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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

January 31, 2012

Adam's Global Top MBA Rankings 2012

As I have been doing since 2008, I wanted to provide my Global Top 100 MBA Rankings for 2012.  The rankings below should hopefully be of value for both those engaged in initial school application selection and for admitted applicants who have been accepted to multiple programs and need to determine where to go.  Programs are ranked in many ways, so certainly look at other rankings lists. There is no one objective measure of an MBA programs' value and no ranking that can account for an individual student's positive or negative return on their investment of time and money for a graduate business education.

“Methodology”: All FT "Global MBA Rankings 2012" Data was ranked in order of “ Weight Salary ($).” No other methods were employed.

Justification #1: Whatever they pay you when you graduate is the market value of your degree, all other factors are mere conjecture.

Justification #2: One may very well value an MBA beyond mere salary calculations, but salary will certainly be a factor for almost everyone.

Justification #3: Since each school reports its own data, assuming that data is good, the ranking is based on objective criteria that all programs have in common.

Disclaimer #1: I could use some other accumulation of salaries for this same purpose, but FT's list is global, so I decided to use it. If your school is not included on this list of the top 100, please don’t be offended. If FT ranked more programs, so would I.

Disclaimer #2: Actual market value will very much depend on your situation. The numbers below are only averages.

Disclaimer #3: Salary is but one measure of ROI. This survey does not account for relative increase in salary, opportunity costs, or other less tangible, but important factors.

Disclaimer #4: These rankings in no way measure the value of the educational experience at any of these programs, merely the likely post-MBA salary outcome.

School Selection Strategy for Those Admitted to Multiple Programs: Go to the highest salary ranked program if you want to obtain the most market value.

School Application Selection Strategy Based on Salary Approach: 
Simply compare salaries to rates of admission which are available for all US programs listed in BusinessWeek and US News and World Report and for some non-US programs. 
1. Apply to the highest ranked programs you think you can get it into.
2. Find bargains: Schools with a high salary and a high rate of admission.
3. Avoid application to schools with a relatively low admissions rates and lower salaries.
4. Caveat emptor. Don't assume schools are necessarily reporting data with 100% accuracy.

School Selection Strategy for Those Considering Staying Local versus Going for a Globally Recognized Brand:  If you are deciding between going to your local MBA program instead of moving to a new city and/or country, look closely at the expected post-MBA salary rates to determine which programs are worth moving for.
1. If you are planning on studying in the US and/or Europe and are a non-resident, assume the real possibility, based on present economic circumstances, that you will likely need to return to your home country because of tightened visa restrictions and limited job opportunities.
2. If your objective is stay in your present locality, closely scrutinize whether the higher-ranked, but non-local option will actually prove to be of significant benefit to you in the future. For example, an MBA alumni network that consists of a large number of local graduates may be worth significantly more to you than association with a prestigious internationally brand.
3.  If your professional objectives are global, you will likely benefit much more from an MBA with global brand value rather than a program with local brand value even if the post-MBA salaries are not significantly different.

The Top 100 Global MBA Programs
(Detailed table in JPEG format follows. Getting Blogger to make a nice table is beyond me!)

