Along with INSEAD’s MBA deadlines, the essay topics for its Fall 2022 and Winter 2023 intakes are also now online. Developing a deep understanding of the MBA should be your first step, whatever way you decide to approach the essays. Learn about INSEAD’s program, its structure, its courses and its professors. Consider what outcomes the MBA can offer you, and reach out to alumni for first-hand insights in to their experiences. Overall, you can prepare yourself for the essays by first identifying how INSEAD fits your profile and professional ambitions, and how you will contribute to the school in turn.
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 the budget, clients/products and results achieved. (200 words maximum)
This first essay question can be approached in a direct, concrete way. If you work within a well-recognised and attractive business industry, like consulting or finance, you can assume that the admissions team is familiar with your job position and don’t need to over explain. But, if you work in a less common professional area, you may want to fill in your response up to the word limit to help the admissions team understand your role and its responsibilities.
Job Essay 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (200 words maximum)
Here, INSEAD’s admissions committee is simply asking what your role you would evolve to within your current company if you were to remain working there. Would a promotion come up? How would the size or number of projects you handle evolve? Would your team evolve, or its impact? You can answer these and many other questions on what your next step could look like, but remember to keep your writing concise given the word limit.
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. (300 words maximum)
This question is, again, asking for a direct, thorough answer. If you’ve changed positions often or have received many promotions, then your response may need to use the 300 words available. Keep in mind though that INSEAD is known to seek out determined and strategic-thinking candidates – people who, from early on, defined their professional goals and planned to attain them, adjusting to their circumstances as needed in order to do so. So whether you changed positions ofter or rarely, rather than simply reiterating your CV, try to describe concisely how those moves reflect your thought process for approaching your long-term goals.
Job Essay 4: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words maximum)
INSEAD wants candidates who have realistic plans to achieve their dreams, particularly short-term ones. If the admissions team doubts the feasibility of a candidate’s short-term objectives, they may discuss it with their career development – so be sure to describe aspirations that are concrete and feasible. The key is to be realistic while not aiming low, however, as INSEAD is a competitive program searching for people who will move on to attractive opportunities post-MBA. Ideally, your short-term aspirations would be both exciting and attainable.
Candidates can be more daring when discussing long-term goals. While you should still present a feasible goal, it matters more that you understand how it would be impactful and how your your short-term goals will help facilitate it. Naturally, your future goals should have a wider impact than what you can achieve immediately after your MBA. Whatever you present, try to show a line of continuity and growth across your future career stages.
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.
For this optional job essay, INSEAD is looking for candidates to share a clear rationale behind their choices, whether they’ve chosen to take a break from their professional work or not. Either situation can be a positive step in one’s trajectory, and INSEAD would like to see how candidates think about and explain those decisions. So if you fall under this question’s conditions, make sure to explain why you chose to take time out of your professional field before beginning your MBA studies.
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. (approximately 500 words)
INSEAD wants well-rounded, introspective candidates who are aware of their key differentiators, what defaults they might have, and how those intersect to shape their character as a leader. A good answer here weighs these elements in light of the rest of one’s application, ensuring to hit the important notes while also clearly illustrating one’s qualities through well-crafted storytelling. INSEAD has previously asked candidates to “make [the admissions team] laugh or cry” – so don’t be afraid to open up to their admissions team about your experiences.
Of course, you should nevertheless think carefully about how you choose to present your weaknesses. It’s best to avoid sounding generic, or presenting false weaknesses that are in fact strengths (such as ‘detail-oriented’ or ‘perfectionist’). Still, the most important thing here is to make sure that, however you weight your weak points, you avoid choosing examples that make you appear poorly as a candidate or that raise questions on why you haven’t taken steps to correct said weakness.
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. (approx. 400 words)
It’s important to note that this essay is about more than just your leadership and development, but is also about how situations reflecting them have impacted others around you. As you approach this essay, try framing your achievements and failures in the context of their effects on others, using these examples to help illustrate your values and growth over time.
INSEAD also wants to know what you learned through your experiences of achievement and failure. This requires some introspection, which can be guided by first examining these situations’ outcomes in order to reflect on what long-lasting and potentially beneficial mark they left on others and yourself. By showing that you can learn from your successes, the admissions team will trust you can repeat and improve upon them; and by simultaneously showing that you have also learnt from mistakes, they will trust that you have addressed and are less likely to repeat similar mistakes during and after your MBA.
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)
The word ‘all’ in this question may at first be confusing or overwhelming. As a first step, it’s important to recognise that you simply cannot discuss all of the activities you’ve been a part of in a word limit that is of only 300 words. This may also not be the best approach.
The admissions team really wants to learn about activities that have profoundly shaped your life, and that have ideally allowed you to develop qualities that INSEAD students share, such as leadership and collaboration. Connect your activities to those offered at INSEAD if possible, allowing your past to help explain what motivates you to join extracurriculars in the future. By mentioning specific INSEAD clubs or events that genuinely reflect your previous interests, you can use this question to both highlight your passions and show your readiness to truly become part of INSEAD’s community.
Optional Motivation Essay: Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (approx. 300 words)
Since INSEAD has already provided many questions through which you can address various aspects of your life, there shouldn’t be any pressure for you to include an additional response through the optional essay. It’s best to first ask yourself if an extra essay would actually bring your application a new competitive advantage, or if it would simply be reiterating and therefore diluting your other responses. If you do want to use INSEAD’s optional essay, it can be a helpful space to either highlight another positive aspect of your profile, or to explain away an issue that you feel that your profile presents.
For the latter situation, if there is any issue with your applicant profile—poor grades, for example—then it is highly recommended that you use this essay to address it. Otherwise, INSEAD may assume the worst case scenario, which could lower your chances of being invited to proceed with their interview process. Be sure to address any issue(s) in a clear, concise way and include examples of how you have permanently resolved the problem since—such as succeeding in additional university courses taken during a summer to compensate.
Since 2016, INSEAD’s video interview has been a way for its admissions team to receive a visual and more casual presentation of candidates. It consists of 4 short questions, making it a compact format through which admissions can quickly gage your communication skills and your reactions under pressure. Note that you cannot rerecord any answers, except if technical difficulties arise, so be sure to practice, practice, practice before starting this stage of the application.
The following are INSEAD’s notes on the video interview process:
Reach out to our INSEAD MBA experts for help to review and improve your application strategy. And, for technical requirements of INSEAD’s application process, consult their official site.