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There are two sections of the INSEAD application that require answers in the form of an essay or short paragraph: the Motivation Essays section, which is what students typically think of as the MBA application essays, and the Job Description section, which offers applicants an opportunity to flesh out the highlights of their career path.
The recently released 2016-2017 INSEAD MBA application, for students seeking September 2017 entry, includes four motivation essays (one optional) and five short answer questions about your job description (one optional).
A new change this year at INSEAD is the introduction of a video. After submitting your application you will have an opportunity to “introduce” yourself to INSEAD via a video interview. This is an additional chance for applicants to make a positive impact on the admissions committee.
If you want to get admitted to INSEAD, here are some MBA essay tips to keep in mind:
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).
This is a relatively straightforward question about strengths and weaknesses. Be sure that you have a very solid understanding of your personal brand; the more specific examples you can offer to support the strengths you list, the more compelling your essay will be. Do your research about INSEAD’s brand and what they are looking for in admitted students. The goal is not to change what you say about yourself in order to match what they’re looking for, but to provide an honest assessment of yourself in a way that highlights why you think you will be a good fit for INSEAD.
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 (approximately 400 words).
This is a very personal essay, and it will be all the more powerful if you allow yourself to show some vulnerability. Note that you are not being asked to share your most impressive achievement, but the one you are most proud of – the achievement should reflect your values and goals.
By the same token, when you discuss a time that you failed, you want to avoid superficialities and choose something that was meaningful to you. There needs to be an impactful result, a clear way in which you learned from this failure. When you aim to accomplish big goals, failure is inevitable at some points along the road, and your essay should illustrate that you are able to fail without giving up or giving in.
There is a lot to pack into a very short amount of space with this essay – only 400 or so words – so this is one you will want to spend a lot of time brainstorming about and revising to make sure that it is concise, honest, and addresses all elements of the question (including how your achievements and failure impacted your relationships with others, either at the time or later in your career).
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? (approximately 300 words)
Time is the one thing that we can never get more of. This question seeks to understand more about what you value by looking at how you spend your time. What do your hobbies say about what you will bring to the INSEAD student cohort? Are you someone who is accustomed to putting in long hours working with a group of like-minded individuals? What hobbies or interests have you had to give up as you’ve progressed in your career?
4. Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (optional; approximately 300 words)
Applicants often feel anxiety about whether they should provide an answer to optional essay prompts. It’s important to remember that these prompts are truly optional: if you feel like the existing essay questions (and INSEAD has plenty of them!) have fully covered your experience, then your time is far better spent making sure that your required essays are as strong as they can be.
However, if you do have a weakness or unusual aspect to your application, the optional essay gives you an excellent opportunity to address it head on and indicate your self-awareness, as well as the steps you are taking (or have taken) to mitigate any weaknesses. That might mean explaining why a poor undergraduate GPA doesn’t reflect your current potential, or owning up to a spotty job history and showing the steps you’ve taken to strengthen your resume. Don’t try to deflect blame; own up to your mistakes and show what concrete actions you’ve taken to make yourself a solid MBA candidate.
Job Description Questions
1. Briefly summarise 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.
Make sure you keep this essay focused on your most recent job, and if you’ve been there a while, focus on the last year or so. If you do not supervise many (or any) employees, spend some time thinking about the experience you’ve gained in your current role that lends itself to supervisory experience. Keep this essay brief and focused on objective, measurable results whenever possible.
2. What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company?
This should be a relatively simple question to answer: what are your opportunities for growth and advancement within your current organization? Depending on your career goals, it may make sense to discuss how you are currently preparing to take on this next role, and whether you feel it is the direction you want to take your career in.
3. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices.
The goal here is to show intentionality in your career path – not just that you’ve jumped around at random, but that you’ve had a goal you’re working toward or have at the very least steadily increased your responsibilities and seniority. This is also your chance to explain any resume gaps, industry jumps, or otherwise seemingly unexpected portions of your resume.
4. Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with or without an MBA from INSEAD.
Many business schools have essay questions which address the idea of where you want your career to go, regardless of whether you’re admitted to their MBA program. Change happens, and you are not always in control of the direction it takes. In addition to the questions designed to get a better look at the intentionality of your career path, this question attempts to get a sense of how well you roll with the punches. Do you have contingency plans for how to shape your career in the event of market changes or disruptive innovation?
Your answer should illustrate that you have put significant thought into how you will move forward with your career, regardless of whether you’re admitted to the INSEAD MBA programme this year.
5. 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. (optional)
The adcom is again looking for intentionality with this question: are you pursuing an MBA because you aren’t sure what to do next, or because you’re certain that it’s the right step for your career goals and aspirations? The specifics of what you are doing (volunteering, studying, traveling, etc.) are less important than how well you can show that your activities have a purpose and have been chosen to support your career goals.
Application deadlines for September 2017 entry are:
Round 1: September 21, 2016
Round 2: November 30, 2016
Round 3: January 25, 2017
Round 4: March 1, 2017
No matter how many essays your target school requires, EXPARTUS is here to help. If you’d like guidance when it comes to developing your essay or strengthening your personal brand, feel free to contact us.
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