INSEAD MBA Admit with Scholarship for Indian Applicant: Success Story & Insights

By Arvind Kumar

Adhiraj’s story is one of perseverance and hard work. After facing personal challenges and the failure of his early start-up, and coming from a non-IIT/ NIT background, his journey to the INSEAD MBA (with a 25k EUR scholarship) is inspirational and well-deserved!

In this article, learn more about Adhiraj’s journey, his tips for INSEAD applicants and how partnering with Arvind (admitStreet) helped him crack INSEAD.

From building a strong differentiating narrative to crafting compelling essays that can capture the attention of the Adcom, Adhiraj and Arvind share specific nuances with essay excerpts to illustrate the points.

Adhiraj also candidly shares his INSEAD MBA interview experience and his tips for MBA applicants, particularly those applying to INSEAD. 

[This article is co-written by Arvind and Adhiraj. View the detailed video/ workshop below for more detailed insights]

Background and why INSEAD

I (Adhiraj) come from an engineering background with a degree from NSIT, and experiences across data/ operations/ procurement consulting and entrepreneurship.

Through the INSEAD MBA, I am planning to switch my profile from an operations/procurement role into a strategy consulting profile at a global consulting firm such as the MBBs, Kearney or Strategy&.

I am intent on joining INSEAD due to its focus on consulting careers, incredibly diverse cohort and the culture of excellence which the school embodies.

Building a Strong Narrative

When embarking on the journey of applying for an MBA program, one of the key elements that can set you apart from other candidates is crafting a compelling narrative. 

Your narrative should not only reflect your past experiences and aspirations but also demonstrate how an MBA is a pivotal step in achieving your goals. 

Here are some tips on how to build a strong narrative by identifying what sets you apart, showcasing your motivations, emphasizing extracurriculars, and highlighting your personality for the MBA cohort.

1. Identifying What Sets You Apart

To begin building a strong narrative, identify what makes you unique. Consider your professional background, skills, and aspirations. For example:

“I’m a consultant from an engineering background targeting a strategy consulting role at MBB/Tier 2.”

“However, what I really want to do is to combine my past entrepreneurship experience with the consulting profile I am targeting to be a sustainability-focused entrepreneur in the future.”

“I want to leverage my consulting expertise in an Impact profile to deliver better outcomes for India’s poor.”

“I want to combine consulting with my financial expertise to pivot into a strategy role at VCs/Fintechs.”

These statements go beyond a surface-level career goal; they communicate a deeper understanding of your professional identity and how you aim to create an impact.

2. Crafting Motivations for Doing an MBA

Your motivations for pursuing an MBA should be specific, realistic, and convincing. 

Admissions committees are keen on understanding why you have chosen this path and how an MBA aligns with your aspirations. If you aim to transition into entrepreneurship, for instance, clarify how the MBA will equip you with the necessary skills and network to succeed in this venture. 

Your motivations should reflect a thoughtful and well-reasoned decision to pursue an MBA.

3. Emphasizing Your Extracurriculars

While professional achievements are crucial, showcasing your involvement in extracurricular activities is equally important. This could include community service, sports, cultural activities, or any other passion pursuit. 

Extracurriculars demonstrate your ability to manage time effectively, collaborate with diverse groups, and contribute beyond the professional sphere. 

Be sure to connect these experiences to the skills and qualities that will make you a valuable addition to the MBA cohort.

4. Highlighting Your Personality

Admissions committees are not just looking for academic and professional achievements; they want to know who you are as an individual. 

Use your narrative to highlight aspects of your personality that make you unique. Whether it’s resilience, leadership, or creativity, showcase how these traits will contribute positively to the MBA community. Your narrative should provide a glimpse into the person behind the resume.

In conclusion, building a strong narrative involves identifying what sets you apart, articulating motivations, emphasizing extracurriculars, and highlighting your personality.

By doing so, you not only make your application memorable but also demonstrate to the admissions committee why you are a valuable addition to their MBA program. 

In the next sections, we will delve into the art of writing compelling essays and conducting thorough research on your target schools.