Rank      School Name                                              Weighted salary (US$)
     1    Stanford Graduate School of Business                                    192179
     2    Harvard Business School                                                        178249
     3    Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA)             175076
     4    University of Pennsylvania: Wharton                                     172353
     5    Columbia Business School                                                     166497
     6    MIT: Sloan                                                                             157337
     7    IE Business School                                                                 156658
     8    London Business School                                                        152981
     9    University of Chicago: Booth                                                 152585
    10    Dartmouth College: Tuck                                                      151182
    11    University of California at Berkeley: Haas                            146811
    12    Northwestern University: Kellogg                                        145834
    13    INSEAD                                                                               144355
    14    IMD                                                                                      144045
    15    Yale School of Management                                                 142455
    16    Cornell University: Johnson                                                  141727
    17    University of Cape Town GSB                                              141490
    18    Duke University: Fuqua                                                        139405
    19    UCLA: Anderson                                                                  136331
    20    University of Virginia: Darden                                              134936
    21    University of Oxford: Saïd                                                    134805
    22    New York University: Stern                                                  134093
    23    IESE Business School                                                           133888
    24    University of Cambridge: Judge                                            132758
    25    Carnegie Mellon: Tepper                                                       132325
    26    University of Michigan: Ross                                                129649
    27    Indian School of Business                                                     129512
    28    Hong Kong UST Business School                                        127600
    29    Cranfield School of Management                                          125196
    30    Emory University: Goizueta                                                  124832
    31    Georgetown University: McDonough                                   123290
    32    CEIBS                                                                                   123058
    33    University of Texas at Austin: McComb                               121170
    34    HEC Paris                                                                             121061
    35    University of Southern California: Marshall                          121060
    36    University of North Carolina: Kenan-Flagler                         118959
    37    Australian School of Business: AGSM                                  118943
    38    Rice University: Jones                                                           118617
    39    Warwick Business School                                                     118151
    40    Manchester Business School                                                 117016
    41    Esade Business School                                                          114988
    42    Vanderbilt University: Owen                                                 114265
    43    Indiana University: Kelley                                                     113217
    44    University of Rochester: Simon                                             112992
    45    City University: Cass                                                             111552
    46    Melbourne Business School                                                  110701
    47    Georgia Institute of Technology                                           110118
    48    Coppead                                                                               110103
    49    Boston College: Carroll                                                        109440
    50    University of Maryland: Smith                                             109375
    51    Pennsylvania State University: Smeal                                   109114
    52    University of Washington: Foster                                        109088
    53    University of Minnesota: Carlson                                        108994
    54    Wisconsin School of Business                                             108990
    55    Wake Forest University: Babcock                                        108737
    56    Texas A&M University: Mays                                             108606
    57    Boston University School of Management                           106762
    58    University of Hong Kong                                                    106720
    59    Washington University: Olin                                               106668
    60    Babson College: Olin                                                           106506
    61    University of Notre Dame: Mendoza                                    106171
    62    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign                         105726
    63    Ohio State University: Fisher                                               105426
    64    George Washington University                                            104814
    65    Imperial College Business School                                        104619
    66    Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University      103628
    67    Purdue University: Krannert                                                103304
    68    SDA Bocconi                                                                       102854
    69    Nanyang Business School                                                    102350
    70    University College Dublin: Smurfit                                      102026
    71    SMU: Cox                                                                            101286
    72    Brigham Young University: Marriott                                    101189
    73    Thunderbird School of Global Management                         100803
    74    Sungkyunkwan University SKK GSB                                  100779
    75    University of Western Ontario: Ivey                                     100738
    76    Hult International Business School                                       100631
    77    Chinese University of Hong Kong                                       100408
    78    University of California at Irvine: Merage                              99333
    79    Michigan State University: Broad                                           98784
    80    University of Edinburgh Business School                              97733
    81    National University of Singapore School of Business            97625
    82    Lancaster University Management School                             97124
    83    Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School                             94661
    84    University of Toronto: Rotman                                              94255
    85    Northeastern University                                                         93824
    86    University of South Carolina: Moore                                      93053
    87    University of Iowa: Tippie                                                      92978
    88    Durham Business School                                                        91718
    89    Universität St.Gallen                                                               91106
    90    Ipade                                                                                      90900
    91    McGill University: Desautels                                                  89623
    92    University of Pittsburgh: Katz                                                88783
    93    York University: Schulich                                                      88283
    94    Birmingham Business School                                                 87274
    95    Bradford University School of Management                          87228
    96    Incae Business School                                                            84411
    97    Aston Business School                                                           83286
    98    University of British Columbia: Sauder                                  80898
    99    Peking University: Guanghua                                                79914
   100    SP Jain Center of Management                                             79809

Detailed Table Including FT Ranking Data
One advantage of a salary-based list of programs worldwide is that it helps to see the rising global market value of MBA programs. It also means that those of us who help applicants considering worldwide application, start to pay more attention to such national leaders and not just to dominant US and European programs.

For those with a US MBA bias, this ranking should be humbling because so many of what are usually ranked quite highly in the US, don't, at least at the salary level, look as attractive as rankings might suggest.

From a school selection perspective, I think looking at the stark reality of the expected financial outcome is critical. Looking at this solely helps to put the outcome into focus. "The 100" is only one possible way of doing this.

I am well aware that applicants don't simply make selection choices on the basis of salary, but I think evaluating programs on this basis is one important consideration.

Finally, I would like to thank "my team" at FT for doing all of the hard work. They have this nifty way of generating excel documents that really reduced my work by hours.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

January 30, 2012

UC Berkeley Haas MBA Interviews

My post on Haas MBA admissions essays can be found here

Before reading this post on UC Berkeley Haas MBA's admissions interviews, I suggest reviewing the former Director of Admissions for the Full-time MBA Program's excellent Tips for Acing the Admissions Interview. I also suggest that you listen to the short podcast on interviewing found at http://www.haas.berkeley.edu/haas/podcast/audio/haas_mba_interview_tips1.mp3. The advice is very simple and clear and applicable to most schools. If you think you will get special insight about the Haas interviews from listening to this, you will likely be disappointed, but still it is worth a listen.  For my overall perspective on interview strategy, see herehere, and here, and here.

The interview reports found at clearadmit.com and accepted.com make it clear that you need to know your resume completely as you will be asked about content in it ("Walk me through your resume"). Review it carefully and consider what your interviewer might ask you to explain more thoroughly. If it is on your resume, it is fair game.

My colleagues Steve Green and Jessica King have compiled and organized the following list of common Haas MBA questions based on publicly available reports.

-Tell me about yourself / Take me through your resume (be prepared to explain why/how you changed jobs)
-Why an MBA?  
-Why part-time?
-Career goals?
-Why now?
-What will you contribute to Haas?
-Are there any clubs/activities that do not exist that you would like to start?

BEHAVIORAL QUESTIONS (For my advice on behavioral questions, see my post on MIT.)
-A challenging leadership/teamwork experience.
-A time you led a group.
-A time when you were a humble leader.
-A time you failed/were on a team that failed.
-A time you displayed good teamwork.
-A time a team member was not pulling his/her own weight
Interpersonal skills
-A time when you met resistance/faced a conflict in a professional setting, either with a team or a person. How did you deal with it?
-A time you faced an interpersonal challenge.
-A time you received constructive feedback and how you responded.
Berkeley-esque questions
-A time you advocated for change/going in a different direction.
-A time you took a risk.
-A time you did something really innovative.
-A time you made an impact at the office.
-Something you wish you could have done differently.

-How would you describe your management/leadership style?
-How do you define “leadership?” Give an example.
-How would your boss, co-workers, subordinates describe you? Friends? (give both strengths and weaknesses)
-3 strengths? 3 weaknesses?
-What book are you currently reading?
-Putting aside your professional life, tell me about your personal life and the activities that define you (he honed in on the "other interests" section of the resume right from the start)
-Tell me about your process for self-reflection. How do you define/measure success and then evaluate whether you've been successful in a particular situation?
-Tell me something about yourself that’s not on your resume.
-What do people like about you?

As you can see from the above, you need to be prepared to answer routine MBA questions, some of which might be asked in a behavioral style. It is important that you be prepared to show your fit to  Haas and be well prepared to answer the above Berkeley-esque questions. Remember BILD!

I see no reports and have not been told about any trick questions really. Be prepared to ask questions about the program. If you have an alum interview, be prepared to have a number of questions.

Interviewers (students, adcom, or alumni) are usually friendly and consistently try to create a very relaxed interview atmosphere. Most interviews are conducted with students on-campus or alumni off-campus. I did read some reports of relatively weak student interviewers, so don't be surprised if this should happen. Regardless of how your interviewer performs, just be relaxed and positive. This is an interview about fit and your own potential, so make sure you can explain in depth why you want to attend Haas, how you will contribute to it, and what you intend to do afterwords. Previous contact with alum, visits to campus, and/or intensive school research are all great ways to prepare.

Campus interviews are scheduled for 30 minutes and usually last 30-45 minutes. Alum interviews seems to last about 45 minutes to an hour.

Click here to find out about my interview preparation services.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

INSEAD MBA Essay Questions for September 2012 and January 2013

Here I discuss INSEAD's essays for  September (Class of July 2013) 2012 intake and the January (Class of December 2013) 2013 intake. The questions are taken from the PDF.  INSEAD changed the essays for the first time in many years. In 2011, INSEAD changed the essays for the first time in many years.  The deadlines for September 2012 and January 2013, can be found here.  As of January 30, 2012, the deadlines for the September 2013 intake are not yet on the INSEAD website.

Over the years, I have had an opportunity to work with a large number of clients admitted to INSEAD. I have had 5 client admitted for 2012 so far,  6 clients admitted for 2011, 3 for 2010, 2 for 2009, and 2 for 2008. Testimonials from clients admitted to INSEAD can also be found here.

In September 2011, I visited the Singapore campus.  My report can be found here.

The INSEAD application, which a PDF based thing is a bit different from most other business school's online applications. No resume is required, so providing as complete an answer to all application form questions is especially important.

Job Related Essays

A core substitute for the resume are the job related essays, which give applicants an opportunity to explain and analyze their professional experience. As the questions are concerned with the applicant's professional experience, I think the following from my interview with Deborah Riger, who was the INSEAD MBA Programme's Assistant Director of Marketing at the time of the interview should be kept in mind:

"ADAM: Regarding professional experience, what to do you look for in younger (very early twenties) and older (late twenties or thirties) applicants?

DEBORAH: For all applicants we want to see a track record of professional accomplishments that sets them apart from their peers. For those with only 1-2 years of professional experience, they must demonstrate something distinctive in their profile, perhaps they have started their own company. I would suggest, it is in the benefit of all younger applicants to work for a minimum of two years before applying to business school as they will get more out of the programme if they have experiences to reflect back on. For older applicants, we are looking for a strong professional track record and clear goals toward career change or advancement. If an older applicant has been in the same role for five years that might not demonstrate potential for growth, overall ambition or success relative to his/her peers."

Based on my experience with INSEAD applicants, the above statement from Deborah is completely accurate.  INSEAD is relatively forgiving of those with limited (1-2 years) of professional experience as long as there is something distinctive about their background, but for most applicants, INSEAD is expecting to see a clear pattern of career growth.  While INSEAD can actually be quite flexible about the level of international experience that an applicant has, when it comes to those with 3-10+ years of experience, career growth really matters.  Deborah's comment about applicants in the same position for five years is also really telling as it points to the fact that INSEAD is looking for applicants who are not complacent.  Keep in mind that an INSEAD admission committee consists of faculty and alumni and the later, in particular, are likely to have clear expectations of what good career growth looks like. 

I think it is also important to keep in mind that a business background is not a necessity for admission to INSEAD, but that good professional experience is.  See here.  Based on my experience working with clients coming from a variety of professions, I can say that having a non-business, but solid professional career, can be a real advantage.

As I already mentioned, keep in mind that INSEAD does not require a CV or resume.  Therefore these job essays below are critical pieces of the application. As you will see, the INSEAD application has relatively limited space to discuss your past experience in typical resume style.  You should consider that these  essays will really provide INSEAD with their primary interpretation of your career.

Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/ products and results achieved. (250 words maximum)

This is a very straightforward question for most applicants. For those who are unemployed, I suggest you write about your last position held. 

You want to focus on both major responsibilities and major results.  Since results (accomplishments) are likely to be specifically connected to responsibilities, I would prioritize them in your description. I think for many applicants, the easiest way to organize this essay will be in terms of discussing their 2-4 most important results and/or responsibilities.  Here is one possible organizational scheme.

1. Brief introduction indicating the nature of the position and employer. 50 words.

2. Most important responsibility that lead to a result.  50-100 words. 

3-5. Subsequent responsibilities-results. 25-100 words.

The Details:  If you don't have employees working during under your supervision, you should still indicate any project-based and/or team-based leadership. As with a resume or CV include any numbers that will help INSEAD understand the extent of your results or responsibilities.   Even approximate quantification is better than no quantification if it helps to positively showcase your career.

Keep in mind that you should be focused on your job, not on your personality.  Interpret your job, don't just summarize it. Explain why the work you do is significant.

2. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)

This essay should be a growth story.  If it is not a story that shows how your career has positively evolved, it is unlikely to be very effective.  You might be unemployed at the moment, but what has been the trajectory so far?  Did you take a big risk along the way?  Point that out.  We each have our career ups and downs, especially anyone who has taken risks.  Don't shy away from discussing the risks, but the overall focus of this essay should be positive.  In my experience, INSEAD rewards those who take risks and does not look kindly on those that stay in the same position for five years or more. Change or become boring!  If you have been working in the same position for five years or more, you will need to really show how you have demonstrated growth in terms of results or responsibilities, which would have been primarily discussed in Job Essay 1.

In terms of organizing this essay, think about the key turning points in your career.  Help INSEAD understand how you have evolved professionally.  Assume that you are being judged critically and consider how to both effectively and honestly present your career.  

The final part of this question is what I would call an "opportunity cost" question, in other words, by going to INSEAD, you will be sacrificing the opportunity to take the next step at your current employer.  If you are unemployed, the way to handle this question is to discuss the kind of position you would obtain if you were not seeking an MBA. For everyone else, I think you should be realistic, but also present the best possible version of your next position, which will show that you are seeking an MBA to move beyond what would follow without it.  A bad answer to this question would involve identifying a next step that is the same as the short term goal you discuss later in Essay 4 because this would undermine much of the value of obtaining an MBA.  I think INSEAD asks this question not only to determine whether you have a clear sense of your career trajectory, but also to confirm that you have thought deeply about what you are sacrificing by pursuing an MBA.  Given the need to analyze your entire career development, for most applicants, I would suggest providing a brief (50 words or less) answer to this part of the question. 

3. If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you start the MBA programme? (250 words maximum)
This is the only completely new question on the INSEAD application.  It is a good addition as there was no place other than optional essay for applicants who are not working to discuss their situation.  I think it is critical to provide a honest answer to the question and one that hopefully shows that you are using your time well.  Possible topics to discuss:
1.  Learning activities (NOT APPLICATION PREP PLEASE! That would be really weak)
2. Language learning
3.  Internships
4. Volunteer activities
5. Travel

The Essays
THE WORD COUNTS ARE NOW LISTED WITH MAXIMUMS. This a change from prior years were approximate counts were given.  

1. Give a candid description of yourself, 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. (600 words maximum)
With a question like this I think it is important to understand that you are actually being asked to think about your strengths and weaknesses in terms of your overall personality and development. What is important here is provide both an analysis about specific characteristics of yourself and to help admissions understand who you are. YOU NEED TO TELL A COMPELLING STORY ABOUT WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON!  I put this in bold because I get far too many essays from my clients that end up focusing on professional content, that don't focus on personality and personal background, or are otherwise not really effective portraits.  When I get such initial drafts, I usually either write really long comments or have a conversation with my client restating my analysis here.  

Think of this essay as a highly focused portrait of yourself that will give admissions great insight into your life story and your characteristics (strengths and weaknesses).  The most effective answers here consistently combine revealing parts of the applicant's personality and background while discussing strengths and weaknesses.

Obviously the strengths and weaknesses should be ones that relate to your character, not to a skill set. Given the word count, I suggest focusing on no more than about two strengths and two weaknesses. I would try to give fairly equal consideration to both weaknesses and strengths.

I find that many applicants resist writing about their own weaknesses, yet to do so reveals self-awareness and maturity. While I think it is necessary to practice good judgment when writing about weakness, I think it is also important that you provide something beyond the routine.

One standard defensive strategy that many applicants seem drawn to is to write about knowledge or skill areas where they are weak, but this is not suitable for INSEAD's question because they want you to stress personal characteristics.

Compared to weaknesses, strengths are easier for most people to write about. Given the limited space here, you might find it helpful to write about a strength here that is discussed in greater detail in another essay. In other words, you might discuss the origins of one your key strengths and trace its connection to your personal or professional accomplishments.

Some questions to ask yourself:
1. Does the strength demonstrate one's potential for future academic and/or professional success? If so it is a probably a good topic. If not, why does INSEAD need to know about it?
2. Is a weakness fixable? If you are writing about a weakness that cannot be improved upon through your program at INSEAD, why do they need to know about it?
3. If your strength or weakness is not related to leadership, why does INSEAD need to know about it?

Finally, if you are having difficulty thinking about your strengths and weaknesses in relation to your future academic and professional goals, please see my analysis of Essay 4 because in it I discuss how to think about strengths and weaknesses in relation to goals.

2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments (if possible specify one personal and one professional, to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words maximum)
Since INSEAD is now asking that, if possible, you make one of your accomplishments one personal and one professional, I strongly advise that you do that. 
Some key things to keep in mind when answering this question:
-Accomplishments reveal your potential to succeed at INSEAD and afterwords.
-Accomplishments reveal your potential for contributing to your classmates.
-Everyone has had accomplishments, so it is easy to compare applicants.
-What you consider to be an accomplishment are real tests of your self-awareness and judgment.

The following grid is the kind I have used successfully with applicants preparing this question:

How to use this grid for outlining your answer to Question 1:

Row 1: "Stories."
The first thing you need to do is think of the accomplishments. These will eventually take the form of stories, so that is what I call them. A few things to keep in mind:
  • Your accomplishments maybe personal, professional, or academic.
  • While it is very important that your accomplishments be distinct so as to reveal different things about you, there is no single formula for what their content must be. It is quite possible that you might have three professional accomplishments or one personal/one professional/one academic or two academic/one personal. It will really depend on your background.
  • The key consideration is that each accomplishment must be substantial and that you can explain why that is the case.
Row 2: "What skill, value, or unique experience is being showcased?" Your accomplishments need to reveal valuable things about you. Some will call these selling points, but more specifically they consist of skills, values, or unique experiences. One might use a specific accomplishment to emphasize one's leadership skills, another to show one's ethical values, and another to explain a significant barrier that was overcome. The point is that each accomplishment must at its core reveal something key to understanding who you are.

Row 3: "What potential for success in the MBA program or afterwords is demonstrated?" You may or may not be directly stating this in the essay, but you should think about what each accomplishment reveals in terms of your potential. INSEAD Adcom will most certainly be considering how your accomplishments demonstrate your potential to succeed at INSEAD and afterwords, so you should as well. One key way of thinking about the MBA application process is to see it as a test of potential. Potential itself can mean different things at different schools and so you must keep in mind differences between schools and in particular must pay close attention to what schools say really matters when they assess applicants. Please click here to read about what INSEAD values in applicants. Please keep in mind that a core part of your own application strategy should be determining which parts of you to emphasize both overall and for a particular school.

Row 4: "Will this be a contribution to others in the MBA program? How?" Just as with potential, think about whether your accomplishments demonstrate your ability to add value to other students at INSEAD. Given space limitations, it is not likely that you will be explaining how one or more of your accomplishments will be contribution, but rather this is a strategic consideration. The dynamic nature of study groups at INSEAD is very much based on what each student contributes. Think about whether any of your accomplishments demonstrate how you will likely add value to other students INSEAD experience. Not all substantial accomplishments will have this quality, but many will.

Row 5: "Why does Adcom need to know about this?" If your accomplishment has made it this far, chances are it is substantial. That said, I have two simple tests for determining whether an accomplishment really belongs in this essay. The first is whether INSEAD really needs to know about this accomplishment. After all, you might consider getting the love of your life to marry you to be one of your most substantial accomplishments, but will Adcom care? If an accomplishment does not reveal (whether stated or implied) potential and/or contribution, chances are likely that it is not significant enough.

Row 6: "Is this something Adcom could learn about you elsewhere? (If "YES," find another accomplishment)" The second and final simple test I have for determining whether an accomplishment really belongs in this essay is based on the idea that something that is totally obvious about you to anyone looking at your resume and transcript is probably not worth mentioning. If you were a CPA, having an accomplishment that merely demonstrated you were good at accounting would not be worth writing about. Instead it would be important to show something more specific that reveals something that is not obvious by a mere examination of the basic facts of your application.

Finally, as I mentioned above what you include here is a real test of your judgment, so don't just write about your obvious accomplishments. Think deeply and come up with a set of unique accomplishments that reveal distinct, interesting, and the most important things about you that will compel admissions to want to interview you.

3. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned (400 words maximum)

This is a fairly standard failure question. It is important to remember that you might very well succeed from the perspective of others, but fail from your own perspective.

It is critical that you learned something meaningful about yourself. 

The basic components of an answer:
1. Clearly state what the failure was.
2. Clearly state your role.
3. Clearly state the result.
4. Explain the effect in terms of what you learned and perhaps also how you applied what you learned.

If possible, show how you applied what you learned to a new situation because the application of abstract learning to a new situation is a key indicator of real learning.

4. a) Discuss your short and long term career goals. (300 words maximum) and b) How will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words maximum)
THESE ARE FUTURE DIRECTED QUESTIONS Unlike some other "Why MBA" questions, INSEAD is not asking about the past. You will write about that in the other essays. Instead focus on your goals and the skills that you will obtain at INSEAD that will help you accomplish those goals. You must offer  both a short term-plan and long-term vision for your intended future.  Given the short length of the INSEAD program, it really is quite important that you give them a clear future post-MBA  plan.
a) Discuss your short and long term career goals. (300 words maximum)
Given the intensive nature of the INSEAD experience, you need to go into the program with a clear idea of what you want to do after your MBA. Of course, this might change, but given the program length and the reality that you will need to begin recruiting/internship hunting soon after entry, you will need a clear plan for your future.  If you are having difficulty articulating such a plan, I suggest you go through the following formal analysis:
You can use my GAP, SWOT, AND ROI TABLE FOR FORMULATING GRADUATE DEGREE GOALS for this purpose (see below). I think GapSWOT, and ROI analysis are great ways for understanding what your goals are, why you want a degree, and how you will use it. (Click here for a GMAC report on MBA ROI.)

(To best view the following table, click on it. )

How to use this table:

Step 1. 
Begin by analyzing your "Present Situation." What job(s) have you held? What was/is your functional role(s)? What was/are your responsibilities?

Next, analyze your present strengths and weaknesses for succeeding in your present career. REMEMBER: WHEN YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESS DON'T ONLY THINK ABOUT WORK, THINK ABOUT OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE. In particular, some of your greatest strengths may have been demonstrated outside of work, so make sure you are accounting for them.
Strengths: What are you good at? Where do you add value? What are you praised for? What are you proud of?
Weakness: What are you bad at? What are you criticized for? What do you try to avoid due to your own limitations? What do you fear?

, analyze the environment you work in right now. What opportunities exist for your growth and success? What threats could limit your career growth?

Step 2. 
Now, do the same thing in Step 1 for your "Post-Degree" future after you have earned your graduate degree. IF YOU CANNOT COMPLETE STEP 2, YOU HAVE NOT SUFFICIENTLY PLANNED FOR YOUR FUTURE and therefore you need to do more research and need to think more about it.

Step 3.
 If you could complete step 2, than you should see the "Gap" between your present and your future. What skills, knowledge, and other resources do you need to close the gap between your present and future responsibilities, strengths, and opportunities?

Step 4. After completing Step 3, you now need to determine how an MBA will add value to you. It is possible that an increased salary as a result of job change will be sufficient "ROI" for the degree to justify itself, but you should show how a degree will allow you to reach your career goals. How will the degree enhance your skills and opportunities and help you overcome your weaknesses and external threats? If you can complete Step 4, then you should be ready to explain what your goals are, why you want a degree, and the relationship between your past and future career, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. If you know about INSEAD, you are ready to write about your goals, whether in Question 3-4 or elsewhere in the essay set.

The above table will also help you answer such common interview questions as: Where do you want to work after you finish your degree? Why do you want an MBA (or other degree)? What are you strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your goals?

b) How will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words maximum)
As with other schools, I strongly recommend becoming informed about INSEAD. Attending admission events, meeting alum, and making full use of INSEAD's online resources is critical for making the strongest possible case for why your goals require an INSEAD education. You should most certainly look at INSEAD KNOWLEDGE and listen to some INSEAD Knowledgecasts. Finally, keep in mind that INSEAD is a fun school, so express your personality in terms of why you want to attend it. Perhaps this video will inspire you:

5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics: a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? (250 words maximum), or b) Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock (250 words maximum)

One core characteristic of those who are admitted to INSEAD is that they are international in their perspective and experience:

I have found that it is usually those with extensive international experience that have the greatest likelihood for admission.  That said, in my interview with Deborah Riger, I asked her about this issue:

"ADAM: Is it possible to be accepted to INSEAD without having international experience?

DEBORAH: Yes, it is possible to be admitted without significant experience outside of your home country. While it is important for all applicants to show their international motivations in their essays, it is especially critical for those who lack international exposure to do so. Applicants need to share how they are comfortable and confident in their own culture, why they are seeking out the international exposure in the MBA and sharing perhaps how the world has come to them at home."

