What does it take to apply to the #1 MBA programme in the world (ranked by the Financial Times 2016 & 2017)?

Former Managing Director of the MBA Programme at INSEAD Minh Huy Lai sheds light on our MBA admissions criteria, GMAT requirement, recommendation letters, interviews and more.  

Insider Tips Minh Article

What type of candidate is INSEAD looking for?

Minh: The ideal candidate is someone who has already attained significant professional, academic and personal achievements. In addition, this person is culturally aware and has international motivation. This is the reason for our language policy which requires knowledge of two languages - English and another language - to apply. Students come here to change and to be challenged. People who do well at INSEAD tend to be agile and have a strong ability to face complex and uncertain environments.

Companies want candidates who can be sent to any corner of the world and be confident that they will fit in, interact sensitively and meet the set objectives. 

How does a GMAT score weigh against other admissions criteria?

The GMAT is an additional element which will help us understand the academic capacity of our applicants. But we do look beyond the GMAT. For example, a US Marine applicant who has shown remarkable leadership skills – two terms in Afghanistan, kept his men safe and managed a platoon efficiently: while he does not have a typical background, the applicant would be a good fit for INSEAD. We look at the full profile of the person. So we take into account all admissions criteria and the GMAT score is just one indicator that we consider at INSEAD.

How should applicants approach the essays?

We want the applicants to write their own essay and convey authenticity. With thousands of essays reviewed every year, our admissions team knows which applicant hired a consultant. Getting help is one thing, but we don't recommend the applicant hiring MBA Admission Consulting firms to write the essays for them. Essays are one of the tools that we use to measure the applicant's personality. Written essays reveal the applicant's thoughts, aspirations, and concerns. The Video Interview helps us to ascertain the applicant's body language, presence and ability to articulate an argument. We are looking for a well-rounded candidate for INSEAD. 

Do Alumni have the final say or do you have an Admissions Committee?

We do have an Admissions Committee which comprises both faculty members and alumni. Alumni act as interviewers and they will assess and understand who the applicant is beyond what was written in the application form. They will not have access to the GMAT or essays which have already been evaluated by the admissions team. 

So the recommendation letter plays a big role in the admission process. What do you want to see?

We want an honest opinion about the applicant from recent supervisors or colleagues: leadership potential, personality, fit with INSEAD as an international candidate and their ethics. Recommenders should evaluate their strengths and summarise the potential as an INSEAD MBA.

Should recommenders go for specifics or general advice?

The recommendation letter should cover general traits but give examples to demonstrate open-mindedness, emotional intelligence to recognise mistakes, listening skills, communication style and teamwork.

There are two "home campuses" – Singapore and Fontainebleau. How are applicants allocated?

The Admissions Committee does not have access to applicants' choice of home campus during the evaluation stage. It is a personal decision for applicants to make and we strongly encourage applicants to think carefully when choosing their home campus. The decision mostly depends on the candidate’s post-MBA career path. Those who want to be in North America or Europe, tend to favour France during the last two Periods (4 and 5) for recruitment purposes. Around 77% of our students decide to take part in campus exchanges. 

Could you share more about campus exchange?

INSEAD encourages every student to spend time on the other campus during their MBA programme. Students must spend the first two Periods (i.e. 4 months) at their home campus. Then, they will have the option to bid for a campus exchange to go to another INSEAD campus or with our partner institutions (Wharton, Kellogg or CEIBS). 

What about the scholarship opportunities?

We offer over 90 types of scholarships and you can find a list of them on our website. This year, we are giving €5.4 million in scholarship funds. Typically, INSEAD MBA students obtain scholarships with an average grant of €15,000 each. There are three types of scholarships available: First, our need-based scholarships which are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. Then we have non-need-based scholarships awarded based on merit, nationality, gender, professional background, leadership abilities or any combination of these criteria. These include applications from women, LGBT, nationals from developing countries, entrepreneurs and professionals from non-business backgrounds such as doctors, lawyers, artists and researchers. Finally, we have spot scholarships which are awarded immediately without the need for applications based on exceptional admissions profiles. 

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