribute'). The admission committee seeks applicants who can contribute to the INSEAD community by collaborating and engaging with their peers through various clubs. They want to know if you will contribute to the classroom and the community outside the classroom as a student, and as a valuable member of the alumni network.

Candidates who have other interests/ hobbies that they are passionate about and who perhaps have some achievement in sports, music, arts, etc. will become students who will lead student clubs and will be actively involved in the alumni network. When describing your extracurricular activities, please make sure to focus on social or community-based activities instead of solo involvements, such as reading, working out in the gym, or watching movies.

Optional Essay: Is there anything that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (maximum 300 words)

An optional essay is an opportunity for you to give the Admissions Committee relevant information that you could not provide in other essays or other parts of your application. This question is also meant to shine a spotlight on an experience or an aspect of your personality that has not been revealed in the other parts of your application: essays, recommendation letters, and resume.

Even though INSEAD has provided you with enough ground to cover your candidacy, you may still use this essay in various ways to strengthen your candidacy further. More importantly, you should also use the optional essay to address a weakness in your profile, such as a low GPA or GMAT, a gap in your job history, or your inability to get a recommendation from your current supervisor. Your response should be positive, straightforward, and fact-focused and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile. Your weakness may also bring out a positive aspect of your personality. For example, if you discuss your employment gap, you may explain that you did something productive during that period, such as traveling, volunteering, or handling a family medical emergency.

For more tips from the INSEAD admission team, click here.

You may be interested in video interviews of these MER students:

INSEAD Admit (full-time MBA)
INSEAD Admit (GEMBA)

Free Resources

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples
MER Students Share their Success Stories
Essay Analysis of Other Top Programs-2021-22
Case Studies
AIGAC Virtual Conference 2021: MER's Key Takeaways

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