INSEAD Essay Questions & Tips
If you are applying to INSEAD and have begun work on the INSEAD essay questions, you’ve likely discovered that there are A LOT of them and each one allows for a fairly robust word count. Be sure to plan for the time commitment involved in applying to this program! There are also video interview questions to complete once you hit submit, so keep that in mind.
Another thing to keep in mind when crafting your INSEAD essay responses is that this program looks for answers that are more direct and tactical than other schools to which you may be applying. The questions are fairly straightforward, so answer them as such. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put a ton of thought into your answers, it just means that you should be sure to answer the questions that were asked of you.
INSEAD Essay Questions
*note that these are somewhat hidden within the application portal and often take clients by surprise!
- 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, maximum)
- 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)
- 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)
- Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words, maximum)
- (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.
- 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, maximum)
- 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, maximum)
- 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, maximum)
- (Optional) Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (300 words, maximum)
INSEAD Essay Tips
- When describing your current role, it can be easy to dive into your own day-to-day without providing the necessary context about your company, team, etc. So, start there, providing insight into where your team fits within the organization and filtering down to your role within the team. Avoid industry jargon, and instead provide that context in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Then, highlight one or two of your best accomplishments. It can be tempting to copy and paste the verbiage from your resume, but we discourage this. The word count here allows you to describe these experiences more robustly than a resume allows for (plus the copy/paste method feels a bit lazy, right?).
- This question is essentially asking why you are pursuing an MBA. Yes, you need to directly answer the question about what would be next if you didn’t attend business school, but also use it as an opportunity to share why an MBA will serve you in the long-term. A watch out here specifically for consultants (which we also tell our banker/PE clients) is that you should be careful not to frame business school as the ‘default’ next step in your career. Really reflect on the skills you will gain in business school that you would not have otherwise developed and communicate those in your answer.
- The most critical element of a successful answer to this question lies in the ‘rationale behind your choices’. If you joined BCG directly after undergrad, why was consulting your career path of choice? Particularly if your major was in a seemingly unrelated discipline, help the reader connect the dots between your focus in college and your industry of choice. It might be the case that you chose your career based on a certain set of expectations and, instead, it has shaped you in a vastly different way than you thought it would – that’s ok too and would make for an interesting answer here. The key is to demonstrate that you are self-aware, reflective, and rational when it comes to your choices in life.
- The toughest part of this essay is the word limit. There is a lot to cover in 100 words. Similar to Job Essay #3, you want to share the motivations underlying your post-MBA plans, not just the plans themselves. Further, you want to be fairly detailed and specific, down to the job title, functional area, industry, and perhaps even a few example companies you envision working in after business school (or after a post-MBA role at BCG). Additionally, it’s important to frame your goals in a way that jives with what INSEAD’s program offers – it is likely this will include how the international location and diverse student body will be of benefit to you. Again, there’s a lot to cover, so choose each word wisely (and keep iterating until you can pack all of the material into 100 words)!
- As noted, this is an optional essay so don’t hesitate to skip it if it does not apply to you. If it does apply to you, it would be great to highlight ways in which you plan to actively prepare for business school (online courses, short internships, etc.) in the gap you will have before moving to campus.
- This INSEAD essay is the ‘biggie’. It’s also the essay that is the most open to creativity and structural variation. However, despite the longer length, don’t view this essay as an opportunity to present a laundry list of your personality traits. Carefully select 3-4 qualities, perhaps 2-3 strengths and 1 weakness, that best represent your ‘brand’ and also demonstrate you align with INSEAD’s admission criteria – Ability to Contribute (essentially interpersonal, teamwork, and communication skills), International Motivation, and Leadership Potential. For each strength you note, showcase an example that ‘proves’ you possess it. Ideally, you vary up the examples between work, extracurriculars, and personal stories to show a well-rounded picture of yourself. And, as it relates to your weakness(es), it’s ok and even recommended to be honest – don’t present a ‘fake weakness’. That said, this is essentially a sales pitch so share a weakness that you are actively working to address (and can point to how) or that business school will help remedy.
- Similar to Motivation Essay #1, this question looks for you to demonstrate that you are self-aware and possess a growth mindset. The stories you tell can be work-related or personal, just be sure to provide some variation compared to the stories you’ve told elsewhere in the application (i.e., balance college, work, extracurricular, personal, etc.) It’s often helpful to jot down the 5-6 best stories you want to tell across all of the essays and then play with their placement (‘move around the puzzle pieces’ as we like to say) until you find an arrangement that both answers the questions AND showcases all of your best material. It’s important to note that this question asks you to focus not just on telling your stories, but on sharing what you learned from them. More specifically, it asks you to describe the interpersonal learnings that resulted from each situation. This emphasis may influence the stories you choose to tell in the first place (i.e., those that have an element of teamwork or interaction with others), but, if you think about it, most stories have some interpersonal dynamic to draw upon. The best ‘learnings’ to share here tend to be those that either 1) you have drawn upon to guide your decisions in subsequent situations (mention that you have done this) OR 2) you can envision leveraging to inform your future behavior (at business school, in your post-MBA career, etc.). For example, perhaps the accomplishment you talk about is when you tutored or mentored a younger individual and helped them be successful in passing a course, getting into college, etc. Think about the interpersonal skills or other tactics you used to help motivate them – what did this teach you about leadership and how will it inform your management style going forward? Those are the types of insights that are most powerful in this context (but of course there are a number of ways to successfully answer the question).
- This is another fairly straightforward question, but it still pays to be strategic. Instead of a laundry list of all your hobbies, it’s best to highlight your most significant activities – those you participate(d) in regularly and for a reasonably substantial amount of time per week/month. In order of priority, it’s best to highlight more recent involvements ahead of ones dating back to college (or before). Further, the admissions committee likes to see an external focus (i.e., community-related activities) and those that involve an element of teamwork. That said, the key thing to show is that you are interested and interesting, so be authentic instead of telling them what you think they want to hear.
- Like the optional essay for other schools, this one can be used to address a lower-than-average GPA/GMAT/GRE, a gap between jobs, why your current manager is not providing a recommendation, more/less work experience than average, etc. There is no need to complete it if you don’t have a specific item to address.
Like we said upfront, the INSEAD essay questions are numerous! And, to add another layer to things, there are ‘video interview’ questions you will be asked to answer after submitting your written application. More specifically, you will receive a link to record your answers to four randomly assigned questions and must do so within 48 hours of submitting your application. For each question, you will have 45 seconds to prepare (collect your thoughts, jot down notes, etc.) and 60 seconds to answer. As best you can, try to view this as an opportunity rather than a stressor. They allow you plenty of opportunity to tell them who you are and why you are a fit for their program – seize it!
If you’d like assistance with your INSEAD essay reponses or your broader MBA application strategy, click here to schedule an initial consultation!