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INSEAD MBA Application Essays 2023-24

INSEAD Motivation Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), 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 max.)

INSEAD Motivation Essay 2: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (400 words max.)

INSEAD Motivation Essay 3: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (300 words max.)

Job Essay 1: Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of the budget, clients/products and results achieved. (short answer)

Job Essay 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (short answer)

Job Essay 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (short answer) *

Job Essay 4: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (short answer)

INSEAD Winning Sample Essays – 1

INSEAD Motivation Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), 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 max.)

Mountains are my one true love. They have helped me come to terms with who I am, making me face my biggest fears and helping me acknowledge latent strengths.

I have found that to reach every summit be it on a mountain or in life, I pursue my goal with an unflinching focus on the next step. As a student, having overcome a paralyzing fear of failure, I learnt early on that grit is as important as ability. Today, I rarely get overawed by the magnitude of the challenge because I keep my attention fixed on the immediate goal.

Whether it was crossing the Rupin Pass at a height of 15500 ft and an incline of 60 degrees or successfully handling a complex project such as BP’s Shah Deniz where the slightest error could have had disastrous consequences, my unwavering focus has always been my forte.

Another strength that has served me well is my ability to solve critical problems while maintaining my composure. When I was trekking solo across the Gadsar Pass I was caught in a sudden snowstorm at 13500 feet. I couldn’t stay outside in the cold risking hypothermia but I couldn’t move blindly either. So I trusted my ears and ran down towards the river in the hope that I would find someone camping near it. An hour later, I noticed someone warming his hands by a fire. My ability to stay calm in a crisis literally saved my life that day but it has also been my saviour in a number of different albeit less critical situations be it leading unpredictable projects, tackling technology failures or working through an unsavoury team dynamic.

Mountains have helped me come face to face with my weaknesses and shown me the path to overcome them. Growing up in a family in which money always fell short of aspirations, economic security subconsciously became a major factor in my decisions. Living in the mountains made me realize that money is similar to the resources in a trekking bag. It is good to have them but the more you carry, the heavier the bag gets and the more onerous the summit climb becomes. I figured out that the true summit can only be excellence, not security. It is in pursuit of this excellence that I jumped at the chance to move to an international work location and that I quit a lucrative job to build a social enterprise.

I have also realized that my idealistic approach to life sometimes comes in the way of adopting a more pragmatic middle path. While trekking on the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh, the team consensus was that everyone should wear crampons as the entire trek would be on ice. Though I acceded to the team’s opinion, I believed this would dilute the unique challenge of the trek. It was only later I realised that had I held out, I might have risked injuries to those who were equally enthusiastic but perhaps less adept at trekking. Since then, when faced with confrontation, I make a conscious effort to set aside my own beliefs for a little while and walk in the shoes of the other person, be it at work or in my personal life.

I cannot imagine a better way of developing holistically than spending a year at INSEAD. The diversity of culture and backgrounds at INSEAD will help me understand different perspectives much better and reconcile conflicting interests, including my own. Living and working closely with people who exemplify excellence will only strengthen my resolve to pursue it in every sphere of life.

INSEAD Motivation Essay 2: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (400 words max.)

To paraphrase Tolstoy, all success is similar, but each failure shapes life in its own unique way. One such failure which left an indelible mark on my personality occurred after high school when I failed to qualify Indian Institute of Technology Entrance Examination. I decided to take the exam for a second time because I felt that it was my inability to tackle pressure that had led to my failure and not a lack of aptitude or diligence.

Over time, I realised that my success would mean nothing if it was driven by my fear of failure. Upon qualifying the exam, I wanted to feel the ecstasy of accomplishment not the relief of having avoided failure.

This time around I decided to focus on analyzing and solving the questions rather than worrying about the ultimate consequence. I ended up qualifying the examination. The failure helped more in shaping my personality than if I had succeeded the first time. The unstinting support of my family in that one otherwise lonely year improved the very fundamentals of my relationship with them. This experience enabled me to develop a sense of equanimity that has since become an enduring strength.

