Often times applicants to MBA programs go through a bit of an identity crisis when they start the application process as they try to sum themselves and their careers up within tight word limits and limited spaces. Applicants to the IE International MBA program in Madrid may find the process even more daunting as the application begins with a lengthy self-assessment of personal characteristics, such as levels of extroversion and self-discipline, before demanding that the applicant share areas in which s/he would like to improve, including creativity and persistence. I hope that a few introspection sessions will suffice to answer these deep questions, and I advise that you demonstrate your desire to grow and learn by being open and honest about areas in which you can improve.
For the essay section, IE offers applicants abundant choice. While you are only required to answer 3 essays, you are given 12 topic choices and a variety of options for your means of expression: only one essay must be answered with text (400-600 words), though all 3 may be answered in this prosaic fashion. The admissions committee welcomes anything from song and dance to poetry, presentation, animation – or even a tweet on Twitter!
IE suggests the following platforms:
As you read through the options below, try to think of an example from your experiences that would align well with each topic while sharing a new area of your background, impact, and involvement in an exciting and interesting way. Then select the three examples/topics that convey your fit with IE’s international program for unconventional thinkers.
Here are the essay choices:
1. If you had the opportunity, what actions would you demand of the United Nations Secretary General and why?
IE’s International MBA program aims to develop leaders who understand other perspectives and challenge the status quo. This is a great question to answer if you have been politically active or involved in a global issue that is important to you since it will provide you a platform to discuss the issue, the efforts that you have made to shape it, and how the UN could play a role in addressing it further.
2. Describe the situation with the greatest ethical complexity that you have faced in your professional or academic life, and how your input helped resolve it.
I like the phrasing of this question because it is clear where other programs sometimes obfuscate: ethical complexity means that it was not simple to determine the right thing to do; there was no one ideal path to follow. This is your chance to demonstrate the level of decision-making you have enjoyed in your career and how you have creatively navigated complicated ethical waters.
3. Describe a time when you took a great risk. What was the outcome?
IE places a great emphasis on entrepreneurship and is seeking risk takers who think unconventionally: people who are willing to leave a steady, low return behind to instead pursue an uncertain but potentially high reward. A good essay or presentation here will show the admissions office your analysis of the potential gain and what actions you took to improve your chances of success.
4. Cite at least one example of when your leadership had an impact on or changed a certain situation, and justify how an IE Master’s Degree program would help you to strengthen or improve this competence.
Leadership can turn situations around. A good answer to this question will explain or show what the situation was and why you felt it needed to be changed. Then, it will demonstrate your leadership – how you wooed, cajoled, and earned the support of others above, parallel, and below you in the organization to accept your ideas and how those ideas improved the situation. Strong essays will end with insight into IE’s Behavioral Fitness leadership training program and the areas in which IE will help you further improve your leadership skills.
5. Describe the most outstanding leader you have worked with. Indicate some aspects of the way you work that are similar to the way this leader works and others that are different.
A description of a role model’s leadership requires some insight into how he or she leads, makes use of his/her talents to gather internal and external support to make an impact. If you have enjoyed a front row seat to excellent management, then this essay will allow you to highlight what you’ve learned and how you’ve borrowed from that example in your own leadership experiences. I personally appreciate the phrasing of the question “you have worked with”: this keeps everyone from writing about Steve Jobs!
6. You have just participated in an important meeting with your superior. How will you ensure that every part of the instructions you received will properly reach all subordinates, suppliers and clients, located in different parts of the world?
IE’s International MBA program is comprised of students from 70 countries and myriad industries. The answer to this question is not just about an email that you cc to everyone, but rather must demonstrate that you understand the challenge and opportunity of connecting with global teams. Good answers to this prompt will not remain in the theoretical but will instead draw upon similar global experiences from the applicant’s past to prove their international leadership ability and cultural understanding.
7. Do you think that the lifestyle of the inhabitants of your town or city reflects behavior that is in line with the concept of sustainable development? In your opinion, what should be improved?
If you have been involved in municipal or local community service, this is the ideal essay to shine the spotlight on the issues in its sustainable development that matter to you most. IE seeks strong critical thinking skills in its students: the ability to assess strengths and weaknesses in the status quo, so good responses to this prompt will make use of that ability to discuss the ways in which denizens are living sustainably (ethically, responsibly, amid diversity, and with consideration to the environment) and could improve in doing so.
8. What do you believe are the greatest challenges facing the sector or industry you would like to specialize in at IE? What role do you hope to be able to play in this sector or industry in the medium term?
While most traditional goals essays focus on the role the applicant hopes to play in the future, this essay or presentation offers you the opportunity to discuss the exciting advancements and challenging obstacles that lie on the horizon for your target industry as a whole. Good answers to this question will show your enthusiasm for your chosen industry and your readiness for it.
9. Show us an activity you enjoy doing. Tell us how you think it contributes to your personal and professional development.
Oh well, they couldn’t all be phrased in interesting ways to make the applicant think, could they? This is an opportunity to share some of your experiences from outside of work and how they have helped you grow in the qualities and skills that IE is seeking: risk taking, innovation, cultural awareness, and leadership are among the most important.
10. How do you imagine social interaction within 10 years, taking into consideration the impact of technology on human relations?
Here’s an opportunity to think creatively and use a bit of a crystal ball to predict how communication and interaction will change by the year 2027. If you consider yourself particularly creative or prescient, this essay will offer you a perfect canvas to paint your prediction for the not-so-distant future.
11. If all of the world’s cultural heritage (sports, music, fashion, architecture, literature, painting, etc..) was contained in a time capsule, what would you include to demonstrate the legacy of your country?
IE’s student body is diverse for a reason: IE aims to expose its students to the sundry cultural mindsets around the world. This prompt offers you the opportunity to demonstrate how you will contribute to that discussion. What unique elements of your country’s culture do you feel embody its nature and uniqueness? Personal essays that inspire an emotional or visceral connection to that culture in the reader will be the most memorable.
12. How do you envision the city of the future?
Like option 10 above, this question allows you to share your vision of the future, albeit not limited to just a small 10-year jump through time. What changes do you anticipate in transportation, energy, industry, safety needs, education, population and/or family structure and how will they affect the structure and motion of future cities? IE aims to nurture entrepreneurs and an entrepreneurial mindset, which requires the ability to look ahead at future needs to design the products and services of tomorrow.
Deadlines: IE uses rolling admissions, so there are no strict deadlines. An acceptance to IE is valid not just for the next intake but for the next two (September and January).
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
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