During one of those slow weekend afternoons in 2014, this writer was contemplating which business schools to pursue. INSEAD (Institut Européend' Administration des Affaires) was one of the top choices but the requirements were pretty much daunting. Was there any chance to get into one of the elite business schools of the world?
First step was identifying the requirements. Four qualities that INSEAD requires are- the ability to contribute, international motivation, academic capacity and leadership. In addition, the admission committee would also have to like the candidate on paper and during interviews. So ultimately, the applicants would have to show that they possessed the qualities through their application and eventual interviews.
Given my background in marketing (ATL, BTL and Digital) and product management in Berger Paints Bangladesh, my position was good presumably. Also, I was a prefect in my final year at Mirzapur Cadet College. Starting from that stint at an early age to eventually becoming category manager in a corporate, grew solid leadership experiences in me.
But the gaps were clear as my performance was below expectation in some quantitative courses in undergrad. It was necessary to prove my recovery from that. Also, my international experience and exposure were limited to some visits to the regional offices in India and travelling. So, it was needed to either take up international assignments to make up for it (which was not an option) or show my motivation with the limited exposure.
I focused on academic capacity first. Most business schools require GMAT scores from MBA applicants. In GMAT, one can show one's level in quantitative. So, doing well in GMAT became imperative. In addition, enrolling myself in data analysis courses and doing a short project allowed me to grow in quant space as well. A personal blog was also in the making which eventually moved to kmofradm.medium.com.
I registered for the GMAT for a couple of months for preparation. Usually, with registration, MBA.com provides two free tests. Before taking any preparation for GMAT, completing one of the tests showed my position. The test helped in identifying my improvement areas. And then using another practice test after a month and keeping the last two for the final week worked fine for me.
When the day of the exam came, although being ready, I had to go through some poor experiences in the examcentre. TOEFL was rather straightforward. My score crossed 100 out of 120 easily.
Then the time came for applying. Although INSEAD was my target, I applied to another school and went through the interview process. To get familiar with the whole process, applying to another school along with the preferred one is a good strategy that helps one learning important things regarding application essays and interviews.
I targeted INSEAD's round 2 admission period which required me to submit an application by October 2015. The application was all about who the applicant was and what he/she wanted to tell the admission team. It is key for the applicants to tell their story, cover their gaps, and answer any potential questions in the application. For example, GMAT, certifications, CV, etc. would cover academic capacity and ability to contribute. But for leadership quality, essays are a must. INSEAD's application also had a few open-ended questions where one could add in more information.
Creating a table to note everything related to application procedure is a good idea. I realised what I needed to cover in my essays and open-ended questions to avoid repetition of the same information and share my story covering all required points. Maintaining this table made things easier for me. Hence, using a methodical approach while applying is strongly recommended. Also, intersected people should make sure to budget enough time as the application consumes a lot of time. I also submitted additional applications for scholarships, as the scholarship deadline was before my interviews.
Within a month of submitting the application, the pre-selection email came, which invited me to attend two interviews. My interviews took place in Kuala Lumpur within 25-30 days of receiving the mail. This was one of the best parts of INSEAD recruitment. These interviews are taken by the alumnus; in my case, both were inspiring professionals. They made me feel so comfortable in the process that it felt like a friendly chat over coffee in the end.
During the chats, I made sure to talk about my weaknesses or apparent gaps in the application, even before being asked about them explicitly. One of the interviewers appreciated my initiatives to improve in the previous years.For interviews, going through some common questions like sharing own story, future expectations, why INSEAD, why MBA, etc. is an effective way. Additionally, I asked some of my friends to interview me and go off-script. That also made me aware of some potential questions.
After around 10 days, came the anticipated mail- "On behalf of the admissions committee, it is my great pleasure to offer you a place in the INSEAD MBA..."
To learn more about the subsequent steps, readers can connect with this writer via Linkedin or Medium (kmofradm.medium.com).