This is the first post in a 4-part series that examines INSEAD MBA’s 4 admission criteria.
The adcom gives, as its first admission criterion, “ability to contribute.” I take the liberty to add: ability to contribute as a person of quality and substance. All the criteria involve factors such as insight, growth, connection with people and cross-cultural facility, motivation.
This criterion is based on INSEAD’s culture of interaction: among students (from around the world), between students and alumni, and between students and professors. Therefore, INSEAD seeks students who bring something distinctive and meaningful to the program – it’s not just what you’ve done and plan to do – but what you have to say about it, what you’ve learned from it, how it informs your perspective, and how you may grow in the future – and your willingness to put that learning and growth at the service of your classmates and others.
This criterion also therefore mentions participation – show how you have been an active member of your various communities: school, work, neighborhood, family, social group, etc., formally and/or informally. INSEAD is interested in long-term contribution, so, if you have already been an active alum for your undergrad (or grad) program, spotlight that participation in the application. Nothing will be more credible than an actual track record of contribution!
Let’s finally examine the list of desired qualities this criterion cites at the end; try to reflect these qualities in your essays and other application elements (some may naturally be more prominent than others):
- Mature: You can show maturity in numerous ways: frank self-evaluation, willingness to listen to and acknowledge the validity of opinions you may not agree with, willingness to ask for help, ability to see multiple sides of an issue, acceptance of and ability to handle ambiguity, willingness to resist short-term gratification for longer-term goals, etc.
- Energetic: It’s not a matter of running marathons. It’s a matter of being engaged. (A curious person is inherently energetic, mentally and intellectually.) You can exemplify this quality in many ways, e.g. pursuing new learning opportunities (whether or not related to your goals and career), initiating relationships and interactions, asking questions, exploring new ideas, geographic areas, languages, sports, recipes…
- Highly motivated: A close cousin of energetic. For those things of interest and/or passion and/or concern and/or curiosity to you, you feel an inherent drive to address, explore, achieve.
- Well-rounded: You have a range of interests, skills, acquaintances. You lead a balanced life: aside from your busy job, you socialize, and you engage in activities of interest. You also balance reflection and action. Each well-rounded person reflects this quality in his unique way; there is no one formula for it.
- Possess strong communication and interpersonal skills: Without these skills, how can you contribute? These skills are the vehicle for your contribution, nothing less. It is imperative to illustrate your communication and interpersonal skills in your INSEAD application.
I am always thrilled when I get an “I’m in at INSEAD!” email. I welcome the chance to help you show you belong at INSEAD and receive such an email from you in the future. Click here to get in touch!
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• The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Competitive MBA Applicant, a free guide
• What’s New at INSEAD? a podcast episode
• INSEAD MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines