INSEAD Essays for 2022-2023: Strategy & Tips for Conquering all 7 prompts
July 11, 2022 | by Cassandra Pittman
With seven essays ringing in at a collective 2,000 words, the INSEAD essays are among the longest of any top-tier MBA application. And that’s not including the two optional essays.
This can seem daunting when you’re first starting out and staring at a blank page. But what I have found working with over 100 applicants applying to a range of top schools is that precisely because of its length, the INSEAD application allows you to tell your story — and make a compelling case for your candidacy — better than just about any other business school application out there.
Rather than having to choose between giving the committee insight in your career motivations and achievements, and your personal qualities and accomplishments, the INSEAD essays afford you ample space to detail all of this, and more. Broken down into two parts — the career essays and the motivation essays — INSEAD guides you to showcase, in relative depth, the career choices you’ve made leading up to this point, and your post-MBA career vision, as well as the unique personal qualities and experiences that will make you a valuable addition to the class.
CAREER 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. (200 words, max)
This question is intended to give the reader a snapshot of where you are right now in your career. Don’t overthink it, as you will have ample space in later essays (and other elements of your application) to drill down on the details of your major accomplishments. In this question, be sure to mention your title, organization, location and major responsibilities. Do feel free to list a couple accomplishments if space allows, though don’t repeat the accomplishment you use in your accomplishment essay later in the application. If relevant, also include leadership and teamwork, and any international projects or work that has an international scope. Quantify as much as possible throughout.
Try not to get too technical; don’t use industry jargon and keep your language in layman’s terms as your readers may not be familiar with your industry or function.
CAREER ESSAY 2. What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (200 words max)
Job titles can vary wildly from industry to industry, and even company to company within the same industry. This question aims to give the reader a fuller understanding of where you sit in your company hierarchy and your career trajectory where you are. It’s best to be as straightforward with your answer as possible. Say what your next promotion or title would be like to be and list any new responsibilities you may have and /or management of others under this new role. This answer can often be quite short, about 100 words.
CAREER ESSAY 3. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (300 words max)
Your CV shows the positions you’ve had, but this essay allows you go deeper, giving insight into why you made the choices you did. This is a critical part of your overall narrative as an applicant, so do be sure to give it the attention it deserves. A wonderful feature of this essay is that it allows you to explain the value-add of career choices that may not be obvious from a read of your CV. For example, a past client turned down an offer from Bain & Co to work at a boutique consulting firm without wide scale brand recognition because it allowed him to work directly with CEOs and other C-level clients from day one. Another took a cut in salary to gain critical in-market international experience. Another passed up a promotion, opting instead for a lateral move that would better position her in the long-term.
Approach this essay in chronological order, starting with your first role after university until present day. Remember that you will have space to detail your accomplishments in your CV and in a later essay. By all means, show your career progression and promotions at each organization, and if you have room for a major accomplishment or two you can add that, too. But, particularly if you’ve had extensive career experience or held several different roles in the time you’ve worked, you’ll want to save the word count for the main focus of this essay, which is the rationale behind your choices.
CAREER ESSAY 4. Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words max)
With only 100 words to work with, you’ll need to be as straightforward as possible in how you answer this question. What is your immediate post-MBA career goal, where do you see yourself in 10 – 15 years, and what is the route between the two?
Try to get as specific as possible (even though it’s hard to know) with sample company names and ideas of certain titles of the jobs you seek. You can even include geographic location. Ideally, try to include one or two sentences about why you are passionate about this career trajectory.
CAREER ESSAY 5. (Optional) 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. (No word limit but we suggest 300 max)
Only complete this essay if it adds value to your narrative, and if you do have a plan. Given the length of the INSEAD application, it’s better to leave the optional essay blank rather than to fill the space with nonessential info.
However, this could be an opportunity to address gaps or weaknesses in your profile, such as if you are light on extracurriculars or volunteering. Perhaps you can take some time before the start of the program to strengthen this weakness, such as volunteering in X country to help Y organization. Better still, lay out a plan that shows you’ve already taken the initiative and thought through the details. For example, you have reached out to X organization and have agreed to a two-month pro-bono project in Y country, during which you will work on Z problem with a goal to deliver A, B and C results.
MOTIVATION 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. (500 words max)
Through this question, the committee is seeking to understand both who you are as a person — your unique characteristics, motivations and values — and the major life events and people who have helped shape you into the person you are today. It requires a great degree of self-awareness and cannot be answered well without some deep introspection. Clients say they get an enormous amount of value working with a coach on answering this question that extends well beyond their business school applications.
In answering this question, favor depth over breadth. It’s best to structure your answer around 3 – 5 main themes, weaving in the story of your background and upbringing, and intertwining your strengths and weaknesses. You can bring in examples from your professional life, but keep in mind that your professional story is well told throughout a lot of other aspects of your application. This is an opportunity to bring the Admissions Committee in on your personal story, and that is where the focus should be. Do not be tempted to gloss over your weaknesses or try to position your weaknesses as strengths. The seasoned admissions reader will see right through this, and it signals a lack of self-awareness and maturity in discerning where you stand to improve.
MOTIVATION 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. (400 words max)
You’ll want to be sure to use at least one professional example in this essay. It will vary from applicant to applicant, but if you’ve been able to tell your personal story well in the first motivation essay then in most cases it’s best to use a professional example for the accomplishment in this essay. The failure can work well as either a professional or personal example.
As with the first motivation essay, the committee will be looking for you to demonstrate your self-awareness here. For the accomplishment, you’ll need to detail not just what you achieved, but also what you had to overcome to do so, what resources you had to draw upon to make it happen, and why it made you proud. To optimize your impact with the reader, illustrate how you made a positive impact on the organization by quantifying the results.
For the failure, choose something that you were accountable for — a ‘mistake’ or an oversight you made at work (perhaps earlier on in your career) and then conclude with what you learned from the experience. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is often better to have an example of a big failure rather than a small failure. Big failures can demonstrate that you are a risk taker and have learned a great deal from your experiences.
In both cases, don’t forget to detail how these experiences have impacted your relationships with others. Put another way, what soft skills did you hone through these experiences that will make you a better addition to your study team and INSEAD class?
MOTIVATION 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? (300 words max)
This is your opportunity to show the Admissions Committee that you’re a well-rounded person, with interests that extend beyond your professional life. With only 300 words for this essay, you’ll need to balance depth and breadth. What often works well is to create three or four paragraphs, each which its own theme. Eg:
- University involvement – clubs you were a part of, student council…
- Volunteering/community work
In general, activities that you dropped before university or only took up for a short time after are best left out. The second part of this essay is as important as the first. It can be helpful to think of this in terms of the “Why, What and How” of what you’ve chosen to devote your free time to. Why did you choose to mentor underprivileged youth? What do you get out of training for marathons, beyond “keeping fit”? How did canvassing for an electoral candidate shape your thinking and develop your skills?
A final tip here — everyone loves traveling and photography. Unless you have something truly outstanding to add about either one of these endeavors, consider showcasing interests that can set you apart.
Want more free advice & the chance to get your questions answered?
View our MBA Admissions Essay Masterclass featuring INSEAD, London Business School & HEC Paris, below.
Previous sessions from our MBA Admissions Essay Masterclass series are available on Fortuna’s YouTube channel .
For more insights and advice on INSEAD, view:
- How to Get Into INSEAD: Advice for 6 Common Profiles
- INSEAD’s Admissions Director Talks: 7 Top Takeaways
- Insider Tips for the INSEAD Admissions Interview
- INSEAD B-School Profile
You can also check out related video strategy sessions, including: Everything You Need to Know About the INSEAD Interview or request a copy of insider tips for applying to INSEAD.
Updated July, 2022
Fortuna’s Cassandra Pittman is an MBA Admissions coach & former member of admissions teams at London Business School and INSEAD. She is also a Columbia MBA alumnae. She was recently interviewed in Forbes for her popular podcast featuring female founders & trailblazers, Tell It Like It Is . For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation .
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June 20, 2022
INSEAD MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines [2022 – 2023]
Communication is key for INSEAD – in part because it is a key factor that their recruiters look for. Hence the INSEAD application elicits your communication effectiveness. First, INSEAD asks you to write reflective essays – and to do so succinctly. Balancing this emphasis on written communication is a video component – the adcom wants to see you articulate your thoughts in a spoken, interpersonal setup as well. Ultimately, verbal acuity really matters in the INSEAD program because the ability to comprehend, synthesize, communicate, and act on complex ideas across cultures is central to global leadership .
Motivation is the second driving interest of the INSEAD adcom. The application form terms its three essays “Motivation Essays.” Keep that word “motivation” in clear focus as you draft those essays; it indicates that you should express not just what you’ve done but why – what drives you; what propels your choices, decisions, and actions. These written essays are the first “getting to know you” element. Taken together in both form and content, the written and video components should portray both sophisticated communication abilities and self-awareness of who you are and what inspires you, moves you, propels you forward.
In this post:
- INSEAD application essay tips
- INSEAD application deadlines
- INSEAD class profile
INSEAD MBA 2022-2023 motivation essays
Insead mba 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. ( Maximum 500 words )
This question gets to a key point: how well do you know yourself, and are you able to openly acknowledge your motivations and shortcomings? (Perhaps one could interpret it as “Are you mature?”) Note that “strengths” and “weaknesses” are plural – and they should be personal, not professional, characteristics. A personal weakness such as “impatience with detail” could certainly have professional impact, but don’t cite a weakness that is purely work-related.
I suggest 2-3 strengths and 1-2 weaknesses. Provide examples for all of them – these examples can vary in length – sometimes a sentence will suffice. Also, try to bring in anecdotes/examples from outside work and from work. Sometimes, one anecdote can cover both a strength and a weakness, and, also, sometimes, a strength, taken to excess, can turn into a weakness – just possibilities to keep in mind when deciding on content for the essay.
The main formative factors you choose to cite may be related to and integrated with the strengths/weaknesses; in addition, you can discuss key elements of your background that differentiate or distinguish you and are truly key to your personal development.
(NOTE: There is potential for some overlap in this essay with Essay 2, so look at both questions together and organize content before writing them.)
INSEAD MBA 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. ( Maximum 400 words )
With only 400 words to describe 2 significant experiences, and the specified discussion points, use stories that can be told without a lot of background information. And keep in mind Essay 1 – don’t use stories that reflect exactly the same messages.
“Achievement of which you are most proud ” is a high bar, and it can be from either work or outside of work. It also should be something that reveals qualities or attributes about you that are positive and relevant . I suggest using something from the last two to three years. Luckily you don’t have to write about the failure about which you are most ashamed… 😉 Discuss a failure that is specific, fairly recent, and meaty enough to have rattled you a bit. Again, work or non-work topic is fine.
In discussing what you learned from the experiences and how they impacted your relationships, either identify one specific thing each for each story, or integrate “impact relationship” and “what you learned” into one point – avoid broad learnings, as targeted, specific insights will be more thoughtful and illuminating.
INSEAD MBA 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? ( Maximum 300 words )
Simply discuss the range of activities you participate (or have participated) in – those that are major passions, and those that are “just fun” – clarifying their relative role and importance in your life. Be straightforward in how they enriched you – insight is what’s important. Imagine you are meeting with clients or superiors – between the business dealings (and perhaps over a drink), you and they chat about non-work interests – approach this essay like such a conversation. Not quite as casual as with a peer, but still conversational, straightforward, and connecting on a person-to-person level.
INSEAD MBA essay #4 (optional)
Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the admissions committee? (Maximum 300 words)
Use the optional essay to explain anything that needs explaining and/or to give them one more reason to accept you. DON’T use it for a superficial summary, a restatement of your other essays, or anything similarly boring and trite. If you choose to write it, produce a tight, focused essay revealing something you haven’t yet discussed.
INSEAD MBA video component
After you submit your application, you will receive a link inviting you to provide a video interview. Your application will be deemed complete only after you submit your video interview . Without indication of topic from the adcom, you should be ready for anything – redoing will not be possible. For this application component, presentation matters. If they only wanted content, they could have had written questions. They are looking to see how you respond in “real time” as part of their initial assessment. Find that perfect balance – be yourself, and be professional. Polished, but not slick or contrived. This “perfect balance” will be different for different people, depending on their culture, their personality, their profession. If you haven’t had formal training in presentations, it would be a good idea to try some self-videos with random questions and analyze them, looking as well as listening.