Writing Compelling Essays

INSEAD Essay #1: Building Your Personal Narrative

“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”

Crafting a compelling MBA application involves more than just showcasing your academic achievements and professional experiences. It requires the ability to tell a story that not only reflects who you are as a person but also demonstrates your self-awareness and growth. 

INSEAD’s Essay #1 is an opportunity for you to give a candid description of yourself, emphasizing your strengths, weaknesses, and the key factors that have shaped your personal development.

Key Theme and Character Traits

Start by identifying one or two key themes that define your journey. In our example, the applicant’s narrative revolves around resilience and adaptability. These themes should resonate throughout the essay and be woven into the fabric of your story.

Tie in your character traits with key life events. For instance, the applicant mentions their ambitious and dedicated nature, along with the downside of sometimes taking big risks without adequate preparation. This introduces a layer of vulnerability and self-awareness.

Overcoming Weaknesses

While it’s important to highlight your strengths, equally emphasize your weaknesses. Be specific about how these weaknesses manifested in your life. 

In our example, the applicant openly acknowledges their tendency to take risks without preparation and describes the impact it had on abandoning a placement offer. This level of honesty and self-reflection is crucial.

Share examples of how you overcame these weaknesses. The narrative should showcase your resilience, determination, and the lessons learned from failures. In our example, the applicant bounced back from the failure by launching new entrepreneurial ventures, ultimately achieving significant revenue growth.

Connecting with the School (INSEAD)

Always close your essay by connecting your narrative with the school you are applying to. 

In our example, the applicant expresses that the INSEAD MBA is the perfect place to work on their areas of improvement and leverage their strengths for career advancement. This demonstrates a clear understanding of how the MBA program aligns with their personal and professional goals.

Tips for INSEAD Essay #1

  • Have One or Two Key Themes: Keep your narrative focused on one or two central themes to maintain clarity and coherence.
  • Tie in Character Traits with Key Life Events: Weave your character traits into the story by connecting them with significant life events.
  • Highlight Weaknesses and Overcoming Challenges: Showcase your weaknesses, but emphasize how you’ve overcome them, providing specific examples.
  • Connect with the School: Always conclude by explaining how the MBA program, specifically the one you are applying to, can help you address weaknesses and leverage your strengths.

INSEAD Essay #2: Short and Long-Term Career Aspirations

Discuss your short and long-term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words maximum)

This essay provides an opportunity to outline your short and long-term career goals. In the given example, the applicant discusses their plans to switch both geographically and professionally through an MBA from INSEAD.

Short-Term Goals

Be specific and detailed about your short-term goals. 

In our example, the applicant aims to switch from an operations/procurement role in India to a strategy consulting profile in Europe, particularly the UK/Netherlands. This specificity demonstrates that you have done thorough research and understand how the MBA aligns with your career trajectory.

Long-Term Goals

Ensure that your long-term goals align with your current profile, the target school, and your short-term goals. 

In our example, the applicant envisions combining consulting expertise with prior entrepreneurship experience to become an innovation and sustainability-focused entrepreneur. This alignment reflects a well-thought-out plan and a clear understanding of how the MBA will contribute to their aspirations.

Realism and Consistency

Be realistic in your goals and maintain consistency throughout your narrative. 

Avoid making abrupt jumps unless they are crucial to your story. In our example, the applicant’s goals align logically, showing a realistic progression from consulting to entrepreneurship.

Tips for INSEAD Essay #2

  • Understand the School’s Identity: Tailor your career goals to match the school’s strengths and the type of profiles they attract.
  • Align Short-Term Goals with Research: Be specific about your short-term goals, demonstrating that you have researched the school and its offerings.
  • Ensure Long-Term Goals Align: Your long-term goals should align with your current profile, the target school, and your short-term goals.
  • Be Realistic and Consistent: Avoid making unrealistic jumps in your career trajectory unless there is a compelling reason tied to your narrative.

