Waitlisted at ISB/rejected? Do a self-evaluation for goals narrative 

Dear ISB aspirants, if you were waitlisted at ISB and/or rejected, then is post is for you. I reviewed a good number of ISB waitlisted applications this season (thanks to several of you guys!) and would like to share some insights on the common theme around the goals narrative that I noticed.

Hope you would be able to use these examples to reflect on your essays and interviews to improvise and emerge stronger in the next cycle, irrespective of whether you were waitlisted or straightaway rejected without an interview.

A discontinuous narrative between essays 1 (leadership qualities essay) and 2(goals and why ISB essay), and a weak goals strategy shows you did not deliberate on your goals hard enough.

Think of both the essays as substantiating one another. ISB Essay 1 presents not only an opportunity to share examples where you demonstrated leadership qualities but also a chance to introduce yourself and set the tone for your strategy for education and career decisions, as well as post-MBA goals).

A common and weak approach is, for example;

An applicant from a non-tech/non-product background lists a personal quality in Essay 1 and presents an isolated example of leadership. He does not talk about how he came to inculcate that quality over the years – either through external influences or formative experiences.

In Essay 2, he abruptly talks about his interest in switching to a new function post PGP- a PM role, without deliberating on his motivation for this function change, and without giving any meaningful examples in Essay 1 or 2 to show prior involvement in PM projects.
In the later part of Essay 2 (this is a common one too!), the applicant goes on to elaborate on the “why ISB PGP” question by citing examples of some courses and throwing in a few professors’ names he may have read about online (only for purpose of writing the essay).

A better approach is:

Wanting to change industry/function post PGP, the applicant sets the tone in Essay 1 for his interest in tech projects or product roles by emphasizing several instances where he worked directly with stakeholders from the tech or product teams. He selects specific leadership examples from projects which would show his interest in the intersection of product and business. He reflects on the challenges he faced in PM projects and draws insights on what could be done to faster solve product-business-related issues. Such a narrative in essay 1 would facilitate a logical transition toward the applicant’s interest in pursuing a PM role in Essay 2.

In the later part of Essay 2, the applicant elaborates on his discussions with ISB alums who made a similar transition to PM roles post-PGP and shows his strong belief in following suit with ISB’s help. An exceptional applicant would talk about the gaps he identified in his PM skills through feedback from alums and potential recruiters and how he plans to pursue internships or projects in the immediate short term to bridge the gaps.

Some applicants also shared that they received candid feedback during the interview on their faltering goals strategy, and this further emphasizes how particular ISB is about applicants having utmost clarity on their career trajectories and future goals.

If any of you would like to discuss your MBA strategy with me do get in touch.

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