This is the third post in a 4-part series that examines INSEAD MBA’s 4 admission criteria.
The operative word in this criterion is capacity. This word conveys the adcom’s perspective on the academic component of the application: it’s dynamic, focusing on how you can grow and perform and achieve academically going forward. The only way for the adcom to determine this is to draw conclusions based on your existing academic record. (Professional accomplishment does not indicate academic capacity, sorry to say.)
There are two core components of that academic record:
- Undergraduate record
- Standardized test
The adcom is quite specific about its preference for standardized test: the GMAT is required; the GRE is not an option except in 2 specific cases (dual degree applicants and where the GMAT is not offered). Unlike many programs, INSEAD recommends minimums for test scores: GMAT verbal and quant 70-75% each. That’s that.
Evaluating your undergraduate record
The case of the undergraduate record is a bit more nuanced. The adcom looks at both the performance (grades, GPA) and competitiveness of the school. So, a 3.5 isn’t just a 3.5; it’s 3.5 relative to the rigor of the undergrad school and program. There are additional considerations in evaluating your undergrad record that are relevant for academic capacity, including:
- How did your GPA trend?
Even if it’s great, if it drops a lot in the last year or semester, it’s not a great signal for academic capacity – and vice versa, a rising trend over 4 years even if the overall GPA is so-so, is helpful.
- How did you do in your quant courses?
Those grades should be solid at least. There should be no doubt about academic capacity in quant.
- Did you work during school?
(If so, make sure the adcom knows it.) The ability to perform well (or even pretty well) while working indicates academic capacity.
- Did you earn a graduate degree?
The rigors of graduate work plus the tenacity graduate level study requires show academic capacity, even though a grad degree is not required.
- How competitive and challenging was your undergrad program and school?
And how does your GPA relate to that?
Evaluating your academic capacity
With these factors in mind, evaluate your own academic capacity, trying to see it from the adcom’s view:
- First, evaluate the GMAT score and how it breaks down.
What story or impression will the adcom see behind the numbers and percentiles?
- Second, evaluate your undergrad record thoroughly.
Again, what will the adcom see behind the grades and the course names? Does it see broad or narrow interests? A global perspective? Growth? Curiosity? What’s the story and the academic personality that emerge?
- Third, combine the insights from these two evaluations.
What’s the holistic academic picture that develops and what does it tell the adcom about your academic capacity?This evaluation process may simply clarify that everything is fine on the academic front and you can focus your application efforts into other topics and considerations. Or, it may reveal that, while you are qualified for INSEAD academically, there is room to strengthen the impression of academic capacity. In that case, look for opportunities in the essays, resume, and (fingers-crossed) interview to fill in that gap through the examples, anecdotes, and details you include.
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.
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• How to Get Accepted to Top B-Schools with Low Stats, a free webinar
• What to Do About a Low GPA, a podcast episode
• Low GMAT Score? Don’t Panic…Yet.