Writing essays can be one of the most challenging aspects of the MBA application. Yet, they are a crucial element in the admissions process, giving you a unique opportunity to introduce yourself and your achievements and providing valuable information to the admissions team on your motivations and overall fit for the programme. As such, to guide you through this important process, we thought you may appreciate a few pointers from our admissions team on how to write strong essays. They recommend the following tips:
“The best essays we have read always strike a balance.”
We encourage you to stay away from clichés and to create original content. In other words, we want to get to know the real “you”, so be honest and reflect deeply on what unique experience you can bring to the programme. It may help you to think about what you would say to a friend or a sibling over coffee in response to each of the questions.
INSEAD selects a variety of profiles to complete the class; from people who have taken the more traditional business routes in their careers to others with medical, humanities or military backgrounds. This means that there is no standard template and no perfect mould to which you need to fit. So try to avoid writing what you think the admissions committee would like to hear and follow your own instincts; for instance, you can mix in elements from your personal life that can shed light on your passions, pursuits or accomplishments. The best essays we have read always strike a balance between personal and professional details. You can try to think about stories and anecdotes from your childhood, high school or undergraduate studies. Of course, you should make sure that the stories from personal and professional situations convey something about you and relate to the questions. And one more thing, please bear in mind that original doesn’t mean intimate or inappropriate.
Grammar, sentence construction, words and terms used, clarity of expression
These things reveal a lot about you, even if they seem like small details. We understand that you are juggling your application amidst many other responsibilities and this can be challenging at times. However, it is important to stay focused, to plan appropriately and to take sufficient time to write, review and edit your essays in order to ensure that the image you are projecting is not skewed by inaccuracies, unclear sentences or technical jargon and acronyms. Respecting the word limit and answering the question are also very important points.
For those of you who are not keen writers, keeping a diary where you capture all the fleeting thoughts you have during the day can prove to be very helpful. Writing in bullet points rather than full sentences at first may also help you to get started. Eventually, you will have enough material to start writing a first draft of each essay. It can take up to 8–10 weeks to prepare for the essay component of the application and it is common to have to re-write them several times until you are happy with the result.
“It can take up to 8–10 weeks to prepare for the essay component of the application.”
Detail clearly your work experience
We need to be able to understand your professional responsibilities and experience as this is one of the most important assets you will be bringing into the classroom. To state, for example: “I manage IT projects”, is not enough; instead, you need to describe the nature of your work using concrete and specific examples. It is also important to provide a description of your organisation, the structure, market and product, especially if you work for a family business or a small- to medium-sized enterprise. When you talk about your experience, it’s normal to underline your strengths but make sure to focus on your areas of improvement as well. Finally, if you have been unemployed for a period of time or there’s a gap in your job history, it is advisable to give an honest explanation instead of avoiding it.