Listen: Virginie Fougea, Global Director of Admissions & Financial Aid on What Prospective MBAs Need to Know >>
For expert guidance with your INSEAD MBA application, check out Accepted’s MBA Application Packages , which include comprehensive guidance from an experienced admissions consultant. We’ve helped hundreds of applicants get accepted to INSEAD’s MBA program and look forward to helping you too!
INSEAD MBA application deadlines for August 2023 intake
Source: INSEAD website
INSEAD MBA class profile [2021 graduates]
Here’s an inside look at INSEAD 2021 MBA Graduates. Data taken from the INSEAD website .
Average student age: 29
Average work experience: 6 years
Breakdown of undergraduate majors:
Business / Administration 33%
Law / Political Sciences 7%
Humanities and Arts 6%
Media and Communication 1%
Previous industries of students:
Management Consulting 29%
Financial services 20%
Technology, media, and telecommunications 14%
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Tuesday Tips: INSEAD MBA Essays and Tips for 2023-2024
INSEAD, whose slogan is “The Business School for the World,” is a top-ranked program that attracts a diverse and international group of students. The INSEAD MBA program is only 12 months and provides multiple campuses and practical business experience.
For these essays, the INSEAD MBA admissions team advises all applications to be original, focus on the details, and be specific about work experience. According to SBC consultant Lucy , a former INSEAD AdCom member, applicants should keep the following in mind as they work on their essays: “To truly be themselves, clearly explain their story, what their goal is, and how can the INSEAD MBA help them achieve it. And to mention what they can bring to the program and the INSEAD community.”
Visit the INSEAD MBA website for more essay tips, and don’t miss our INSEAD admissions overview for more program details.
Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.
Job Description Questions
The job questions are not essays. hence, the number of words is not so important. people need to be comfortable writing 3 lines or 20. some applicants work for companies that are well known, and only 3 lines are sufficient to describe them; others work for small companies where it is more important to give the full picture..
All of the job questions are short answers. INSEAD advises applicants they can answer them in as little as one line. Or in as many as twenty lines. You could think of the entire set of essays as one narrative. First, you start with your current job, then discuss what you would do next in your role. Next, talk about your background. Finally, end with a brief explanation of your goals and where an MBA fits.
Make sure to use the space efficiently and answer the questions directly. INSEAD MBA admissions is not looking for an extensive explanation. There is no need for background beyond the questions answered.
Question 1: Briefly summarise 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. (200 words max.)
This question focuses on your current (or most recent) work situation. Providing relevant context for your current role is appropriate. However, make sure you are devoting most of the space to describing the details of your day-to-day responsibilities. If you have less experience supervising others or managing a budget, use the space for key responsibilities and results.
Question 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (200 words max.)
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 future role you would ideally pursue?
Maybe 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. If so, this may be a place to describe what that next step would be. Also, consider why you do not wish to pursue that next step.
Question 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (300 words max.)
Even if you have a relatively straightforward career path, you can take the opportunity to comment on some of the learnings from each position. Use those learnings to create the story of your past, present, and future plans to build your career narrative. This should be a short answer like the others. Therefore, focus only on the moves you have made in your career and the reasons behind them.
Question 4: Discuss your short and long-term career aspirations with or without an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words max.)
A top-tier program like INSEAD is an accelerator for your career. The INSEAD MBA program can introduce you to a broader network than you would otherwise have. INSEAD will expand your skillset into new functional areas, and expose you to people from around the world.
Think about how you plan to use your INSEAD 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 short answer essay as a thought experiment to show that you can plan two routes to one goal.
Optional Question: 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 unemployed at the moment, you will want to answer this question. Use the space to show how you are spending your time without full-time employment. Ideally, you are currently involved in an activity that is going to further your career. If not, you are pursuing personal goals at this time. The best answer 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.
Maybe you are out of work only briefly, or planning to take just a few months off before school starts. If so, it’s reasonable to pursue travel or other activities. Focus on areas that develop your international awareness and perspective. However, make sure that your actions can tie back to your long-term goals.
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. (max. 500 words).
Strengths and weaknesses are a common topic for MBA applications. The purpose of a question about strengths and weaknesses is to evaluate your level of maturity and self-awareness. This is an opportunity to highlight leadership, teamwork, or other qualities that will drive your future career success.
Examples aren’t explicitly required, but consider that the INSEAD MBA admissions team is reading a lot of essays. Concrete examples can help you stand out. When describing weaknesses, focus on those weaknesses that you have taken tangible steps to fix. Or, that have been a route to learning more about yourself. Often, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin and you can tie your key weaknesses to your key strengths.
It is difficult to write about weaknesses without sounding either overly self-deprecating or as if you are humble-bragging. Therefore, this is a critical essay to share with others to seek feedback on tone.
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. (max. 400 words)
This essay is an opportunity to showcase one of your most significant achievements. Impressive achievements that stand on their own are great fuel for this essay. It is equally important to explain why these accomplishments are valuable to you. If you concisely explain the achievement, then provide the background for your personal pride.
The flip side of achievement is failure, and INSEAD wants to understand how you view both. When approaching any failure essay, it’s essential to use a real failure that has emotional resonance for you. An accomplishment framed as a failure will be easy to see through. Use a real failure to demonstrate your maturity and ability to grow. If you can explain how you changed as a result of the failure, that is excellent.
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 is about how other people felt.
Most obviously, a success likely led to happiness from a team or a manager, while a failure was disappointing. However, your particular achievement or failure could have led to a learning experience for your organization. Or, an opportunity opened up for someone else. Possibly it was a chance for you to be closer to another person through a team challenge. Think creatively about this aspect.
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? (max. 300 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? (max. 300 words)
This essay is 300 words you can use for anything you would like to cover. Because INSEAD MBA’s questions are thorough, you may have covered all aspects of your candidacy. Think of topics that couldn’t work into the rest of your application. Make sure you have included personal qualities. This might be a good place to describe an interesting hobby or key accomplishment.
If you did cover everything, you can feel comfortable skipping this question (it IS optional). However, if you have any problems like a low GPA or a failing grade in college, this is the place to cover it. It’s far better to explain any issues in your application thoroughly. You do not want to leave the INSEAD MBA admissions committee to guess what happened.
Explain the issue and focus most of the essay on the correction for the problem. Demonstrate what you learned from the experience. Then, show you have been an ideal citizen ever since. Finally, avoid blame, and show that this incident is in your past and will stay there.
Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to test prep to hourly help with targeted tasks. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team .
If you have an interview coming up, you will want to review SBC’s interview prep services . The key to interview success is practice and we provide you with all the tools you need to do just that.
- Leverage our video platform to practice, view yourself and improve
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How to Get into INSEAD: INSEAD Essay Tips and Examples
August 29, 2023
INSEAD candidates must respond to four short career-focused queries (a fifth one is optional) and provide three motivation essays (with an optional fourth). Applicants are also tasked with completing a video component for which they answer four questions as four separate video recordings. Given the total number of prompts, tasks, and questions involved, some candidates could find INSEAD’s essay gauntlet a bit intimidating and likely arduous as well. Read on for our full analysis, which we hope will make the process a little easier to manage.
INSEAD 2023–2024 Essay Tips
Job description 1: briefly summarise 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. (200 words maximum) , job description 2: what would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company instead of going to business school (200 words maximum) , job description 3: 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) , job description 4: discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an mba from insead. (100 words maximum) .
For the school’s job-related mini essays, we encourage you to start by very carefully parsing exactly what data the school requests for each. Together, these four prompts cover many of the elements seen in a traditional personal statement essay, including info about one’s career to date, interest in the school, and professional goals. However, the topics are clearly separated among individual submissions rather than covered in a cohesive single essay, and INSEAD also asks applicants to comment on their expected progression within their current firm were they to remain there rather than entering business school.
The first prompt requires that you outline roughly six different aspects of your current or most recent position. Be sure that you address each of the elements the school lists, and do not skip any just because you would rather write more about some than others. You might also want to consider providing a very brief description of your company or industry, if the nature of either might not be readily clear to an admissions reader. For the second question, your response should be fairly straightforward. If your firm has a clearly defined management hierarchy in which one position leads directly to a higher one—and you would be interested in adhering to that system—you simply need to explain this and perhaps offer a short description of the new responsibilities your next position would entail. If your company does not have such an arrangement or you would want to move in a different direction, simply explain what your preferred next role would be and the duties involved.
