The INSEAD Application

Part two is written onboard EK355 from Singapore to Dubai, on my way to France. So excited to start my journey with the school! This post will focus specifically on the INSEAD application process, and the preparation that I did.

PS: Please feel free to contact me if you are interested to know more or if you have specific questions that I have yet to address here. Here’s the link to my personal website, but you can also contact me through LinkedIn or Instagram.

What's the application process like?

Below you'll find the exact step-by-step of the process taken from the INSEAD website:

application process

 

The whole process from the time I submitted my application to the time I received the "CONGRATULATIONS" phone call took 65 days, broken down into:

  • Application submission to interview announcement: 22 days
  • Interview announcement to interview completion: 30 days
  • Interview completion to admission decision:13 days

The application submission in step 1 requires you to submit:

  • Essays
  • Recommendation
  • GMAT
  • TOEFL

The whole process was pleasant, with complete support from the admissions team and alumni interviewers.

Completing the interview was a tad long for me because I was travelling at the time, and scheduling the interviews was a challenge in itself. But we eventually managed to set up the meeting times and we had great conversations.

My alumni interviewers were both quite senior, but they were humble and eager to share! I noticed that they were trying to make sure that I knew what I was getting into, and whether pursuing an MBA made sense for me.

Application preparation

In this this section, I'm shifting from a narration to Q&A format, as I've had people reach out to me regarding these, so hopefully I have a good idea of what you want to know.

1. GMAT

What is it?

It’s basically THE exam to take if you want to go to a business school. It’s accepted in all the top programmes. The GMAT is administered by GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council). GMAC is a global, mission-driven association of leading graduate business schools.

Here are the four parts of the exam and the range of score in brackets:

  1. Quantitative reasoning (6-51)
  2. Verbal reasoning (6-51)
  3. Integrated reasoning/IR (1-8)
  4. Analytical writing assessment/AWA (0-6)

You sometimes see “Average GMAT for the programme is 700”. The number that contributes to this score is only number 1 & 2. Number 3 & 4 has standalone scores. E.g: It’s possible to get 1 in IR, 0 in AWA, but 800 in the Quantitative & Verbal.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to prepare for IR & AWA. It’s still recommended to have a solid score for both.

What do I need to do?

  • prepare & study
  • register for an account at gmat.com
  • Once you register, log in and register for an exam close to where you live. I recommend you to register at least one month in advance so you have a clear goal during your study.

How long did it take to prepare?

Two months preparation

What was your score?

700+

How many tries?

One

What did you use to study?

Official GMAC books and the online question bank (Amazon). I personally enjoyed the process, some of it felt like brain teaser quizzes!

Specifically for AWA, this is de facto the best guide I’ve seen.

Did you take a course?

No. I think a course is useful only if you need someone to help guide your study process, kick you if you're being lazy, and ensure you make positive progress. If you're confident that you can manage yourself, I don't think taking a course is necessary.

How did I find the time to study while being in consulting?

I was lucky to have a project with decent work-life balance, and I spent at least eight to nine hours per weekend to study.

How important do you think GMAT is?

I personally think GMAT is more of a checklist. It helps you understand whether you'll be able to follow the curriculum of the MBA.

Did GMAT discussion come up during the interview?

No

Any advice?

Practice, practice, practice.

Do mock exams, especially the ones provided by gmat.com after you register for the exam.

If you find it hard to study consistently, register and PAY for the exam. Once you have skin in the game, your motivation goes up exponentially.

2. TOEFL

What is it?

It’s one of the accepted tests to certify English proficiency. I took TOEFL because I had already taken it in 2009, and had knowledge of what the test was like beforehand. Some of my friends took IELTS because, in their own words, “it’s easier to score high”.

How long did it take to prepare?

One month

What was your score?

115

How many tries?

One

What did you use to study?

Official TOEFL online resource that you can buy when you register for the exam.

Specifically, I purchased the Value Pack Prep Plus

Did you take a course?

No. Same reason as GMAT.

Any advice?

Same advice with GMAT. In addition to that, if you are working in a multinational company and normally use English for day-to-day communication, you're most likely fine. Just practice for the speaking portion as it can feel quite awkward. The official online speaking practice is the reason I bought the value pack prep plus instead of just buying the guide.

3. Essay writings

How long did it take to prepare?

One month

Any advice?

  • Get someone else to proofread and ensure what you write makes sense from a logical standpoint. You can't just make sense of "I'm a nuclear physicist, but now I'm interested in business, so I want to do an MBA." There needs to be a logical step-by-step explanation. Focus on what YOUR story is, what DRIVES you, and what's the PROOF.
  • Grammar. Don't slack off on this. If need be, use online services such as grammarly to ensure that you're making sense. I don't think perfect grammar is required, but your writing has to be clear without glaring mistakes.
  • Your essays are gateways for the admissions team to understand who you are, what's unique about you, and whether the school can help you reach your goals. Be sure the messages are clear.

4. Recommendation

How long did it take to get the recommendations?

1.5 months

Any advice?

START EARLY. Nudge your recommender as soon as you decide to apply for an MBA. Tell them the story of why you want to pursue an MBA, and persuade them to write the recommendation themselves. You can also discuss specific occasions that they can weave into the recommendation. Remember that just writing “he is patient, hardworking and works well with other people” is not strong without evidence of an incident that showed those qualities.

application

5. Video submission

What’s it like?

You’ll get a link to do your video interview automatically after you submit your application. Check your email for Kira Talent. It’s essentially a Q&A session, where there’ll be a question on the screen, you have 45 seconds to prepare, and then 60 seconds to answer. Rinse and repeat four times. Additionally, you have practice questions to get comfortable with taking the videos.

What questions are typically asked?

Questions that will help the INSEAD admissions committee get an authentic view of you as a person, to see how you think on your feet and how you convey your ideas.

Any advice?

Be genuine, look directly into the camera, wear comfortable clothes, test your internet connection and device beforehand, and finally, try to show a side of you that’s unique and not clearly shown in the application documents.

6. Interview

What’s it like?

You’ll get an email from the admissions officer that congratulates you for moving to the next round and asks you where are you based. This information is then used to determine your interviewers. He/she will then inform you who your interviewers are. It’s then your responsibility to arrange for the session with the interviewers.

You’ll have two alumni interviewers, which can sometimes be a challenge to schedule. My challenge was that both myself and the interviewer were travelling, so locking down the time to meet was tough.

Any advice?

Be genuine, practice your pitch on:

  • Why MBA – Show that you understand clearly your journey and why an MBA fits in there.
  • Why INSEAD – Show that you know what you’re getting into and what you’ll get out of the experience.

Both of the whys should also cover “what’s next”.

In summary

The application process seems long, but most of the work goes into the application submission. Most people face problems because of the GMAT, so allocate more time to prepare for that.