Crafting compelling essays for your MBA application involves a delicate balance of showcasing your achievements, acknowledging your weaknesses, and demonstrating a clear alignment with the school’s offerings.

By following these tips and using the provided examples (in the video here) as a guide, you can create essays that leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee.

Researching Your Target School Well

When applying to an MBA program, one of the crucial aspects that can set you apart from other applicants is your thorough understanding of the target school.

Identifying the School’s Unique Resources

Before you start your MBA application, take the time to identify and understand the distinctive resources offered by the target school. These resources can vary widely among institutions, so a deep dive is necessary to tailor your application effectively.

Courses and Electives

Analyze the curriculum and identify specific courses or electives that align with your career goals. Consider how these courses can provide you with unique skills and knowledge that set you apart in your chosen industry.

Clubs and Extracurriculars

Explore the various clubs and extracurricular activities available at the school. Highlight those that align with your interests and aspirations. Schools often have industry-specific clubs that can provide valuable networking opportunities and hands-on experiences.

Alumni Network

Investigate the strength and reach of the school’s alumni network. Look for alumni who have successfully transitioned into careers similar to your intended path. A robust alumni network can offer mentorship, job leads, and insights into the industry.

Industry Connections

Research the school’s partnerships and connections with industries relevant to your career goals. Some schools have strong ties to specific sectors, providing unique opportunities for internships, projects, and job placements.

Learning from Alumni Success Stories

To gain insights into how the school’s resources can be leveraged, study the career trajectories of alumni who have made successful transitions similar to your planned path. Here’s how you can approach this:

Identifying Similar Transitions

Look for alumni who started their careers in a position similar to yours or transitioned from a different industry to the one you’re targeting. Identify the steps they took to achieve their goals.

Leveraging Resources

Understand which resources from the school they leveraged to facilitate their career transitions. This could include specific courses, mentorship programs, networking events, or internship opportunities.

Inferring from Their Advice

Alumni often share advice through interviews, articles, or school publications. Analyze their insights and consider how you can apply similar strategies to maximize the benefits of the school’s resources for your own career journey.

Attending Info-Sessions and Webinars: Network, Network, Network!

One of the most effective ways to understand a school’s unique resources is to attend information sessions and webinars hosted by the institution. Here’s how you can make the most of these events:

Networking with Current Students and Alumni

Engage with current students and alumni during these events. Ask about their experiences with the school’s resources and how these resources contributed to their professional development.

Connecting with Industry Professionals

Many info-sessions feature speakers and panelists from the industry. Take advantage of these opportunities to network with professionals who can provide valuable insights and potentially become mentors.

Asking Targeted Questions

Prepare specific questions about the resources you’ve identified during your research. This demonstrates your genuine interest and strategic thinking, making you stand out to admissions officers and potential future connections.

INSEAD Interview Experience & Tips

The INSEAD interview is a crucial step in the admissions process, providing the admissions committee with a deeper understanding of your motivations, aspirations, and the value you bring to the program.

Here is my (Adhiraj’s) INSEAD interview experience and a few tips to navigate the interview:

Tip 1: Embrace a Relaxed and Conversational Style

During the interview, it is essential to maintain a relaxed and conversational tone. 

Remember that the alum is not there to intimidate you but to understand your motivations, aspirations, and how you align with the INSEAD culture. 

Be prepared to discuss your professional journey, but don’t let it turn into a formal interrogation.

Tip 2: Authenticity is Key

INSEAD values authenticity. 

Be yourself during the interview, showcasing your genuine personality rather than attempting to fit into a perceived mold. 

Alums appreciate candidates who are sincere and true to themselves, as this aligns with the school’s commitment to diversity and individuality.

Motivations Behind Pursuing an MBA

One of the critical aspects that INSEAD explores during interviews is the candidate’s motivation for pursuing an MBA. 

A generic response about career growth or a desire for a diverse learning experience may not be sufficient.

Delve deeper into your motivations, providing a compelling and unique reason for choosing INSEAD.

Tip 3: Craft a Convincing MBA Story

Be well-prepared to articulate a convincing narrative on why you specifically want to pursue an MBA at INSEAD. 

