Through my experience as an interviewer for INSEAD MBA Program, I have put together a small list of common but not clearly understood mistakes that cause applicants to falter in their INSEAD MBA applications. Here’s hoping this list will help you.

1. Not providing enough context in the Motivation Essays –
Most unsuccessful applications I studied had this mistake in common where the applicants were quick to jump into a professional success story without really giving an insight into “who they are as people”.

The primary purpose of INSEAD Motivation Essays is to know about the applicant’s background, to get context of the applicant’s formative years, the influences that led to applicant’s intrinsic personality development and motivation to pursue the current path (or the MBA path). I cannot emphasize enough on the importance of covering all the aforementioned points in reasonable proportions across the three motivation essays. Well crafted narratives use these points to make the applicant stand out.

2. Lack of clarity on event timelines-
Most unsuccessful applications did not have a narrative that made it easier for the Ad Com to understand applicant’s progression over the years. Incoherent stories are fit together to create an impression of leadership skills (but it actually reflects poorly on the applicant’s organizational skills!)

Successful applications have stories in the order occurrence with timelines mentioned, complemented by allocation of greater responsibilities and results year on year- showing a clear and consistent growth pattern to the Ad Com.

3. Failing to communicate the impact of your work-
Most unsuccessful applications did not clearly communicate the value created by applicants for their employers or their community. This may be interpreted as lack of motivation or of business acumen.

Successful applicants are clearly able to understand and communicate the impact their work generated, in terms of $$ value, cost savings, time efficiency, client satisfaction, lives impacted and so on.

4. Lack of vision-
Most unsuccessful applications did not clearly show a passion for applicant’s long-term goals.

An example would be – an applicant from healthcare industry who wants to continue in the same industry in short term and long term did not mention what ignites his passion for healthcare or what are the problem areas in society that led the applicant to pursue this field. Especially in the current scenario of COVID, such oversight on part of INSEAD applicants is not acceptable. Successful INSEAD applicants evaluate their passion objectively, aspire to be a force for good and take the necessary steps to achieve their vision.

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