The third prompt is rather self-explanatory with respect to detailing the various stages of your career to date, but do not be remiss in responding to the “rationale” and “choices” aspects of the query. The school wants to know that your progression has not been passive, with you simply accepting the next good thing to come along, but rather that you have made thoughtful decisions with clear motivations and intentions behind them. For the fourth question, you will need to present your professional goals within the context of an INSEAD MBA education. Do your research on the school to identify specific resources it offers that relate directly to the skills and experiences you need to be successful in your career, thereby illustrating how INSEAD would help you achieve your aims. Above all, be sure to show determination and direction—that you are focused firmly on your intended end points and will not be easily deterred.
For all your job description responses, avoid using any acronyms or abbreviations that would not be easily recognizable to most people. Using shortcuts (in the form of abbreviations/acronyms) and skipping basic contextual information could make your answers less understandable and therefore less compelling and useful to an admissions reader, so do yourself a favor by depicting your situation as clearly as possible.
As we have noted, these questions cover many elements of a traditional personal statement, so we encourage you to download a free copy of our mbaMission Personal Statement Guide . In this complimentary publication, we provide a detailed discussion of how to approach such queries and craft effective responses, along with multiple illustrative examples.
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.
With this essay, INSEAD hopes to see signs of your interest in ongoing self-improvement, knowledge or experience collection, and/or giving back. Whether you are choosing to leave your job a few months before the beginning of the MBA program or are asked to do so by your employer, simply explain what you expect do and gain in the interim. The admissions committee wants to know that you are the kind of person who takes advantage of opportunities and to understand what kinds of opportunities appeal to you. For example, perhaps you plan to complete a few quantitative courses to be better equipped to hit the ground running in your related MBA classes, or perhaps you want to spend some time with family members or volunteering in your community because you know that your availability to do so will be limited when you are in school, and you want to maintain those important connections. Maybe you want to focus on improving your foreign language ability before coming to INSEAD, given the importance of this skill in the school’s program. Or you might arrange informational interviews, job-shadowing opportunities, and/or unpaid internships, which could help in various ways with recruiting and job selection. Whatever your goals and plans, clearly convey how you anticipate that your experience(s) will add to or change your character, enhance your skill set, and/or increase your understanding of yourself or others—all of which are valuable in business school.
Motivation 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 (maximum 500 words).
Although INSEAD’s request for “main factors which have influenced your development” comes in the latter half of this essay prompt, we feel you should actually provide this context for your formative experiences before discussing the strengths and weaknesses you derived from them, because showing a clear cause-and-effect relationship between the two is important. The school asks that you offer examples “when necessary,” but your essay will be strongest if you present anecdotes to illustrate and support all your statements. Still, your essay should not end up being a hodgepodge of unconnected anecdotes that reveal strengths. Instead, focus on two or three strengths and one or two weaknesses in the mere 500 words allotted.
As always, be honest about your strengths (do not try to tell the committee what you think it wants to hear; truthfully describe who you legitimately are) and especially about your weaknesses—this is vital. Transparent or disingenuous statements will not fool or convince anyone and will only reveal you as someone incapable of critical self-evaluation.
Motivation 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 (maximum 400 words).
For this essay, you will need to offer two anecdotes that reveal different sides of you as an applicant, describing a high moment from your life and a low moment. Because the school also asks you to address how these incidents subsequently influenced your interactions with others and what lessons they taught you, you must identify stories that not only involve a significant incident but also affected you personally in a meaningful and long-lasting way. These elements of your essay are just as important as the accomplishment and the failure you choose to share; your unique thoughts can differentiate you from other applicants, and showing that you recognize how these incidents changed you and your relations with others demonstrates your self-awareness and capacity for growth. Steer clear of trite and clichéd statements about your takeaways, and really reflect on these situations to uncover your deeper reactions and impressions. For example, everyone gains some level of resiliency from a failure, so you must offer something less common and more compelling and personal.
Be aware that the best failure essays are often those that show reasoned optimism and tremendous momentum toward a goal—a goal that is ultimately derailed. In most cases, you will need to show that you were emotionally invested in your project/experience, which will enable the reader to connect with your story and vicariously experience your disappointment. If you were not invested at all, presenting the experience as a failure or learning experience will be less credible.
