INSEAD MBA Essays and Tips for 2020-21

INSEAD has consistently been ranked amongst the world’s top business schools and offers a 12 month full time MBA program. Known as “The Business School for the World”, INSEAD is known for its diverse class profile and multicultural experience.

Job Essays

The idea behind these essays is to see the professional accomplishments of the applicant that sets them apart from the rest. Distinctive points like starting your own company are a big plus point and should be clearly specified. What is really important here is a strong professional track record highlighting a clear career growth pattern. Wherever possible, try and give numbers to show impact.

Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (200 words maximum)

Begin by giving a brief introduction of the nature of your work and employer.

Both “major responsibilities” and “results achieved” are key points in this essay. Since space is a constraint, it will be best to discuss 2-4 most important results and/or responsibilities. More than the technicalities of the job, it is important to clearly explain your daily responsibilities and showcasing skills like people management, leadership, analytic rigor, creative thinking, etc.

“Results achieved” should be a key ingredient of this essay. Highlight instances when you performed outstandingly in your current role.

If you don’t have employees working under your direct supervision, you should still include any project-based and/or team-based leadership. For results or responsibilities, substantiate with numbers that will help understand the extent of your results or responsibilities.

What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (200 words maximum)*

Be realistic, but also present the best possible version of your next position, which will show that you are seeking an MBA to move beyond what would follow without it. The answer should confirm that you have thought deeply about what your opportunity cost is of pursuing an MBA.

Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (300 words maximum)*

The objective of this essay is to show a progression/growth story. You may have worked for a few companies and held different roles, but it is important to clarify why you made these moves and how each one added to your professional knowledge. Be sure to include any awards or achievements garnered along the way.

It is important to show an upward trajectory. Also, highlight on the challenges you encountered along the way. Discuss any risks that you must have taken. Growth doesn’t only mean growth in position but could also mean growth in terms of results or responsibilities. For each of your jobs, cover designation, company, period, responsibilities, and achievements.

Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words maximum)*

This is a forward-looking career goals question and the word limit of just 100 words would require you to be very specific. It is good to be specific both about the industry and the role you are seeking, and also uncover the motivations that have made you select your career goal. If you have words left, in one sentence you can also explain how INSEAD will help you achieve these goals.

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. (optional)

INSEAD provides space for candidates who are not currently employed to explain what they are doing with their time. While this question does signal that being unemployed does not imply being uncompetitive for admission to INSEAD, it is important for the applicant to show involvement in activities that align well with goals ahead. This response is therefore a great place to discuss increased involvement in volunteer work, working with a friend on a start-up, attendance of workshops, etc. If you are out of work only for a short duration, you can also highlight on pointers like travel or other activities that give you an international perspective. However, the key point is to ensure that your activities connect well with your long-term goals or other key aspects of your application strategy.

Personal Essays

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 (maximum 500 words).*

This essay is an opportunity to showcase some core skills like leadership, enterpreneurial drive, perseverance, etc. Whatever approach you follow to answer this question, it is important to answer the two key points asked – strengths and weakness. I recommend two-three strengths and one-two weakness to be covered. The essay will be strong if attributes are substantiated with anecdotes. Moreover, it is important to discuss how these qualities influenced your personal development.

With regards to weaknesses, be honest without going overboard. Don’t make up a weakness as writing about a weakness reveals self-awareness and maturity. It is important that you provide something beyond the routine/cliché answer here as that just reflects a defensive strategy. However, what is critical when addressing weaknesses is the steps you have taken to address the weaknesses.

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(maximum 400 words).*

You should pick an accomplishment through which you can show impact and for INSEAD it will be good if you can showcase your leadership potential through this experience.

Choose an accomplishment where:

  • You made a difference
  • Demonstrated leadership and teamwork
  • You managed to achieve your set goals
  • The experience brought important learning

To answer the question on failure, cover 4 basic points:

  • A failure despite putting best efforts (describe the objective, your role & efforts and failure)
  • How could the failure be avoided?
  • Why couldn’t you do the right thing?
  • Your learning from this experience

For both achievement and failure, it is important to focus on your learning. The main objective of this essay is to highlight what you learned and how you improved yourself through these experiences.

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, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (maximum 300 words)*

INSEAD is looking for applicants who have all-round profiles. Thus, it is important to showcase your interests beyond professional experience and academic excellence. This could cover your hobbies, community service involvement, clubs and activities. Another important point to highlight is why these activities are important to you and how are you enriched by these activities. You can also link these interests with clubs or activities at INSEAD and how you would like to contribute to these.

Is there anything that you have not mentioned in your application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (350 words maximum) This section is optional.

Use this essay to highlight something significant not covered in the previous essays. You can use this to talk about significant international exposure or an achievement that is not mentioned anywhere else in your application. If you have any negative aspects in your profile like a low GPA or something, use this essay to address them. Don’t be defensive in approaching these points by stating excuses. Instead, use this to highlight on your learning or corrective actions taken.

Please Note: Along with these essays, INSEAD also has a video interview requirement. You will have 48 hours after the application deadline you are applying for to complete the video interview.

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