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Today we’ll take a look at the Indian School of Business’s MBA essays for 2014-2015 and offer some thoughts about how applicants might approach this set of responses.
With the exception of the fourth and optional essay, each of these prompts is new for this admissions season. Whereas last year’s essays focused on applicants’ appreciation of the ISB program and potential to contribute to the community, this season’s prompts reflect a broader focus on what candidates have learned from their past experience, as well as their broader skills in critical thinking, persuasive writing, and self-awareness.
Let’s look at each of ISB’s prompts in more detail:
Essay 1: Innovation or doing things differently it is said is a key to future success. Could you substantiate or negate this idea based on your experience. Please provide examples from your own experience – either examples of your own innovation or examples of others whom you have worked with. (300 words)
This prompt calls on applicants to take a pro- or anti-innovation stance, and to explain their position using examples from their own personal or professional experience. While it’s a bit difficult for us to imagine a candidate arguing against innovation or change, the very fact that ISB is asking the question suggests that they’re open to either position, so long as the response is clearly written and well reasoned. Applicants will therefore want to reflect on salient examples from their own experience, and ideally select one in which they had an active role. For example, if taking the con position, it will likely be more effective to describe a situation in which one lobbied against a risky change—or even took a risk that didn’t pay off—rather than describing someone else’s failure of innovation that one observed from the sidelines. While the form of the response is important, this is also an opportunity to illustrate one’s skills and insight in the chosen example.
Essay 2: Applying to and enrolling in a Business School is an important career decision. Critically look at your career to date, the choices you have made, the key influences behind those choices, your goals for the future and how you expect to benefit from the ISB experience in achieving your goals. (300 words)
A career goals essay with a reflective twist, this prompts asks applicants to comment on the factors that have informed their major career choices to date, to detail their professional goals, and to comment on the ways that an MBA from ISB will support them in these future endeavors. With only 300 words to work with, applicants will need to be fairly efficient in covering each of these topics, with a focus on ISB-specific courses, programming, and student organizations in the latter section (consider consulting with students and alumni, visiting the school’s campus, or perusing the Clear Admit School Guide to the Indian School of Business for ideas here).
Essay 3: One of the following (200 words)
A) This experience completely changed my way of thinking. OR
B) An instance when you went out of the ordinary to achieve something significant, but in hind sight feel you could have done better. OR
C) Tell us about your role in a team that made a significant contribution to the organization OR
D) Contribution to peer learning and engagement with the ISB student body are important aspects of the ISB experience. What contribution do you expect to make in this direction during the one year at ISB.
ISB offers applicants four rather different options for the 200-word response, and it’s particularly unusual to see a response about one’s potential contribution to a program (often a topic of keen interest to admissions committees) lumped in with several other more situational options. Applicants will therefore need to consider which of these prompts will give them the opportunity to showcase the quality that they consider most valuable to their candidacy, whether this is their openness to changing their thinking, their ability to learn from non-optimal past performance, their capacity to work with others to accomplish an impactful goal, or their plans to make a difference on their colleagues as a student at ISB. Again, given that ISB is offering options for this response, there’s no “correct” choice of prompt. Given the narrow word count, effective responses will be focused and direct, and will demonstrate self-awareness, critical thinking, interpersonal skills and/or potential to draw on their experiences for the benefit of others.
Optional Essay: Please provide additional information, if any, that will significantly affect the consideration of your application to the ISB. (200 words)
Applicants should think carefully before utilizing a school’s optional essay prompt. Candidates with extenuating circumstances, such as a gap in work experience or lower than average GPA or GMAT scores, would do well to address those here. However, applicants with atypical aspects to their candidacy might take this chance to explore important elements of their profile not mentioned in their data forms, résumé, or other responses. The fact that this prompt is such a broad one allows candidates a high degree of freedom in wrapping up their essays with information that cannot be conveyed elsewhere in their applications.
Re-applicant Essay: How has your profile changed from the time you last applied to the ISB? (300 words)
This response provides an opportunity for candidates to outline developments in their work experience and improvements in other areas of their applications since previously applying.
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