Both options for Question 5 are really great ways for INSEAD to gauge your global perspective.

a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain?
This is a very standard question that frequently gets asked in interviews and has appeared on a number of MBA applications. It is also a question with significant room for saying something stupid and potentially fatal to your application. Some topics to avoid:

1. Topics where you negatively stereotype another nation: Martians are argumentative, so I was surprised to learn that some of them are not.

2. Topics where you are the victim: The Martians lied to me and as a result I lost the contract to a local provider.

3. Topics where you don't actually learn anything: This situation taught me the importance of human communication.

Successful versions of this topic almost always involve real learning. I suppose it is possible for something to mean much to you without learning something important, but I can't recall a successful version of this essay that did that. After all to be shocked is to experience something outside of your previous understanding. Getting shocked teaches something important that changes your perspective. This may lead to a new career decision, a new way of looking at oneself, a new way of interacting with other people, or a myriad of other possibilities.

b)  Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock
American Adam's bad answer:  Those traveling to America might be shocked by the need  to tip.
Why is that answer bad? It certainly is useful to know how to tip. I can think of almost nothing more annoying in the US than our system of tipping and how it would be a bit of a culture shock to someone not used to doing it. Every time I go back to the US, I am at a loss. Doesn't this make for a good topic? NO, BECAUSE IT IS OBVIOUS, IS COVERED IN EVERY TRAVEL GUIDE, AND WOULD GIVE ADMISSIONS NO REAL INSIGHT INTO YOUR ABILITY TO HAVE INTERESTING AND USEFUL THINGS TO SAY ABOUT YOUR OWN COUNTRY. Uppercase is used here in the hope that I don't have to read another version of this essay where the writer says commonplace things about their own country that any tourist would know and probably would not be shocked by.

If you write on option b),  think deeply about how your knowledge of your country will contribute to your fellow classmates at INSEAD. INSEAD is a place were students really have the option of getting to know (and drink with) people from all over the world. It is truly international in a way that no American program could ever claim. This question directly relates to your own self-consciousness about what is different about your country. They will, to some extent, depend on you for their knowledge of your home country. Don't tell them the easy stuff they can get by flipping through the first few pages of a Lonely Planet travel guide to your country. Give them real insight. The kind of insight they could use if they were going to move there.

Now while the question is not in regards to your classmates, I think it is useful to think of it that way so that you focus on writing something that would actually be interesting and useful to someone who visits your country.  You don't have to write on a business related topic, but if you have a good one, do so.  The following questions should help you:
1. What kind of problems have you seen foreigners have when communicating with people in your country?
2.  What do people say in your country about foreigners?  Do they have a bias against them or even a bias for them?
3.  What most annoys you about your own country that would be something that someone coming from outside of it is likely to experience?
4. What aspects of your country's culture seem hard for foreigners to handle (Not just the language as that is too obvious)?

6. Is there anything that you have not mentioned in the above essays that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (350 words maximum) This essay is optional.
While this question is optional, I have every client write about something here.  There has to be an explanation for an application problem, extracurricular activity, professional experience, personal experience, and/or other matter that you can add here to provide another positive perspective about you.

This is a completely open question. While you might very well need to tell the Admissions Committee something negative, such as an explanation for a low GPA, I would suggest using at least part of it to tell them something positive about you. Feel free to write on any topic that will add another dimension to Admissions' perception of who you are. I would not treat it as optional unless you truly feel that the rest of your essays have fully expressed everything you want INSEAD to know about you. I don't suggest writing about something that would be obvious from reviewing your application, instead tell INSEAD that one or two additional key points that will give them another reason to admit you.

7. In case of reapplication, please provide an update on any new aspects of your professional, international, academic or personal profile that would not have been included in your previous application. Please also explain your motivation for re-applying to INSEAD. (400 words maximum)
For reapplicants, it is critical that you provide clearly stated updates that show growth since the last application.  Whatever form(s) this growth takes, please provide a summary of it here, even if you have addressed the topic elsewhere in the application.  In addition, beyond what you write about INSEAD in Essay 4b, please provide a clear explanation of why INSEAD is your first choice.  I think it is especially useful to show what steps you have taken to learn more about the program.

FINALLY: For information about INSEAD interviews, see http://adam-markus.blogspot.com/2011/04/insead-mba-interviews.html.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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