Interview Prep Tips

INSEAD MBA application essay review

So you’ve decided to apply to an MBA, congratulations!  This is a great first step towards taking part in a transformative experience that will be with you for the rest of your life.

No matter what program you’ve decided to apply to, the application process usually follows the same steps:

  1. Prep for the GMAT or GRE and get a competitive score
  2. Write one or more compelling essays
  3. Collect and submit letters of recommendation, transcripts and an updated CV
  4. If the above three items paint an interesting picture, you’ll get invited to an interview

Today, we’ll talk about how you should think about your essays.

How do the INSEAD essays work?

INSEAD’s essays might seem overwhelming – you need to write three “motivational” essays and have the option to write a fourth.

Fortunately, those essays are relatively short.  The first and second ones are 500 and 400 words respectively.  The third and optional essays are limited to 300 words.

What should I write about in the INSEAD essay?

The answer to that question seems extraordinarily simple – just use the prompt that was given to you by the INSEAD admissions department.  Right?  Take a look at the prompts for the 2020 intake:

  1. First essay
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 (500 words).

2. Second essay

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 (400 words).

3. Third essay

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 (300 words)?

4. Optional essay

Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee (300 words)?

So I just answer those questions?

Yes, but do so in a way that you avoid the number 1 mistake we see applicants make over and over – repeating information already available somewhere else.

As part of your application, you’ve updated your CV – there is a lot of information on that document.  To name a few that you’d typically find on a CV, names of companies you’ve worked at, highlights of the results you managed to accomplish, your job titles, etc.

Does it make sense to repeat all of that on the essays?  Nope.

Do lots of applicants fall into that trap and repeat information already documented on their CVs?  Yep.

Do you think admissions likes to read essays that talk about things already discussed somewhere else in your application?  I’ll let you answer that one…

Writing the first two INSEAD essays

Notice how the first essay prompt uses the term “who are you as a person”.  The second essay prompt is also very broad.  That is a great clue that will help you write a truly impactful essay.

CVs are normally broken down into tightly timeboxed periods, mostly linked to job titles.  This makes telling stories about how you created value in ways that crossed departments, job titles, years, etc very hard in a CV.  So both essays should focus on that.

INSEAD MBA essay review. Don’t miss this important step.

You could talk about how you mentored someone over several years and how they grew.  Or how a project you started as an analyst at a company was built upon by others even as you moved to another department.

On those two questions, you want to tell admissions about things that the rest of your application cannot answer.

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Answering the third and fourth INSEAD essays

Here the situation is very similar to the above point.  The prompts talk about your extra curricular activities and issues that have not been addressed in the rest of your application.

This is a great cue for us to go beyond your work experience and talk about the impact that your values have had in our personal lives.

So you could talk about how values guided you through a issue with your family, with a friend that needed help, etc.  Things that are impossible to capture in the rest of your CV or essays.

Conclusion and special offer – free INSEAD essay review

The INSEAD admissions department gives you the opportunity to branch out from your CV and work experience – take those opportunities.  It helps to make admissions life a lot easier and reading your essays more interesting – ultimately, improving your odds!

At Voomer, we are offering free INSEAD MBA essay reviews for a limited time.

Just use our MBA interview prep platform (also free!) and we’ll review one of your essays.

Questions on Voomer match what you’ll get on the INSEAD video interview and after going through a set of questions, you’ll get an artificial intelligence powered report on your results with specific, actionable steps you can take to improve your performance.

Your response is broken down into multiple components, analyzed individually and then as a whole.  From delivery to content to body language and camera position.

By David Anderton-Yang

David Anderton-Yang is the CEO and co-founder of Voomer where AI as a force for good, helping people be more confident on video.

He is a former researcher at the MIT Media Lab, Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree.

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