Tuesday Tips: INSEAD MBA Essays and Tips for 2023-2024
INSEAD, whose slogan is “The Business School for the World,” is a top-ranked program that attracts a diverse and international group of students. The INSEAD MBA program is only 12 months and provides multiple campuses and practical business experience.
For these essays, the INSEAD MBA admissions team advises all applications to be original, focus on the details, and be specific about work experience. According to SBC consultant Lucy, a former INSEAD AdCom member, applicants should keep the following in mind as they work on their essays: “To truly be themselves, clearly explain their story, what their goal is, and how can the INSEAD MBA help them achieve it. And to mention what they can bring to the program and the INSEAD community.”
Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.
Job Description Questions
The job questions are not essays. Hence, the number of words is not so important. People need to be comfortable writing 3 lines or 20. Some applicants work for companies that are well known, and only 3 lines are sufficient to describe them; others work for small companies where it is more important to give the full picture.
All of the job questions are short answers. INSEAD advises applicants they can answer them in as little as one line. Or in as many as twenty lines. You could think of the entire set of essays as one narrative. First, you start with your current job, then discuss what you would do next in your role. Next, talk about your background. Finally, end with a brief explanation of your goals and where an MBA fits.
Make sure to use the space efficiently and answer the questions directly. INSEAD MBA admissions is not looking for an extensive explanation. There is no need for background beyond the questions answered.
Question 1: Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (200 words max.)
This question focuses on your current (or most recent) work situation. Providing relevant context for your current role is appropriate. However, make sure you are devoting most of the space to describing the details of your day-to-day responsibilities. If you have less experience supervising others or managing a budget, use the space for key responsibilities and results.
Question 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (200 words max.)
If your boss has already talked to you about the next step, this is an easy question to answer. If you have not explicitly discussed promotion at work, what would be the future role you would ideally pursue?
Maybe you are pursuing an MBA because you want to make a career change or because the next step at your current company is undesirable for other reasons. If so, this may be a place to describe what that next step would be. Also, consider why you do not wish to pursue that next step.
Question 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (300 words max.)
Even if you have a relatively straightforward career path, you can take the opportunity to comment on some of the learnings from each position. Use those learnings to create the story of your past, present, and future plans to build your career narrative. This should be a short answer like the others. Therefore, focus only on the moves you have made in your career and the reasons behind them.
Question 4: Discuss your short and long-term career aspirations with or without an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words max.)
A top-tier program like INSEAD is an accelerator for your career. The INSEAD MBA program can introduce you to a broader network than you would otherwise have. INSEAD will expand your skillset into new functional areas, and expose you to people from around the world.
Think about how you plan to use your INSEAD MBA to advance your current career (or change paths entirely). If you did not attend INSEAD, how would you achieve your goals otherwise? Think of this short answer essay as a thought experiment to show that you can plan two routes to one goal.
Optional Question: If you are currently not working or if you plan to leave your current employer more than 2 months before the programme starts, please explain your activities and occupations between leaving your job and the start of the programme.
If you are unemployed at the moment, you will want to answer this question. Use the space to show how you are spending your time without full-time employment. Ideally, you are currently involved in an activity that is going to further your career. If not, you are pursuing personal goals at this time. The best answer shows you are self-motivated and do not need paid work to continue developing yourself.
For example, perhaps you are volunteering in a non-profit that is related to your career goals. Maybe you are working with a friend on a start-up. Or you are consulting and building contacts in your industry.
Maybe you are out of work only briefly, or planning to take just a few months off before school starts. If so, it’s reasonable to pursue travel or other activities. Focus on areas that develop your international awareness and perspective. However, make sure that your actions can tie back to your long-term goals.
Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), 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. (max. 500 words)
Strengths and weaknesses are a common topic for MBA applications. The purpose of a question about strengths and weaknesses is to evaluate your level of maturity and self-awareness. This is an opportunity to highlight leadership, teamwork, or other qualities that will drive your future career success.
Examples aren’t explicitly required, but consider that the INSEAD MBA admissions team is reading a lot of essays. Concrete examples can help you stand out. When describing weaknesses, focus on those weaknesses that you have taken tangible steps to fix. Or, that have been a route to learning more about yourself. Often, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin and you can tie your key weaknesses to your key strengths.
It is difficult to write about weaknesses without sounding either overly self-deprecating or as if you are humble-bragging. Therefore, this is a critical essay to share with others to seek feedback on tone.
Essay 2: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (max. 400 words)
This essay is an opportunity to showcase one of your most significant achievements. Impressive achievements that stand on their own are great fuel for this essay. It is equally important to explain why these accomplishments are valuable to you. If you concisely explain the achievement, then provide the background for your personal pride.
The flip side of achievement is failure, and INSEAD wants to understand how you view both. When approaching any failure essay, it’s essential to use a real failure that has emotional resonance for you. An accomplishment framed as a failure will be easy to see through. Use a real failure to demonstrate your maturity and ability to grow. If you can explain how you changed as a result of the failure, that is excellent.
The third part of the essay deals with how these experiences impacted your relationships and what you learned. Whether you were part of a team or the main impact was on a loved one, this part of the essay is about how other people felt.
Most obviously, a success likely led to happiness from a team or a manager, while a failure was disappointing. However, your particular achievement or failure could have led to a learning experience for your organization. Or, an opportunity opened up for someone else. Possibly it was a chance for you to be closer to another person through a team challenge. Think creatively about this aspect.
Essay 3: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (max. 300 words)
Nothing is more personal than what you choose to do outside of school or work. What are the most meaningful pursuits you have spent your time on? You should both describe the main interests you have outside of your professional pursuits and explain why they are meaningful to you and why you spend time on them.
Ideally, you can also explain how you will continue your involvement while at INSEAD and cite some specific clubs or groups where you see your interests contributing to the community.
Optional Essay: Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (max. 300 words)
This essay is 300 words you can use for anything you would like to cover. Because INSEAD MBA’s questions are thorough, you may have covered all aspects of your candidacy. Think of topics that couldn’t work into the rest of your application. Make sure you have included personal qualities. This might be a good place to describe an interesting hobby or key accomplishment.
If you did cover everything, you can feel comfortable skipping this question (it IS optional). However, if you have any problems like a low GPA or a failing grade in college, this is the place to cover it. It’s far better to explain any issues in your application thoroughly. You do not want to leave the INSEAD MBA admissions committee to guess what happened.
Explain the issue and focus most of the essay on the correction for the problem. Demonstrate what you learned from the experience. Then, show you have been an ideal citizen ever since. Finally, avoid blame, and show that this incident is in your past and will stay there.
Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to test prep to hourly help with targeted tasks. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.