In 2012, Halliburton started a low cost project to drill 100 wells on 5 rigs. The estimated revenue from operations was relatively low at about $6M annually but the growth potential of the operation was huge. While most of my peers were intimidated by the high risk nature of the project, I was able to focus more on the learning opportunities it presented. I stepped up and asked to be made the Focal point LWD Field Engineer which gave me control of the entire operation. The pressure involved was immense as even slightly sub optimal results would cause a huge dent in revenues. At the end of the year, the Non productive time (NPT) was less than 0.5% which was a Halliburton Asia Pacific record. Despite my limited years of experience I was now seen by my peers and superiors as a natural leader and this in turn gave me the confidence to take even bigger steps in my career. Till today, it is the achievement I am proudest of because it became possible only because I overcame my fear of failure all those years ago, instead of allowing it to overcome me.

INSEAD Motivation Essay 3: Tell us about an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way. (300 words max.)

Last year, I went on a 5 weeks’ backpacking trip across what is arguably the most neglected part of India, the north eastern states. 70% of the population in these seven states is tribal, with resemblance to mainland Indian, Mongolian, Tibetan and Austro-Asiatic cultures. The trip allowed me to experience the culture of these indigenous tribes from close quarters.

I saw large families living inside a one room house with no lavatory. Homes where the nearest bazaar was a 6 hour mountain hike away. Beautiful women of the Apatani tribe who were made to tattoo their faces to escape the wrath of oppressors who had molested them for years.

I also noticed that centuries of deprivation had not defeated these people but had taught them to channel their anger towards building self sufficient lifestyles. If villages which have the highest rainfall in the world had no iron to build bridges, the villagers built bridges with the roots of trees. If there were no pesticides to protect their paddy crops, they learnt to do pisciculture which not only protected their crops but also provided an additional source of food and income.

Despite the sheer strain of eking out a living, most villagers let me into their homes, their lives and their beautiful mountains without once wondering if they would reap any financial benefit from it.

This experience ended up challenging my entire perspective on top down development approaches. I now understand that the quality of lives can only be improved if there is a better understanding of how good people’s lives already are. I therefore decided to take a break from my job and work in the breathtakingly complex development space in India to help those who are different from me, and enrich myself immeasurably in the process.

INSEAD Motivation Essay 4: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (300 words max.)

As a Mechanical Engineer, building a car from scratch was a long cherished dream. In college, I co-founded the MECHISMU group in which I led a team of 15 members to design and fabricate an All-Terrain Vehicle to participate in BAJA SAE India competition. As the captain, I had to not only raise sponsorships but also ensure that there was a synergy between available resources and performance optimization.

Leading a team in which everyone (including me) was a novice and going through several technical, financial and administrative hurdles to achieve something truly path-breaking taught me the nuances of both leadership and teamwork. The icing on the cake was that we reached second place in the competition. In the subsequent years, I have continued to mentor future teams, providing technical expertise and heading the team selection.

Another love that has enriched me over the years is debating. Picking up a subject and then bringing it down to arguments, rehashing those arguments repeatedly, the thrill of discovering some aspect of the issue you had missed completely, have helped mould my thoughts with crystal clarity. Although I no longer debate competitively, informal discussions continue to keep the debater within me alive.

One of my earliest childhood memories is running to the Badminton court before any of the adults noticed my fractured hand! I went on to play State level Badminton for Uttar Pradesh, India. In college, as the badminton captain, seeing the dismal condition of the sport, I ensured that two new indoor courts were built and that tournaments became a regular fixture. My love for sports constantly pushes me to bring that level of passion into my everyday life. That said one true sporting dream I have is to watch Liverpool play at Anfield. I’m getting goose bumps just writing about it!

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INSEAD Winning Sample Essays – 2

INSEAD Motivation Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person) 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 max.)

Looking back, it is amazing how marriage and fatherhood changed me entirely. I was 19 when I found out that my girlfriend was pregnant and I decided to marry her against the wishes of my family. That time I was still serving National Service (Conscription) and had not even started my undergraduate degree. My family was not supportive of the decision to get married so young and be a father. Coming from a middle-class family, public perception was a major challenge apart from a lack of financial resources and internal family conflicts. During my first few years as a father, I was still aimless, living every day as it is and not giving much thought to my family’s future. 

Through the circumstances of being a young parent and hardships of life, reality hit me hard. Seeing how other parents are able to provide a better life to their wives and children, I knew that I had to step up. That grew into a kind of motivation, drive, and ambition to want to achieve success. This mentality that marriage and fatherhood have brought to me is certainly a dictionary definition of Wen Kang and my greatest strength. This motivation pushed me to not only get an undergraduate degree but also graduate as the top of my class. From there on I received back to back promotions in my career and became the youngest Assistant Vice President in the second-largest bank of Southeast Asia.