This may involve discussing career goals, personal development aspirations, or a desire for a specific type of global exposure that INSEAD uniquely offers.

Tip 4: Reflect on Career Decisions

INSEAD is interested not only in where candidates want to go but also in understanding where they’ve been. 

Expect questions about the motivations and thought processes behind key decisions in your career. Be ready to provide explanations that make logical sense and are free of inconsistencies.

Tip 5: Embrace Mistakes and Growth

INSEAD values individuals who can reflect on their mistakes and demonstrate a commitment to personal and professional growth. 

Be open about any missteps you’ve encountered and discuss how you’ve worked to overcome them. This transparency can underscore your resilience and ability to learn from challenges.

Addressing the Question of MBA Necessity

You might encounter a direct challenge to your decision to pursue an MBA, as exemplified by the question I was asked, “Why are you paying INR 1 Cr+ for it?” 

It’s essential to respond with a well-thought-out answer that goes beyond a generic desire for an international job.

Tip 6: Articulate the Value of an INSEAD MBA

When confronted with skepticism about the necessity of an MBA, especially if you already have business experience, be prepared to articulate the specific value that an INSEAD MBA adds to your career goals. 

Highlight the unique opportunities, network, and learning experiences that justify the investment.

How admitStreet helped

Working with admitStreet was a game-changer in my journey to secure a spot at INSEAD. I can confidently say that without Arvind’s guidance, I wouldn’t have made it through the competitive MBA admissions process.

One of the most significant benefits I gained from admitStreet was the invaluable assistance with my essays. Arvind helped me prioritize information and structure my essays to create maximum impact. Seeing the ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of my essays after Arvind’s review was eye-opening. It underscored the importance of having a seasoned expert in your corner.

Having another set of eyes, especially from someone with Arvind’s wealth of experience, proved to be instrumental. Arvind provided a fresh perspective outside of my personal journey, offering feedback on what was crucial for my application and equally importantly, what wasn’t. This nuanced insight was pivotal in shaping essays that truly stood out in the competitive pool of applicants.

One of the standout advantages of admitStreet is their deep understanding of the INSEAD admissions process. Arvind and the admitStreet team knew exactly what the INSEAD admissions committee looks for in prospective students.

This level of insight and expertise is something you can’t put a price on when navigating the intricacies of a top-tier business school application.

My overall experience with admitStreet was nothing short of exceptional. The personalized attention, expert guidance, and the team’s commitment to my success were evident throughout the process. I am grateful for the support and guidance I received, and I wholeheartedly recommend admitStreet to anyone embarking on the challenging journey of applying to INSEAD or any other top-tier MBA program.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, my journey of navigating the INSEAD MBA application process has been nothing short of transformative.

Crafting a winning MBA application required a strategic approach, and the foundation was laid by building a strong narrative. The pivotal role of compelling essays became evident through the expert guidance of Arvind from admitStreet. The before-and-after transformation of my essays showcased the power of prioritizing information and structuring my narrative for maximum impact.

Researching my target school, INSEAD, was another critical aspect of the process. Understanding the school’s values, culture, and what they seek in prospective students allowed me to tailor my application to align seamlessly with INSEAD’s vision.

The INSEAD MBA interview, as I experienced it, was more than a mere evaluation; it was a conversation that delved into my motivations and aspirations.

admitStreet played an instrumental role in my success. Arvind’s expertise, particularly in mentoring candidates for INSEAD, provided me with a unique advantage. From refining my essays to offering insights into the INSEAD admissions committee’s expectations, admitStreet was a guiding light throughout the challenging application process.

In hindsight, the combination of crafting a compelling narrative, writing impactful essays, thorough school research, a transformative interview experience, and admitStreet’s invaluable support helped me secure the coveted INSEAD admit with scholarship. 

I’m excited to embark on this new chapter at INSEAD, knowing that each element of my application was carefully curated to reflect my true self and align seamlessly with the ethos of this world-class institution.

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Video Debrief

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