This INSEAD 2011 MBA Application tip post is one of a series of posts providing MBA application and essay advice for applicants to top MBA programs around the world. You can access the entire series at https://blog.accepted.com/acceptedcom_blog/tag/2011-mba-application-tips. My tips for answering INSEAD’s essay questions are in blue below.
1. Please give a detailed description of your job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, number of clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)
Note the emphasis on quantifying results. Numbers speak volumes about the responsibility you have handled and the impact you have had. Also, while the description asks for major responsibilities, if you focus on achievements and accomplishments, you will reveal both your responsibilities and those occasions when you really shined.
2. Please give us 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)
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.
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. (400 words approx.)
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 will have a strong essay. Don’t forget to discuss how these qualities influenced your personal development.
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 last year’s AIGAC conference one of the adcom members remembered that an applicant in response to a similar question had listed his weakness in “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 weakness just because you read it here 🙂 It will become like the swine flu of MBA essays — an epidemic. However, you all have weakness. Now just be thoughtful enough and honest enough to reveal yours.
2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words approx.)
Try to take accomplishments from different arenas 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.
3. Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect. (250 words approx.)
In choosing the situation, here’s a case when you can go back in time a little — let’s say 2-5 years. You can illustrate how you learned from this situation and were able to meet similar objectives next time around.
4. Discuss your career goals. What skills do you expect to gain from studying at INSEAD and how will
they contribute to your professional career. (500 words approx.)
This is a forward-looking career goals question. Use the past just enough to set context for your future and show that your goals are anchored in experience. Then explain how INSEAD with its intense, one-year, general management program and strong international focus will help you achieve your goals.
Not the specific focus on “skills” that you anticipate acquiring. What do you anticipate learning and how will it help you achieve your professional goals.
5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What did it mean to you? (250 words approx.),
b) What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country? (250 words approx.)
These two have been part of the INSEAD repertoire for several years. Choose the one that is easiest for you to answer and allows you to bring out a facet of your experience not found in the other essays. Keep it short, real short.
6. (Optional) Is there anything that you have not mentioned in the above essays that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (200 words approx.)
Take advantage of the optional essay to give them one more reason to admit you. DON’T use it for a grand summary, a restatement of your other essays, or something similarly boring, superficial, and repetitive. Write a tight, focused essay highlighting something you haven’t yet discussed.
7. (Reapplicant) Your essay should state any new aspects of professional, international, academic, or personal development since your last application. We would also like you to explain your motivation for re-applying to INSEAD. (400 words)
Historically, INSEAD was tough on reapplicants. Hopefully this questions signals a greater openness to reapplication.
How are you a better applicant now than you were last time? What’s changed? INSEAD adds a twist by asking you to explain why you are re-applying. Why do you think you will get accepted this time if you didn’t last time? The answer had better not be that you’re counting on a decline in application volume to help you squeak in the Fountainbleau door. Again, how are you “new and improved” and why do you still want INSEAD?
Jan 2011 Application Deadlines: 10 March 2010; 9 June 2010; 28 July 2010
Sept 2011 Application Deadlines: 29 September 2010; 1 December 2010; 9 March 2011
Jan 2012 Application Deadlines: 30 March 2011; 15 June 2011; 3 August 2011
*To be included in a specific round, applications must be complete and submitted by midnight (23.59) Central European Time on the day of deadline.
If you would like help with your INSEAD MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and admissions consulting or an INSEAD School Package, which provide essay editing, interview coaching, consultation, and a resume editing for the INSEAD MBA application.