Motivation 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, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (maximum 300 words)
Although stereotypes about the top MBA programs abound—this school wants consultants, that school is for marketing professionals, this other one is for techies and entrepreneurs—the truth is that they all want a diverse incoming class, full of people with various strengths and experiences that they can share with one another for the good of all. Discussing how you choose to spend your free time—explaining why your chosen activities are important to you and what you derive from them—provides the admissions committee with a window into your personality outside the workplace and classroom and an idea of what you could contribute to the student body and INSEAD as a whole.
Optional Motivation Essay: Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (maximum 300 words)
We tend to believe that the best use of the optional essay is to explain confusing or problematic issues in your candidacy, and this prompt offers an opportunity to do just that. So, if you need to, this is your chance to address any questions an admissions officer might have about your profile—a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT or GRE score, a gap in your work experience, etc. We suggest downloading your free copy of the mbaMission Optional Essays Guide , in which we offer detailed advice on deciding whether to take advantage of the optional essay and how best to do so (with multiple sample essays), if needed.
INSEAD does not stipulate that you can only discuss a problem area in this essay, however, so you have some leeway to share anything you think might be pivotal or particularly compelling. We caution you against trying to fill this space simply because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you. Remember, by submitting an additional essay, you are asking the admissions committee to do extra work on your behalf, so you need to make sure that time is warranted. If you are using the essay to emphasize something that if omitted would render your application incomplete, take this opportunity to write a very brief narrative that reveals this key new aspect of your candidacy.
After submitting your INSEAD application, you will need to complete a video interview consisting of four questions. You will be given 45 seconds in which to consider your answer to each one and then 60 seconds in which to deliver it. You have until 48 hours after the deadline for the round in which you apply to complete this element of the process, but we strongly recommend doing so sooner rather than later while your mind is still in application mode and to ensure you do not somehow forget this task or have to rush through it at the end of the allotted time period.
Because all INSEAD admissions interviews are conducted by the school’s alumni, this is a way for members of the admissions committee to virtually “meet” candidates and supplement the information provided in the written portions of the application. This video component gives the committee direct and dynamic insight into applicants’ character and personality, as well as another angle on their language abilities. About the videos, INSEAD says on its site, “The MBA Admissions Committee is interested in obtaining an authentic view of you as a person, to see how you think on your feet and how you convey your ideas.” So when the time comes for you to record your responses, do your best to relax, answer genuinely, and let your true self shine through!
Learn more about INSEAD’s academic program, elective courses, location, facilities, and other key features by downloading your free copy of the mbaMission INSEAD Insider’s Guide .
The Next Step: Mastering Your INSEAD Interview
Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. We therefore offer our free Interview Guides to spur you along! Download your free copy of the INSEAD Interview Guide today.
2023-2024 Business School Essays INSEAD International Business Schools MBA Essay Tips
Tags: business school essay INSEAD international programs MBA application essays optional essay video essay
- Sep 26, 2023 Choosing the Right B-School (Online)
- Sep 28, 2023 Decoding the HBS Interview (Online)
- Sep 6, 2023 HBS (Round 1)
- Sep 6, 2023 Wharton (Round 1)
- Sep 7, 2023 Duke Fuqua (Early Decision)
- Sep 7, 2023 Virginia Darden (Early Action)
- Sep 11, 2023 HEC Paris (Round 2)
- Sep 12, 2023 Stanford GSB (Round 1)
- Sep 12, 2023 Yale SOM (Round 1)
- Sep 12, 2023 INSEAD (Round 1)
- Sep 13, 2023 Columbia (J-Term)
- Sep 13, 2023 Columbia (Round 1)
- Sep 13, 2023 Northwestern (Round 1)
- Sep 14, 2023 Berkeley Haas (Round 1)
- Sep 14, 2023 Michigan Ross (Round 1)
- Sep 18, 2023 NYU Stern (Round 1)
- Sep 20, 2023 Cornell Johnson (Round 1)
- Sep 21, 2023 Chicago Booth (Round 1)
- Sep 25, 2023 Dartmouth Tuck (Round 1)
- Sep 27, 2023 MIT Sloan (Round 1)
- Sep 28, 2023 Duke Fuqua (Round 1)
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2023–2024 MBA Essay Tips
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- Ross School of Business
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- Stern School of Business
- The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
- The Wharton School
- Tuck School of Business
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- Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management Essay Analysis, 2023–2024
Click here for the 2022–2023 MBA Essay Tips
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