The change in the ISB essays underscores the school’s commitment to encouraging deep self-reflection by applicants before they apply. ISB is clearly striving for a more interactive and dynamic assessment process, which is a commendable and progressive step forward.

Let us now dive into a comprehensive analysis of each question and explore a holistic approach to brainstorming and effectively addressing these essays.

Essay 1. Provide an honest portrayal of yourself, emphasizing your strengths and weaknesses. Highlight the key elements that have shaped your personal journey. Give relevant illustrations as needed. (400 words)

The striking resemblance in wording between this question and the first prompt of INSEAD’s motivational essay is hard to overlook. 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 proof that ISB is looking for profound thinkers and seeking to bring forth a dimension in applications that goes beyond a mere recitation of professional achievements. ISB has placed significant importance on the development of one’s character and attitude, considering these qualities to be central requirements.

In essence, this essay is a portal to your life story, offering the admissions committee a glimpse into the person behind the academic credentials, test scores, and resumes. It provides a valuable opportunity to gain a deep understanding of your distinctive identity and the influences that have contributed to your personal development, aspirations, and passions.

Beyond that, the essay revolves around the concept of “self-awareness,” a quality that plays a crucial role in personal development. Individuals who lack self-awareness often struggle to progress and adjust, resulting in a state of stagnation. Conversely, those who possess self-awareness are regarded as authentic, empathetic, and receptive to learning, earning them respect and fostering likability.

Your response should revolve around your values and how they have influenced your character, encompassing both strengths and weaknesses. Sources of value formation may include childhood experiences, moments of triumph, events that reinforced certain values, or the guidance of mentors and role models.

When you talk about your weaknesses, it is important to exercise caution. Choose a weakness that you are aware of and are actively working to improve. Avoid highlighting weaknesses in communication or cross-cultural understanding, as these skills are critical in a global business school environment. Instead, focus on specific areas where you may have had limited opportunities or challenges due to your socioeconomic background. A weakness you address should be something you can overcome. Also, emphasize the personal qualities you consider strengths and weaknesses, and provide insight into the key factors that have influenced your personal development. Show how you are actively addressing the weakness or have already made significant progress in overcoming it. Finally, read and understand the question carefully to provide a good answer.

Here is my own example of a compelling story about a weakness:

In my pursuit of perfectionism, I often develop anxiety stemming from the fear that I may not succeed. In such cases, I have found that I can become impatient with my team or friends. In the past, I have regrettably experienced a situation where I was overly harsh with a team member who I felt was not doing his best to meet a critical project’s timeline. This not only negatively impacted our professional relationship, but also caused discomfort within the team. When my mentor in my US team, who understood my ambitious nature, recognized the discomfort within the team and how it was affecting me, he gave me invaluable advice and taught me the life lesson of prudence and forbearance. Overcoming this weakness was a transformative experience for me as a team leader. I now make a conscious effort to respect each team member’s inner clock for self-realization and understand their unique pace of growth.

Every individual’s story is unique, and schools want to know what you have to say about your own experiences. This personal narrative essay is an opportunity to breathe life into a one-dimensional file and offer the B Schools a more personal and vivid picture.

Essay 2. Contemplate two distinct situations—one where you experienced success and another where you faced failure. Delve into the personal and interpersonal lessons you learned from these instances.

(400 words max)

Stories are often hidden in the everyday challenges of life, and real knowledge comes from exposure to different experiences.

ISB’s Essay 2 presents a fascinating shift, urging applicants to

  • Reflect on themselves
  • Meaningfully discuss about their own experiences- successes and failures in various situations

This highlights ISB’s desire for interactive and collaborative individuals with real-world exposure and the ability to tackle management problems head-on. When the admissions team reviews your application, they will assess whether you can actively contribute to the class discussions and case study method.

We encourage you to draw meaningful insights from both professional and personal experiences as this essay also revolves around the theme of “self-awareness.”

Some applicants measure success through their professional accomplishments, while others find triumph in overcoming personal challenges. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Articulate why certain values and specific accomplishments matter to you. Describe the obstacles you faced and the transformative journey that led to your success.

When discussing failures, recall moments when you confronted adversity head-on. Failure can be a catalyst for self-reflection, revealing hidden circumstances or information that you overlooked or group dynamics that you did not understand at the time.

A tall order for 400 words, but most importantly address your interpersonal relationships during and after these incidents. Show what you’ve learned and how you’ll apply these insights during your ISB journey and after. Embrace the opportunity to showcase your self-awareness, growth, and resilience.

Here’s a winning personal failure story from me as an example:

 One failure I recently experienced was missing the deadline for an important project to bring metro rail tires to market. The project team I led moved from the France office to the India office, and an experienced product designer handed over responsibility to an inexperienced colleague. As a project manager, I did not realize the impact of this geographic change on our tight launch schedule. In my haste, I rushed my team members and inadvertently overlooked critical risk factors in our product quality checklist. We proceeded to deliver the design for production according to the original schedule and naively assumed success.

Unfortunately, the quality team soon discovered the tests we had overlooked. Several tires had already been produced but were deemed unsaleable, resulting in significant losses. It took us several additional days to rectify the situation and perform the required quality testing before the product design could resume production. While my team was understanding of my oversight, I felt deeply embarrassed. This setback was a wake-up call for me to be more realistic and vocal about project deadlines and to exercise caution when assessing risks at every step. I consciously employed strategies to improve my attention to detail, such as taking meticulous notes, using comprehensive checklists, and diligently following up when needed. Although I learned this lesson the hard way, it has undeniably made me a more diligent and organized manager.

Essay 3 (optional) Given your previous experience and future aspirations, how do you plan to use the PGP at ISB to fulfil your professional goals?

Note: It is not necessary for you to write this essay. Please use this space only if there is something really significant that you would like us to know.(250 words max)

ISB’s decision to make the foals essay optional adds an interesting twist to the application process. However, a solid MBA/PGP application is not just about showcasing your past accomplishments, but also about painting a vivid picture of your vision for your future.

I strongly recommend that you seize this opportunity to write this essay with enthusiasm, because failing to articulate your expectations for a fast-paced, rigorous, and very intense one-year ISB PGP program could come across as lackluster and lacking a motive.

When answering this question, it is important to focus on your desired industry, function, and post-PGP geography, keeping in mind the limited space available. Avoid general statements that may cause disinterest from the admissions committee. Instead, captivate them with well-researched details and a firm commitment to your career goals.

Even if the ISB doesn’t ask for an in-depth essay about your goals, make no mistake: you need to be prepared for a comprehensive interview with alumni. Expect a comprehensive assessment of your profile that includes your resume, work experience, volunteerism, extracurricular activities, and most importantly, your motivation. The interplay of these components will determine the viability of your intended goal strategy. To convincingly showcase your skills and sway the admissions committee in your favor, it is critical to skillfully organize your entire PGP application and skillfully integrate these factors to support your target plans.

By carefully tailoring your application materials (essays and resume/professional experience section) to your goals, you can unleash a flood of compelling reasons why ISB is the perfect launching pad for your career.

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