Tuesday Tips – INSEAD Essay Tips

INSEAD is a highly regarded international program located in both France and Singapore that has the added benefit of opportunities to study at some of the top US MBA programs as an exchange student.

While INSEAD has a diverse, international focus it also has the name recognition in the US to translate to interesting career opportunities. If you are an international student interested in the shorter length of an international program, yet interested in recruiting at US firms, INSEAD may be the ideal program for you.

To learn more about INSEAD, there are opportunities to attend one of the many admissions events.

Each essay topic listed below and in the subsequent pages must be answered.

Essay 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.)

This essay asks for a self-aware and candid exploration of your strengths and weaknesses. Ideally you can use one concise example that will highlight both a few strengths and at least one weakness. Think about an example where you were able to interact with others and exhibit leadership and teamwork. When you discuss your weakness, make sure that your weakness is genuine and that you are able to provide evidence that you were self-aware enough to both recognize the weakness and work on it to improve your effectiveness.

While you can use non-work examples in this essay if they exhibit the key characteristics you would like to explore, it is probably most effective to focus on a great professional example to start the set of essays in the right tone.

Essay 2: Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words approx.)

This is a fairly similar essay to the HBS three accomplishments essay. Similarly, you will want to choose two examples that highlight different sides of yourself. If you chose a professional example for Essay 1, you may want to choose extracurricular and personal examples for Essay 2, and if you choose another professional example make sure it is materially different from the example in Essay 1.

Because you only have about 200 words per accomplishment you will need to focus on providing a concise and specific situation, a clear result that demonstrates the significance of the example, and a bit of space for self-reflection upon the accomplishment.

Essay 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.)

This is a classic mistake essay. While some questions ask you to focus specifically on a mistake, this one allows the room for a situation that may have been objectively successful, yet did not meet your personal objectives.

You will want to demonstrate the pivotal nature of this event in your life, and due the leeway in topic areas, you will have the ability to delve into areas of your life that you may not have previously discussed and that may be fairly far in the past. Think about the moments in your life where you have changed direction, defined your goals more clearly, or had an epiphany about yourself or your purpose. Most importantly, you want to demonstrate that you have the ability to reflect upon the imperfect nature of your past and retain lessons that continue to serve your future.

Essay 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 classic careers goals essay, yet similarly to HBS asks only the future oriented question of your career goals. You will certainly need to discuss your past a little in order to demonstrate how you have arrived at your goals, but you want to devote most of the space to explaining what your goals are, and how you expect the INSEAD MBA program to assist you in reaching them.

Essay 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.), or

b) What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country? (250 words approx.)

You can choose either question, and should pick a) if you have a clear and vivid example of culture shock. If you are struggling to recognize and communicate such an example, you will want to choose essay b) which is more oriented towards those who may not have a clear international background.

When answering either question you will want to demonstrate your interest in and sensitivity towards different cultures, and discuss some of the international or multicultural experiences in your own life.

Due to the very short word count, choose a vivid and concise example and reflect upon its meaning in the context of your life and goals thus far.

Essay 6: Is there anything that you have not mentioned in the above essays that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (200 words approx.) This essay is optional.

This optional essay is the ideal place to write about any aspect that was not covered in the previous five essays, and/or explain any weaknesses in your application. In either case, keep the essay brief, to the point, and make sure you are describing a new aspect of yourself that fits in with your overall application strategy and assists your case for admission.


Essay 7: In case of reapplication, please use this page. 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. This essay should not exceed 400 words.

Reapplication essays should focus entirely on why you are a better candidate this year than you were last year. Describe any promotions, new extracurricular activities, awards or academic achievements. Keep the descriptions brief and topical, and use the rest of the essay to reiterate your interest in the INSEAD program and your desire to attend if admitted.


Click for more posts containing Application Advice for the INSEAD School of Business.


(718) 306-6858

Latest Blog Post

AdCom Shakeup at HBS, Stanford GSB

Two resignation announcements at two of the world’s top business schools have left MBA industry folks buzzing. Both Chad Losee of Harvard Business School and Kirsten Moss of Stanford Graduate School of Business shared their ...