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Insead Mba Application Essays Samples

INSEAD, “the business school of the world,” is a dynamic, diverse and highly international MBA option. INSEAD is looking for ability to contribute, academic motivation, leadership potential and international motivation. Along with the basic MBA questions most other schools ask, INSEAD is looking for significant exploration of your career goals and background. Along with career aspirations and leadership experience, an international focus is important to INSEAD.

Along with this set of essays, INSEAD has a required video interview, which has to be completed within 48 hours after your intake deadline. INSEAD admissions tells candidates that “The video should be seen as a unique opportunity for you to share your passions, your motivations and who you truly are. “ Visit the INSEAD admissions overview for detailed instructions on the video essay and other components of the application.

JOB ESSAYS

Job Essay 1: Briefly summarize 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. (short answer)

INSEAD advises that the job essays are more short answer than full essay, and that candidates should feel comfortable answering in one line or twenty, depending on the depth of background and information needed to answer the question.

This question focuses on your current (or most recent) work situation. Though you may want to provide relevant context for your current role, make sure you are devoting most of the space to describing the details of your day-to-day responsibilities and oversight. If you are lighter on supervising others or managing a budget, you have the opportunity to highlight some key responsibilities and results.

Job Essay 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (short answer)

Once you have described what you do at work currently, INSEAD asks for you to imagine what you will do in the future. Because you are ambitious enough to be applying to an MBA program like INSEAD, you are likely on a serious career track in your current company. 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 next role you would ideally pursue? If 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, this may be a place to describe what that next step would be and why you do not wish to pursue it (with more context provided in the long term goal section).

Job Essay 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (short answer)

This essay will likely be the longest of the set of job essays. INSEAD is seeking to understand your career trajectory and how you have grown and progressed through your career. Think about the choices you have made in your career, and how your past experiences have combined to provide you with your current skill set.

Even if you have a fairly straightforward career path you can take the opportunity to comment on some of the learnings from each position to create the story of your past, present and future plans and build an overall career narrative.

Job Essay 4: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (short answer)

By essay four you have covered your current role at work, your hypothetical next step at your company and how you arrived at this place, now you can bring the story together to explain what you are pursuing an MBA from INSEAD.
While the best candidates for an MBA might be able to succeed without one, typically a top tier MBA like INSEAD is an accelerator for your career – introducing you to a broader network than you would otherwise have, expanding your skillset into new functional areas and exposing you to people from around the world.

Think about how you plan to use your 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 essay as a thought experiment to show that you can plan two routes to one goal, while perhaps demonstrating the superiority of the MBA path.

Optional Job Essay: 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 not employed at the moment, you will want to answer this question to show how you are utilizing your time without full time employment. Ideally you are currently involved in an activity that is going to further your career or personal goals at this time. The best answer is one that 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.

If you are out of work only briefly or planning to take just a few months off before school starts, it’s also perfectly reasonable to be pursuing travel or other activities that develop your international awareness and perspective. However, make sure that your activities can tie back to your long-term goals or other key aspects of your application strategy.

MOTIVATION ESSAYS

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. (approximately words)

Strengths and weaknesses are a common topic for MBA applications and seek to reveal your level of maturity and self-awareness. This is an opportunity to highlight some of your skills and attributes that demonstrate leadership, teamwork or other qualities that will drive your future career success.

Examples aren’t explicitly required, but consider that the admissions committee is reading a number of essays and therefore concrete examples can help you stand out and lead to a memorable essay.

When describing weaknesses, you will want to focus on those weaknesses that you have taken concrete steps to address, or that have been a route to learning more about yourself. Often strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin, in which case you can even tie your key weaknesses to your key strengths.

Because it is often difficult to write about one’s weaknesses without sounding overly humble or even as if you are positioning a weakness as a strength inappropriately, this is an especially important essay to share with others to seek feedback on tone and impact.

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. (approx. words)

This essay is an opportunity to showcase one of your most important achievements. Impressive achievements that stand on their own are great, but you will want to pay equal attention to explaining why these accomplishments are valuable to you. If you concisely explain the accomplishment and how you were able to bring it to fruition, you will have room to provide the context for your personal pride in the accomplishment.

If you don’t have an achievement that you think is incredibly impressive on its face, consider an example that demonstrates the activities you value. Remember, not everyone has sold a company or won an Olympic medal prior to business school!

The flip side of achievement is failure, and INSEAD wants to understand how you view both. When approaching any failure essay it’s important to use a real failure that has emotional resonance for you. An accomplishment framed as a failure will be easy to see through and will not demonstrate anything about your maturity or ability to grow.

Your failure should be real, and also something that led you to grow or learn. If you can describe how you have changed your approach as a result of the failure that is an excellent outcome.

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 encourages you to step outside your own narrative of success and failure and think about how other people felt about your actions.

Most obviously a success likely led to happiness from a team or a manager, while a failure was disappointing to those around you. However, your particular achievement or failure could have led to a learning experience for your team, an opportunity for someone else, or a chance for you to be closer to another person through a team challenge. Think creatively about this aspect.

