ISB essay: How to write, Analysis, tips (2022)

ISB Essay 1: Peer Learning is a major building block of the PGP at ISB. Help us understand how you will be able to add value to the PGP peer group through your personal and professional qualities/capabilities (400 words).

With this year’s release of essays, ISB has brought a whole new interesting perspective through Essay 1, directing the focus to peer-to-peer learning and gauging the candidates’ ability to:

  1. self-reflect
  2. talk meaningfully about their own experiences in classroom discussions

Some of you will realize that this pattern of questioning is very similar to what we see on the applications of schools such as INSEAD, for whom the “ability to contribute to the cohort” is the foremost criterion the school looks for in applicants.

With this new essay, ISB is promoting a highly interactive and collaborative culture, specifically seeking individuals who have experimental maturity, real-world exposure, and the ability to contextualize management problems.

ISBians are expected to be highly motivated, well-rounded, and possess strong communication and interpersonal skills. They are also expected to share a unique perspective on their life experiences, both personal and professional, when challenged by the world-renowned faculty and unique teaching pedagogy to come up with interesting insights and perspectives for business problems. They should reflect on their own actions, successes, and failures, bringing into discussion the “qualities” they demonstrated to handle a variety of situations.

ISB does not want stories to be limited to professional experiences, as made clear in the question. People often put their interests and leisure pursuits on the backseat while chasing academic and professional triumph in an extremely competitive environment. However, if applicants have been actively involved in community initiatives or have been pursuing hobbies or sports of interest, this is an opportunity to highlight their participation and contributions to present a well-rounded profile.

Applicants may not limit their personal stories only to volunteering work or hobbies but can also draw meaningful insights from personal situations where they took the initiative to help others overcome difficult situations.

Some good examples to take ideas from are:

1. Small actions make a big impact

An ISB admit shared the story of her adolescence when she helped her mother steady the family during a financial crisis. She took up odd gigs, such as organizing coaching/tuition classes for neighborhood kids, started a homemade snacks business with her mother, which she marketed through social media, and started a women’s dress boutique at home with her mother, where she worked with artisans on a profit-sharing basis to keep the workers motivated. Besides helping her family, she drew insights from each business and demonstrated an entrepreneurial bent of mind from a young age.

2. Taking a stand on social issues in your society/community

An applicant shared her story of participating in theatre and dramatics during her college days. She set the context well, saying she comes from a conservative and regressive rural society where vices such as female infanticide and domestic violence are prevalent but frowned upon when discussed openly. She decided to create awareness on such issues by writing and directing street plays that her team performed in villages, under police surveillance, to echo a strong message, demonstrating the ability to persevere.

3. Showing inclusivity at work

Profoundly thinking about actions in hindsight is an excellent way to uncover aspects of a personality that created a strong impact on people around. Other than community involvement or hobbies, bringing a unique frame of reference through occasional but strong stances on issues can also help make a strong impression. Another successful applicant talked about his apprenticeship program for women employees to make the onboarding process more women-friendly in a highly male-dominated field sales team (his LOR also substantiated this). Collaborating with the HR team, this category manager for a retail start-up was able to make the job more women- centric.

At the end of each example do not forget to reflect on what you bring to the cohort as a result of your unique experiences.

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