Preparation Tips Before Embarking on the INSEAD MBA Journey

Daniel Khoo

Just one more week to launch week! Looking back, it’s been a surreal journey. The first time I browsed through INSEAD’s website was in early 2019. After countless calls with alumni, essay preparations, and mock interviews, I finally got my notice of admission for the MBA Class of 22J. Now it is finally time to embark on this amazing journey, one that I certainly can’t be more excited for. Before that, I thought it would be useful to share some preparation tips that I have collected from seniors and alumni alike.

Let me first start with a short introduction about myself. I am Daniel and I just turned 28 last week. I was born in Singapore and spent most of my time here, with a short stint in Canada during university. Ever since I was young, I was always interested in businesses, wondering about how the canteen stalls in school made money, or how that free game I was playing made sense to the developers. I pursued an Accountancy degree and subsequently worked in the investment management industry. I had a great deal of exposure to different companies, business models, strategies, and industries. Now, it is finally time to take things to the next level with the number 1 MBA programme in the world!

Going back to school after four years in the corporate world is not easy. My academic knowledge had gone rusty; at the same time, there were tons of materials available on the INSEAD portals that I didn’t know where to start.

Luckily, INSEAD’s MBA includes a Period 0 ‘curriculum’ to make sure all the basics are covered.

Here are some of the key areas I focused on in my preparations:

1.    Language – INSEAD has always been clear about its language policy. One would need three languages to graduate. Coming from a bilingual (English and Mandarin) background, I had to take up language classes for the third. While INSEAD does provide on-campus language classes during academic periods, it would take up valuable time that could be put to better use. I signed up for French lessons at a local tutor to get my basics straight. Duolingo is also a fun and easy way to keep on track and learn new words. Language is also something difficult to master just by yourself. Lucky for me, my partner took the classes as well and it’s been much easier (and more fun) to practice.

2.    Career – During my undergraduate days, a career was something to be thought of only at the last stage of the journey. Not at INSEAD.

Here, the Career Development Center (CDC) reached out very early on to set expectations. Essentially, when all the academic courses are in full swing, the CDC will also be working concurrently to improve our CVs, engage industries and employers, and ensure each student finds his/her fit.

I managed to schedule a session with my assigned Career Coach. It was immensely useful as there was a multitude of surveys and questionaries that made for good introspection - a key ingredient to a fruitful discussion with my coach. I have since been spending more time learning about the different industries, analysing the types of people/skills/personalities that each typically requires.

3.    Network – In a COVID environment, it is easy to feel stuck behind the computer. Thankfully, INSEAD has multiple avenues for INSEADers to connect. One of the most useful platforms I have used is Coffee Roulette. It was a simple sign-up on the website, indicating basic preferences such as how often you would like to connect. The system would pair up people and invite them to chat at their convenience.

I have since spoken to people from all over the world; Japan, Lebanon, Canada, Spain to name a few. Having these connections before school even starts makes me feel comfortable that the community at INSEAD would indeed be a diverse and interesting one.

4.    Academics – Lastly, academics will always remain a key area of an MBA programme. Personally, I don’t think it will be useful to flip through old notes from my undergraduate days. Instead, I joined an Online Programme by INSEAD that mimics the teaching format that will be used in classes, the case study style. It was a different experience from what I had been accustomed to. Getting new information every lesson on the same case made for more thoughts that could be readily shared on the online forums for further discussion with my classmates.

These were the areas and steps that I took to prepare for my journey. Hopefully, this was useful to you. All that is left to do now is to kickstart a year of adventure!