How I Cracked INSEAD MBA Admissions Despite My Academic Insecurities

Lizette Lee

27 days - the number of days after I decided to apply to INSEAD before I submitted my application. Considering an MBA on a long-winded impulse, I told myself I would only look into schools once I knew where I stood in my GMAT results. I would not even allow myself to imagine as I grew up never academically good enough.

Everyone says that the math level required for the GMAT is similar to what most people go through in high school. Unfortunately for me, I failed many exams in high school maths. I have a learning disability, was expelled from my first university, and didn't have a quantitative career.

My career was built beginning from blue-collar jobs with my strengths in operations and relationship-building. I have always been an executionist and never cared much for grades. Having ADHD, I had come to terms with the fact that exams and rigid criteria would never appropriately measure my best capabilities. However, lacking a bachelor's degree meant I needed a decent GMAT score. 

In studying for the GMAT, I took a fun route - challenging myself to do my best and decide what to do afterwards with whatever comes out. If you've ever meet a neurodiverse person, you would know how we can enter a rabbit hole when interested in something. And indeed, the challenge was exciting.

In three and a half months of self-study, my brain that failed oh-so-many boring maths classes scored a 48 Quant on its first crack at the GMAT. [730 Total; 48 Quant, 42 Verbal]

It was the end of November, and I submitted for Round 3 after Christmas.

Of course, to my fellow neurodiverse ones out there, you might understand how I still felt insufficient: What if I was more organised with my life and had more time to prepare? What if I wasn't so awful with paperwork (BORING!) that I secured the extra time for people with learning disabilities?

The truth is that if I had more time, the excitement of defying the unlikely would not be there, and I would have chased another wild idea instead. This is who I am. I am impulsive, I dream big, and I like challenges.

Coming to INSEAD, I carried my academic insecurities on my back. The things I was most proud of were suddenly things I felt I needed to hide - the failures I overcame, how my brain works, and my non-traditional career. It took me some time - and regrettably too long - before I began to relearn my value in the wider world. I may not always fit in, but that is OK. At INSEAD, everyone is so different and bringing your true unique self is how you fit in.