Note that your application to INSEAD ideally covers both the personal and professional. This essay could be an opportunity in this essay set to bring in a new angle on your profile through describing one of your most substantial accomplishments outside of work.

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? (approx. 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? (approx. words)

This essay is words you can use for anything you would like to showcase and that you were unable to work into the rest of your application. Because INSEAD’s questions are quite thorough you may have covered all aspects of your candidacy and personal qualities in the other essay questions, in which case you can feel comfortable skipping this question (it IS optional). If you did not have a place for an interesting hobby, new aspect of your background to describe, or key accomplishment, it may be appropriate to use this space to tell that story.

It is far better to fully explain any issues in your application than to leave the admissions committee to guess what happened. If you have any challenging aspects to your candidacy like a low GPA or a failing grade in college, this is the correct place to address those concerns. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue.

For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the essay demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since rather than focusing on the negative. Avoid blaming anyone else for your issue, and relentlessly show why this one incident is in your past and will stay there.

This entry was posted in Application Tips, INSEAD Advice and tagged advice, application tips, applications, career goals, Essay Questions, Essay Tips, Fall MBA Essay Tips, INSEAD, INSEAD MBA, MBA application.
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INSEAD Essay Topic Analysis

Now that the online application for INSEAD’s January intake is live—and the INSEAD essay topics for  have been released—we wanted to follow up with some commentary for business school applicants targeting the school this season.

INSEAD has maintained the four Job Description essays and three Motivation Essays for their application. Further, the school simply requests a “short answer” rather than specifying a word limit for these responses, giving applicants a fair amount of leeway (and building in a test of the candidate’s judgment) with this portion of the application. In the past, word limits for these short answers have ranged from to words. Meanwhile, the wording of the program’s three remaining Motivation Essays remains unchanged from last season. INSEAD cut the question about cultural impact, but added a video component after submitting the application. This component is mandatory in order for one’s application to be considered complete. The adcom is giving applicants one week after the relevant application deadline for the completion of the video portion. Note from the adcom: “We are keen on getting to know you better and believe that through a video you can come to life, so be spontaneous, be creative and be yourself! We look forward to virtually meeting you!”

Let’s take a closer look at each of the prompts:

Job Essay 1: Briefly summarize 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. (short answer)
While the essay sections of many MBA applications begin by addressing the overall progression of the applicant’s career up to this point, INSEAD’s first question requests a snapshot of the applicant’s career at this moment. Even if you have held a number of positions within the same organization, it’s best to maintain focus on your current position and responsibilities, as per the instructions. Keeping in mind that this will be the adcom’s introduction to your application materials, you might also provide the context necessary for the reader to understand your place within your company’s organizational structure and the work that occupies your days. While there is some room to talk about “results achieved,” there’s no need to get bogged down in the specifics of certain projects or engagements – an effective response to this question will be composed of fairly general comments that are focused on the present. It is fine to incorporate some more specific information about your career’s “greatest hits” later when responding to other questions.

Job Essay 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (short answer)
By focusing on what the applicant’s next logical step would be in their current organization (i.e. without an MBA), the admissions committee aims to get a sense of the candidate’s current professional momentum. Applicants will ideally be able to outline a next step that would entail increased responsibility, whether it be around project size and complexity, employees managed, or P&L. Candidates might also mention an estimated timeline for promotion into this position, if applicable. Because the information requested by this item is more limited than the other short answers in this section, applicants will likely be able to provide a complete answer in words.

Job Essay 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (short answer)
This is a tall order for a “short answer” essay, so brevity and efficient use of language will be critical here. The adcom is looking for an applicant who can present his or her career as a coherent whole, and demonstrate that he or she has been on an upward trajectory since the outset. While it would be ideal for you to include some comments on lessons learned and skills gained over the course of your career, the primary focus should be touching upon each full-time post you’ve held, explaining the reasons behind each move you’ve made, and commenting on increases and changes in responsibility.

Job Essay 4: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with or without an MBA from INSEAD. (short answer)
INSEAD poses a fairly straightforward career goals essay question, asking applicants to discuss both their short- and long-term career plans. The “with or without an MBA from INSEAD” is an interesting twist, and seems to hint that the school is looking for candidates who are so determined to accomplish their professional objectives that they will work toward them whether or not they gain admission to their program. That said, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re making an informed decision in applying and that an MBA is an essential next step along your career path. We, therefore, recommend that applicants assume that an MBA will factor into their immediate career plans, whether it’s from INSEAD or another leading program.

Candidates will want to identify the position that they hope to hold immediately after graduating from an MBA program, naming both a job title and organizations for which they would most like to work. They will then want to discuss their longer-range year plan, explaining not just what role they hope to occupy but also commenting on the broader impact they hope to have in this position. Space permitting, it would also make sense to touch on the ways an MBA would facilitate progress toward these goals, and the factors that make INSEAD an especially good next step. To underscore this fit, it would make sense to name some curricular or programmatic offerings that are relevant to these objectives. Conducting thorough research on the program — whether by visiting campus or attending an info sessions, speaking with students and alumni, or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to INSEAD — will help you achieve maximum impact with this brief response.

