If you are applying after March 21, 2014, please refer to the questions and tips here. INSEAD will no longer accept responses to these questions after March 21. After that date you will need to use the new essay prompts.
Bucking the trends of fewer essays and micro essays, INSEAD requires applicants to express themselves competently in writing on multiple topics, professional and personal, and at some length in one essay (these days, 600 words is long). A key theme running through these questions is your perspective – your reflections, observations, thoughts; how you shape and present experiences. You must articulate in writing not just facts and narratives, but the thoughts, lessons, and insights you draw from them. These essays ask you to compose thoughtfully. It’s notable that one of the most truly global MBA programs places such emphasis on verbal expression – give these essays effort accordingly.
Job Description Essays:
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. (250 words maximum)
The key to strong job descriptions is “results achieved.” Definitely provide the other requested elements, but the distinguishing factor will be those results. Quantifying impact usually shines a spotlight on your impact and contribution. The second most important element is “major responsibilities.” Don’t list the mundane or the aspects of your job that everyone with your title will share. Where did you shoulder “major responsibility”? Be specific in these descriptions to differentiate yourself, especially if you are from a common professional group in the applicant pool.
2. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words maximum)
Don’t confuse “full description” with “complete history.” How would you characterize your career since college? You also have to answer the second part of the question and you only have 250 words. Choose the most important elements — those elements that show contribution, leadership, and since this is INSEAD, a multi-cultural and global perspective
3. If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you start the MBA programme if applicable? (250 words maximum)
State the facts straightforwardly. Note not just what you’re doing but why you’re doing it. If you have room and if it’s relevant, consider addressing why you are unemployed at the moment.
1. Give a candid description of yourself, 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. (600 words maximum)
For a question like this I recommend two strengths and one weakness. If you can choose one anecdote that reveals both the strengths and the weakness, you could have a strong essay. Don’t forget to discuss how these qualities influenced your personal development. For more on INSEAD 1 and writing about weaknesses, please see this video:
A word on weaknesses. Be honest without going overboard. Don’t make up a phony weakness. I attended an HBS info session a few years ago. One of the alumni said that he discussed a “phony weakness” in his essays (required for HBS that year), and his interviewer focused right on it, and basically said, “Come on. What’s a real weakness?” The applicant had to get real in a hurry. Take advantage of the essay: Give it some thought and respond with the benefit of that reflection. For more information, please see “Flaws Make You Real.”
At a recent AIGAC conference one of the adcom members remembered that an applicant in response to a similar question had listed his weakness as “pitching new ideas in a meeting.” The adcom member felt that the applicant was specific, real, and showed self-awareness by revealing this flaw. In fact, by demonstrating these qualities in addition to the requested weakness that he was working on, the applicant actually enhanced his chances of acceptance with his response.
Don’t write about “weakness in pitching new ideas in meetings” as your flaw just because you saw it here. It will become the lame, stale example everyone uses. However, you all have weakness. Just be thoughtful enough and honest enough to reveal yours.
2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date (if possible specify one personal and one professional) explaining why you view them as such. (400 words maximum)
Reference achievements from different areas of your life. (But don’t go back to high school and earlier to do so.) The accomplishments should show impact, contribution, and for INSEAD at least one should have a multi-cultural flavor. Quantify to add credibility and specificity to your attainments.
3. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words maximum)
OK. when did you blow it. What did you learn from the experience. That lesson is the key element. The question is about resilience — your ability to learn and bounce back from failure. This essay is a place for you to show that quality. Leaders need it.
4. a) Discuss your short and long term career goals. (300 words maximum) b) How will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words maximum)
New variation on the goals theme. For A, show that you have a clear direction, a goal for your MBA. That means not that you know what you want to study while at INSEAD, but that you know what you want to DO and where you want to do it after you leave INSEAD. Define the function you want to perform and the industry you want to perform it in when you have your MBA. If relevant, you can also provide geographic preferences.
For the long-term goals, a little fuzziness is allowed, certainly more than for the short-term. However, the long-term goals should flow directly from the short term. It should all make sense and hang together. For B, given your goals, why do you want to attend INSEAD? What about its distinctive, intense, multi-campus program will help you achieve your goals. What do you anticipate learning and how will it help you realize your vision.
5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain?
b) Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock. (250 words maximum)
Choose the option that is easiest for you to answer and allows you to bring out an aspect of your experience not found elsewhere. Keep it short, real short.
Optional Essay Is there anything that you have not mentioned in your application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (350 words maximum)
Use the optional essay to give them one more reason to accept you. DON’T use it for a superficial summary, a restatement of your other essays, or anything similarly boring and trite. If you choose to write it, produce a tight, focused essay revealing something you haven’t yet discussed.
If you would like professional guidance with your INSEAD application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the INSEAD application.
INSEAD 2014 MBA Application Deadlines (Sept 2014 Intake):
|Application Deadline||Decision Notification|
|Round 1||October 2, 2013||December 20, 2013|
|Round 2||November 27, 2013||February 21, 2014|
|Round 3||March 5, 2014||May 23, 2014|
*To be included in a specific round, applications must be complete and submitted by midnight (23:59 Central European Time) on the day of the deadline.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions Success, and author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last fifteen years with Accepted.com.