INSEAD MBA Essay Analysis
(2022-23 Application Cycle)
INSEAD’s reputation precedes it. At #2 in the Financial Times’ 2023 global business school rankings, it is widely considered the best business school outside the US.
Compared to other business schools, INSEAD’s application is quite dense. It’s composed of numerous small essays with shorter word limits as well as longer motivation essays, so it is important that applicants clearly define their talking points for each answer. When you write the INSEAD essays, remember not to stray from the specific question asked and address every point raised within the prompt.
For the full step-by-step INSEAD application guide with real example essays from successful applicants, check out the INSEAD course on MBAconsultant.com.
INSEAD MBA Job Essay 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)
This essay is an exercise in clear communication: no room for fluff. Answer each part of the prompt carefully - what responsibilities your current role entails, how many employees you manage, the budgets you work with, the clients and products you directly interact with, and your greatest achievements in this role.
This is a chance for you to paint a picture of your day-to-day operations in the role, with a brief mention of an interesting current project, if applicable. Don’t waste any space talking about how you got into this role; save that for Job Essay 3.
INSEAD MBA Job Essay 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)
Here, even if you don’t intend to return to your company post INSEAD, you will reflect on the momentum of your career. First, outline the incremental changes in your role, focusing on the new responsibilities that you would have if remaining in your current company. Try to include the exact title of the role you are aiming to take up.
In other words, the AdCom wants to understand how your day-to-day responsibilities would change, what leadership opportunities you would take up, and when you might be expected to achieve this promotion.
INSEAD MBA 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)
Following the trajectory on your resume, use this essay to explain each transition from your first role onwards, all the way to the present. Ideally, you would link each transition to your greater professional purpose.
INSEAD wants to make sure there are no “drifters” in their cohort - people who jump from role to role without a clear goal in mind. So be sure to explain that: how each career move has brought you closer to your goals, and why each transition was necessary at the time.
Do your best to frame each transition as a deliberate choice you made (even if you were forced out), and focus on accomplishments that portray increased leadership and impact.
INSEAD MBA Job Essay 4
Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words)
This extremely short essay only has room for two paragraphs: one for your goals immediately after finishing at INSEAD and one for what you see yourself doing 5-10 years down the line. As mentioned previously, keep your professional purpose in mind while writing about your goals. This is the larger mission you will accomplish through your future roles and projects.
It is important to be as precise as possible: explain your target role, industry, and geography, and how the skills you learn from your INSEAD MBA will apply there. Include company names and the exact title of your target positions.
This is a classic (but short) career goals essay. For more guidance on how to write a career goals essay, check out our blog post on How to Nail Your Important Career Goals.
INSEAD MBA Job 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. (200 words)
This essay must be short and specific, and you should only write it in the stated cases: if there is a significant (2 month) gap between your current position and your MBA, or if you currently are not employed.
Make sure that anything you list here is related to work or extracurriculars. Holidays and breaks might be nice, but the AdCom isn’t interested in hearing about them.
INSEAD MBA 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. (500 words)
INSEAD’s motivation essays are less straightforward than the job essays. In Essay 1, you will outline your key traits and illustrate with several examples throughout your life where you have demonstrated them. This essay is how you will introduce yourself to the AdCom.
Given the 500 word limit, you have space to be creative, so use stories. A broad example would look like this:
“At university, I was a force of nature when it came to debates. I won every competition I entered, and was soon elected Team Leader for our debate club. We performed excellently at inter-college competitions, and our club’s membership grew exponentially that year [Strength]. But I noticed that my debate team’s turnover rate was higher than the other teams we competed with. Members dropped out inexplicably. Baffled, I asked a close friend on the team if they could make sense of it.
“It’s you. You tend to hog the spotlight”, she said.
It was then that I realized that in my endeavor to win competitions and build a strong team, I had - albeit unknowingly - been upstaging everyone on the team [Weakness]. Members felt like they didn’t get a chance to speak and that their ideas went unnoticed. That was a turning point for me; I actively made an effort to communicate with my team, take their ideas on board, and make everyone feel like they were equally responsible for our success. Morale improved, and no one quit the team for the rest of my time as Team Lead [Personal development].
5 years later at McKinsey, I found myself in a similar situation. Except this time, it was a shy team member who was being ignored by our manager….”
Through your story, state your strengths clearly. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it is equally important to discuss your weaknesses. This demonstrates self-awareness and shows your commitment to growth and development.
For example, if your strength is “excellent communicator,” the weakness might be “sometimes I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut.” If your strength is “problem solving,” the weakness might be “seeing problems where they don’t exist.”
INSEAD MBA 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)
This is a story of a failure and an accomplishment. These will often not be the same situation (but it’s OK if they are). Sometimes, the lesson that you took from the failure is what helped you achieve the success.
“My persistence led to great success in my first role, but the same quality got me into a lot of trouble once I moved to a different company.”
“Failing to listen to my team led to a substantial failure, yet I learned my lesson: listening to a team member’s suggestion directly helped me land my greatest achievement.”
We'd recommend using a recent achievement to portray your strengths. This may be from work or your extracurriculars The prompt also makes it clear that you should write about the interpersonal lessons you learned through your achievement and failure.
We suggest the following structure:
Failure: Detail a challenge you faced that led to a failure
Lesson: The interpersonal lesson you learned
Achievement: How this lesson helped you get your biggest achievement
Lesson: The interpersonal lesson you learned
Result: Write about your impact in quantifiable terms and explain how you will apply this lesson in the future
Note that team and leadership roles are especially valuable here. This essay is meant to understand how you respond to your environment in your highs and your lows, so don’t downplay your failures.
INSEAD 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, politics, etc.). How are you enriched by these activities? (300 words)
This essay is more than just a list of every last thing you do outside of your professional life.
We suggest picking 3 activities that you participate in (or have participated in) and tell stories about these. Focus on longer-term roles: six months or more, ideally.
This is a great chance to look like a team player, so consider activities that allow you to work with
and impact others. Present in a simple format:
- Activity/Impact 1
- Activity/Impact 2
- Activity/Impact 3.
“My time playing soccer in the local five-a-side league helped me feel like part of the local community. After my first year, I began organizing team events including charity runs and quiz nights. When the previous organizer moved away, I took over his role organizing matches with other clubs within the city. During the past six months, we have organized an outreach program, helping local middle schoolers from under-resourced homes develop their skills one Saturday each month. 3 of the middle schoolers I coach have gone on to make the school team, and all of them discuss how playing soccer has helped them develop strong friendships and improve their mental health. Sharing this experience with my clubmates and younger players makes me feel deeply connected to the local community, and has introduced me to people from diverse backgrounds.”
INSEAD MBA 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)
Given that INSEAD’s essays are so comprehensive, it’s likely that everything important has been covered. Use the optional essay only if you have extenuating circumstances that haven’t been referenced previously.
This would include any gaps in your employment, a low GPA, a choice of recommender who is not your current manager, a criminal record or expulsion from school, a low GMAT score, or any mitigating personal circumstances that can affect your application. Be direct and brief when you explain them; don’t use up the 300 words simply because you can.
This blog post discusses how to explain any mitigating factors in your optional essay.
Applying to INSEAD? Book a free 20 mins chat to discuss your application.