INSEAD MBA Application Essays 2013-2014

The MBA admissions experts at Admit1Mba have read and analyzed the INSEAD MBA Essays for 2014, so here we go…

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)

  • Analysis: Applicants often talk about their families in this essay question, but often spend too many words sharing these stories. You are the on applying to an MBA not your parents or siblings, and the admissions committee is interested in learning about you and what you have done in your life.
  • It is true that family often has a significant impact on one’s life and character, but applicants in their 20’s and 30’s are expected to have significant life experiences and be independent, and talking too much about your family gives the wrong impression.
  • You should mention your family’s achievements only if they are relevant to your profile.  Connect your family to who you are – it’s not so interesting to hear about how your mom started a business – it’s more interesting to hear about your experiences helping her grow it and what you learned from them.

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)

  • Analysis: This is a wonderful question and INSEAD Admissions were wise not to limit the accomplishments to professional ones only. This is a good opportunity to show the candidate’s professional achievements; however I recommend that applicants be careful and avoid repeating information from the resume.
  • The Admissions team at INSEAD business school clearly asks “why you view them as such” – the catch here is to show why the achievements are not trivial. For example, if one of your bullet points in the resume is “increasing revenues/reducing cost by $$$” the story behind it would discuss why it was a challenge to do so, showing INSEAD Admissions that not every person in your position would have been able to do the same.

3. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. 

  • Analysis: What is the true purpose of this essay ?To learn about your mistake and show your human side – as MBA application tend to include the resume of a superstar, recommendations that show you’re the best engineer/marketer/trader the universe has seen in the last 200 years. etc., this is an opportunity to show that you’re human. And there’s a lot to be learned from what people select to disclose in this essay.The fact that you consider or present something as a failure doesn’t mean that your team/supervisor/company saw it the same way. Let’s say you wanted to complete a project ahead of schedule, but it was eventually completed just in time. It might be a huge success for the company and everybody else involved, but for you personally it was a small failure.
  • Or, let’s say you were involved in fund raising for a charity and the event only got $$$ instead of the $$$$$$ you were hoping for. It might still have generated the funds required to keep this charity going, but on a personal level you weren’t satisfied….That’s one approach.The most important thing about this essay is your analysis on why you failed, and what you have learned from this failure – mostly in the personal/leadership aspect. Of course, we all learn technical things but what we learn about managing people/setting expectation/conflict resolution etc is much more significant.Also, make sure that the mistake you pick matches the overall theme of your application, so if you present yourself as open-minded and a good listener, talking about the time when you ignored your family’s/colleague’s/manager’s advice might seem a bit suspicious

4. a) Discuss your short and long term career goals. (300 words maximum) and
b) How will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words maximum)

Analysis:  Like many other top MBA programs, INSEAD has a lot to offer MBA students: an impressive caliber of students, professors and alumni, an intensive environment in which to grow and learn, and access to top recruiters. So, how should one go about answering this question?

The key to acing this essay is connecting the dots between your profile, your vision and INSEAD.
  1. Analyze your vision and career goals. If you want to start a healthcare company in South-East Asia, think about the challenges of doing so: technology, funding, personnel, etc.
  2. List the skills that you will need to master this area.
  3. Based on your research and interaction with INSEAD, figure out how the school can help you build these skills.

5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:

a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? (250 words maximum), or

b) Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock. (250 words maximum)

Analysis: This is one of my favorite MBA application questions. This is the place to show the INSEAD Admissions team that you are going to fit in, both in the international setting of the INSEAD classroom and community, but also in the future as a global leader. Don’t think this is a simple question – in my mind, this question is the least trivial of all, requiring you to understand your own biases and cultural background.

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I got the call from INSEAD: I am in!!!! So I am very happy and thank you for all your help! I have no doubt that without you the application wouldn’t have been as excellent as it was.
Finance Expert, France, INSEAD

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