INSEAD MBA (January 2010): Essay & Analysis
ESSAYS & ANALYSIS
(INSEAD application can be downloaded here.)
INSEAD doesn't include these two as part of their "Essays" list, but you should consider them when developing your application profile since they likely have a direct bearing on your career goals. You can think of these as a narrative version of your resume, which you should complete beforehand.
1. Please give a detailed description of your job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, number of clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)
This question is asking specifically about your current position/work. In addition to providing the requested description and details, I recommend including key accomplishments that might distinguish you from other people with the same job and/or are related to your future career goals.
2. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)
This question is asking for an overview of your career development, i.e. what sequence of companies you've worked for or positions you have taken. As with your resume, it is important to show progress at each stage of your career, which is straightforward if you have worked for the same company and enjoyed regular promotions. If you have changed companies or industries, however, it is important to explain how and why you made your career choices with consistent reasoning. Include accomplishments to spice it up.
The second half of the question is tricky, since your next position should be more challenging than your current work, but somehow less ambitious than your MBA career goals. (i.e., if you can achieve your next position without the INSEAD MBA, then you don't need it.) Alternatively, if you are changing careers, then you should how your next position will be just more of what you are doing now.
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.)
You might be tempted to use this essay to describe your professional strengths and weaknesses, however, the words "personal development" make it clear that INSEAD wants to know what core attributes and deficiencies define you as a person. Just as importantly, they want to know how and why you developed those traits. Perhaps you developed a strong sense of independence because you were an only child. Or maybe your strategic thinking comes from a passion for chess. Maybe your teamwork orientation is a direct result of playing soccer all your life. If these are truly core personality traits, then they will likely play a role in your accomplishments (Essay 2) and failures (Essay 3). If so, you have a great chance to harmonize all three essays, perhaps more. Despite the "when necessary," examples are mandatory.
This essay requires significant self-awareness. If you are having difficulty getting started, I suggest waiting until finishing the other essays, which should reveal important clues, if not outright answers.
Please see: The MBA Personal Essay (under development)
2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words approx.)
You pretty much have to include at least one professional accomplishment here, probably two if you have significant (say over 5 years) work experience. There are good reasons to include personal accomplishments also, especially if they are related to your future career goals. When choosing, be sure to pick accomplishments that are different from each other and that can demonstrate your effectiveness in a variety of settings.
Editing hint: for powerful storytelling in such a short space, concentrate on action, action, action, with just enough context to understand the situation and, of course, the importance of the accomplishment to you.
Please see: The MBA Leadership 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.)
Please see: The MBA Failure 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.)
INSEAD does not ask for a breakdown of your short-term and long-term career goals, but it's a good idea to include both to show consistency between them and between your goals and your past experiences/accomplishments. A career summary section is not necessary since you'll cover that in the "Job Related" essays. Just jump right into your goals to make the most effective use of space.
Please see: The MBA Goals 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
With a 90% international student population, INSEAD clearly has a strong interest in an applicant's international experience. And unless you've lived abroad for at least a few months, you probably haven't experienced enough of culture shock, which is a very specific phenomenon, to write a convincing essay. In essence, you have to show how you overcame the extreme disorientation and frustration of living in a foreign country, particularly language and cultural barriers. If you don't, INSEAD may question your ability to adapt to life in France or to work with people from extremely different backgrounds, or to go on to a successful international career. If you have made it through culture shock, then this essay is for you. Write about what it felt like, and be sure to include the positive and concrete actions you initiated to break through.
b) What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country? (250 words approx.)
Even if you haven't lived abroad or traveled extensively, you should still be able to empathize with someone moving to your country. What should a foreigner know or do to set up and enjoy their new life? What would they find surprising? What do you recommend for fun? I suggest including things that are practical but also surprising, so the adcom can learn something new about your country and also see how you imagine a foreigner might view your country.
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.
Please see: The MBA Optional Essay (under development)