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What INSEAD Looks for in MBA Applicants

What INSEAD Looks for in MBA Applicants

INSEAD is a truly international school with no dominant culture, offering graduate business education in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.

By understanding its international orientation, you can decide whether it is a good fit for you, and work to maximize your chances of admission.

Are You a Good Fit for INSEAD’s One Year MBA?

According to INSEAD’s global Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Virginie Fougea, you might be a good fit for INSEAD if you thrive in a fast-paced environment and have a multicultural background. You should, likely, be thinking about wanting a global career five or ten years after graduation.

INSEAD wants students that are comfortable telling their story, who stand out as individuals, and work well in an international community.

If you want to work for a multinational corporation and have the desire and ability to be flexible and adaptable, you’ll already be ahead of the game.

Use your essay space wisely to highlight how you can contribute to this international program that moves at a breakneck pace. These are all critical things to highlight as you write your essays and complete your interviews.

In the following video, Yaron Dahan, Expert Consultant & Director (BD) at Menlo Coaching, talks to Virginie Fougea on what INSEAD looks for in MBA applicants.


An International School with Programs to Keep it That Way

When applying to INSEAD, it’s important to remember that its international profile is more than just lip service. Many schools talk about wanting to foster a global environment, but INSEAD delivers on that promise.

For example, INSEAD’s language policies require that every INSEAD student be fluent in English and have a practical level of knowledge in a second language. To graduate, you must also have a basic level of competence with a third, commercially useful language.

This system works to both attract multilingual students and to encourage current students to learn about other cultures.

You should be looking to demonstrate an international outlook in your essays. By looking at their class profile, it is readily apparent that INSEAD works hard to achieve immense diversity in its incoming class.

A full 96% of its most recent class is made up of international applicants. Compare this with American business schools, where a typical Top 10 school has only 35% international students.

INSEAD has four campus locations across the world. Its original campus is in Fontainebleau, just outside of Paris, but it also has locations in Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and San Francisco. The core MBA program is offered in Fontainebleau and Singapore.

Think about which campus you want to study at when applying. Where will there be nearby regions and industries that fit your profile?

A Focus on Your Personal Story

When applying to INSEAD, you should know that the school is very interested in your personal story. This is apparent through the large number of INSEAD essay prompts, which ask applicants to be candid and personal in discussing their interests in business.

It begins with their longest essay, a five hundred word prompt asking you to “Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary.

This is a great time to remind them of your international outlook by talking about your experiences living abroad, your multicultural family, or your experience with an important international issue.

The request for a “candid description” of “who you are as a person” clearly signals INSEAD’s interest in getting to know you as a person (rather than as a series of statistics and jobs).

This focus on the whole person continues in other essays that ask about achievements you are proud of, extracurricular activities that are important to you, and an optional essay that asks you to discuss anything else you think is pertinent to your application.

These essays give you plenty of chances to talk about yourself and show that you fit INSEAD’s admissions criteria.

Because INSEAD has long been regarded as the #1 European MBA program, and because European MBA rankings do not emphasize the GMAT score in the same way as the U.S. News ranking does, INSEAD has the luxury to focus more on each applicant as a person and less on maximizing their average GMAT score.

Clear Career Goals and September vs. January Intake

INSEAD is interested in seeing its applicants create a realistic career plan that can be executed within the one-year MBA format.

If you are an American applicant, you may be unaware that most European schools are only a single year (though there are exceptions, such as London Business School and IESE).

This puts pressure on the applicant to think hard about what they can accomplish during that year and how to effectively communicate their goals to the admissions committee.

Employers are willing to take larger risks when hiring interns than when hiring full-time employees. So, if you’re trying to switch to a new industry where you have no experience, you may need an internship to make that happen.

But, if you are in a one-year MBA program like INSEAD’s September-entry MBA program, there is usually no time for an internship because you’ll be studying straight from September to May. This means that INSEAD students who plan to follow this course must be realistic about what career changes are possible.

One way around this is to take advantage of INSEAD’s January intake, in which you would enroll in January, pursue an internship during the summer, and then return in the fall to finish your studies and graduate in December. Students who know that an internship is an important part of their career change strategy should apply for January intake.

As discussed in our article on London Business School (read What LBS looks for in MBA applicants), it is very important that you do not bring up LBS when applying to INSEAD.

Although the schools are the top two MBA programs in Europe, INSEAD’s one year program is very different from the two year program at LBS, or even the newer 15-month option at LBS.

There are very few candidates who will be a good fit for both. Bringing up LBS while interviewing at INSEAD communicates a lack of understanding of that difference.
About Menlo Coaching: Just like INSEAD, Menlo Coaching is based in Europe, and is highly experienced in European MBA programs as well as US programs.

Our team of expert MBA admissions consultants helps you push for more, find your voice, and tell your story in the most compelling way possible. We help current-year and future-year applicants to top MBA programs. Start your journey to MBA acceptance at Menlo Coaching.

This article is part of CrystalConnect, an outreach initiative by MBA Crystal Ball.

Also read:
What London Business School Looks for in MBA Applicants
What Dartmouth Tuck looks for in MBA applicants
MBA application tips for Family Business applicants
Tell Me About Yourself: Common MBA Interview Questions
INSEAD vs London Business School (LBS) MBA

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