However, nothing comes without a cost. That transition has been so effective and so drastic that I lost sight of the original intention, which was to give a better standard of living for my family. After repeated arguments with my wife, I came to truly realize that the standard of living is not just solely in its material sense but rather, it is about spending quality time with family. I realized that I was blinded by constantly chasing for financial success that I stopped spending quality time with my family and kids. This realization came to me a lot more strongly after I moved my career from Singapore to Cambodia. I might have earned a lot more salary and got better professional exposure but I had effectively reduced the time I spent with my family, leading to arguments and deterioration in my relationships with my wife. I feel that I still do, at many times, sacrifice family time for my work and that is my greatest Achilles heels which I am trying to improve upon so that I can be a better father and husband. 

Looking at the bright side and looking back, I can see how I grow to become a more mature father and husband, and realized more philosophies in life after each decision I made. These experiences have shaped me into who I am today, being able to look beyond just a few dimensions and weigh things that are truly more important.

INSEAD Motivation Essay 2: Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words maximum)

The proudest moment of my life is when I graduated top of my cohort and school, along with the honors and limelight. I have been conferred the valedictorian of my school, featured in both national newspapers and magazines. I was asked to be interviewed on national TV shows and invited to a dinner function with the then President of Singapore, Dr. Tony Tan. I still remember standing on the auditorium’s podium and giving my valedictory speech to the cohort of more than a thousand people. The success did not come easy. During my undergraduate days, I struggled with family relations, finances, studies, and some of the harshest public perception of young parents. The moment of success was both bitter and sweet because so many tears, hard work, and hardships were behind it.

Despite standing proud of what I have achieved, I regretted not managing my relationships with my mother and siblings better when I got married. It was a delicate and sensitive period. In the neighborhood of gossip mongers, my mother and siblings were somewhat ashamed of my early parenthood. As a result, they were not welcoming and supportive of my wife. Furthermore, living under the same roof has proved too difficult for perhaps many mothers and daughters-in-law. I had to choose to stand by my wife but quarrels, acts of dominance, and the daily hostilities severely eroded my relationships with my mother and siblings. Eventually, I stopped talking to them, and even until today, after almost a decade, we barely communicate. As much as I still feel much disappointments towards them, I realize I could have done a better job back then in managing communications and facilitating mutual understanding. I did not, at any point, ever try my best to break down these complicated relationships to meeting the basic expectations of both sides.

I learned that everyone despite sharing a common Singaporean-Chinese culture has different stories, motivations, teachings, and reactions, and that it is important to give in or stand firm in different circumstances and at appropriate quantities. Managing relationships’ intricacies is more than just who is right, who is wrong and there is more to life and people than just rationality. These are lessons and learnings which I now carry with myself and can bring to my cohort at INSEAD to share with my peers on how to balance individual professional success with family and personal relationships.

INSEAD Motivation Essay 3: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (approximately 300 words)

I have been a competitive athlete since a young age. I represented my primary school in badminton and my team achieved the national second by winning over more than two hundred primary school teams. I then went on to become the team’s captain in my secondary school. As the top player in the school, I have always been a singles player. Single players compete primarily on techniques, athleticism, and mental endurance while double players compete on reflexes and mutual synergy.

As I have always wanted the camaraderie of a team sport, I joined the dragon boating team at the university. My team won second place in the yearly prestigious Prime Minister’s Cup during two of my three years in the team. During my first year with OCBC Bank, I was even “headhunted” by the HR and had helped to clinch their first corporate category gold medal. In dragon boating, I see a drastically different side. While mental fitness is necessary for all competitive sports, synchronization, and teamwork are far more crucial in team sports.

Even though I stopped regularly playing badminton or competing in dragon boat races because of family commitments, I have shifted my focus to marathons and biathlon, and to date, I have participated in four marathons and biathlon. My ultimate fitness goal is to complete a full marathon in Antarctica and since last year I had started my prep and dietary research. 

I am proud to be a sportsman. These three sports have taught me some of the most important attributes that follow through in my life – having the mental resilience and harnessing the power of teamwork, and these are applicable and beneficial to every aspect of my life.

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