Optional Job Essay: 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.
This is the sixth year that INSEAD has included a question affording unemployed applicants the space to explain their situation, as well as a component that includes applicants who are planning to take a break of more than two months between the time they submit their applications and the time they would enter INSEAD’s program. In either scenario, applicants will do well to demonstrate that they are (or, in the case of those taking a leave, will be) actively developing skills, forging connections, and making progress toward their career goals. This essay is a great place to discuss increased involvement in volunteer work, attendance at conferences and professional development workshops, efforts to secure short-term pre-MBA employment, and other plans for making the most of one’s time between applying and beginning the program at INSEAD.

Motivation Essays
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. (approx. words)

This is a fairly open-ended question that essentially asks the applicant to introduce him or herself to the admissions reader, delving past the facts of one’s job and hobbies into a deeper discussion of the candidate’s personality and values. That said, there is still an opening to provide illustrative examples that show how these qualities manifest in one’s day–to-day life. Applicants should of course note that this prompt also asks them to discuss formative past experiences that have shaped who the applicant is today, giving them plenty to do with the word allotment for this response.

It’s important to address the question in full when responding to this sort of essay, but it’s also in one’s best interest to focus as much as possible on the positive. This is a akin to describing oneself to a new friend or on a first date: you do want to provide a heads up about any salient shortcomings you’re aware of, but want to spend most of your time selling your strengths (i.e. the reasons that someone might want to befriend/date/admit you). With this in mind, you might lead off with two or three positive qualities, sharing brief examples of that these characteristics have enabled you to accomplish or how they’ve positioned you to help others. When discussing these kinds of personal qualities, it’s ideal to back up every statement about your character with a brief example to really “prove” that you possess the quality in question. By doing so, you’re effectively “showing” rather than “telling” the reader how your personality and values inform your behavior (and potential contribution to the INSEAD MBA program). After illustrating your strengths, you’ll then want to comment on one or two weaknesses – ideally ones that you’ve already taken steps to address.

Note that this response also calls for the candidate to reflect on the forces that have shaped his or her personal development; commentary on this topic could be built into the discussion of each personal characteristic introduced — or in an introduction or conclusion if there are themes that run throughout your examples. INSEAD’s framework gives applicants free rein to choose personal, professional or extracurricular subjects, and applicants would do well to select examples with an eye for presenting a balanced picture of their interests, skills, and experiences.

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. (approx. words)
This response — which asks applicants to detail (1) their proudest achievement, (2) a potentially unrelated failure, (3) the impact both experiences had on their interpersonal relationships, and (4) the lessons they learned from each — requires one to cover quite a bit of ground in just words. In detailing both items 1 and 2, applicants will need to provide sufficient context for a reader to readily understand the nature of the situation or project, the stakes involved, and the outcome. Between the need to provide background and the sheer volume of information being requested, this is a truly challenging prompt to address in just words.

Applicants will need to be thoughtful about how they organize this essay. If discussing unrelated examples, we recommend treating the achievement and failure within two word mini-responses to ensure that they fully address each element of the question. Or, if you experienced an achievement and a failure (not necessarily in that order) in the course of a single project or engagement, a chronological narrative may be more natural.

Candidates should note that both the accomplishment and failure can be drawn from the professional or personal realms, leaving a fair amount of leeway in the subjects they select. Of course, applicants should think strategically about the examples that will add the most value to their files; given how little room there is to detail professional accomplishments in the job essays, for example, applicants may find that a workplace success of which they’re proud is a good choice for this response.

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? (approx. words)
This essay requests an inventory of the applicant’s significant past and present involvements and hobbies, as well as a statement about how these have been worthwhile and rewarding. Given the vast scope of this question, it’s probably helpful to think through some parameters for the activities one might include — particularly for well-rounded applicants who have a number of hobbies, interests, and involvements. In this context, 3+ hours per week for at least three months is probably a reasonable gauge for a “significant” involvement. While the prompt doesn’t specify a time limit, it’s likely that one’s activities since beginning college will be of interest to the admissions committee, though current involvements should likely take precedence over older ones if the word count becomes an issue.

There’s one other strategic considerations to bear in mind when selecting what to highlight here: social or community-based involvements are generally better suited to this essay than solo involvements (e.g. reading, working out, watching movies). Business school requires a high degree of collaboration and engagement, so admissions committees seek applicants who are naturally inclined to engage others in their leisure time. For this reason, training for races with a running club will go over better than saying you spend several hours alone at the gym each week.

Once you’ve selected which activities to highlight, the most effective response to this essay will likely be a straightforward one, describing the nature and extent of one’s involvements outside of work and what kind of enjoyment or enrichment the applicant derives from each.

Optional Essay: Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (approx. words)
This is a rather openly worded optional essay, suggesting that applicants are free to share any information that they feel would add value to their file (in addition, of course, to explaining extenuating circumstances or acknowledging weaknesses in their applications). That said, INSEAD’s essays themselves cover a fair amount of ground, so candidates would do well to consider whether what they’re sharing in this essay could have been covered in response to one of the program’s required prompts.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s INSEAD essay topics! As you work on your INSEAD MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s offerings:

Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

Schools: INSEAD

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