INSEAD’s New MBA Essay Prompts: Key Changes and Tips

By Arvind Kumar

INSEAD has recently updated its essay prompts for the first time in years.

Below, we outline the changes and share some insights and tips on how to make the most of these new prompts as an INSEAD MBA applicant.

INSEAD’s Updated Essay Prompts

Motivation Essays


Provide a candid description of yourself, emphasizing the personal characteristics you believe to be your strengths and weaknesses and the key factors that have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (500 words max)


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

New prompt: Consider a situation where you failed to achieve your objective(s). How did you handle failure? What did you learn about yourself and/or your interactions with others from this situation? (400 words max)


Previous prompt: 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)

MOTIVATION ESSAY 3 (New) – Previously Optional too

Optional: Is there anything else not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (300 words max)

Career Essays

CAREER ESSAY 1 (Unchanged)

Briefly summarize your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of the work, major responsibilities, and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products, and results achieved. (200 words max)

CAREER ESSAY 2 (Unchanged with slight modification: text in bold has been added)

What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company instead of going to business school? (200 words max)

CAREER ESSAY 3 (Unchanged)

Provide a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (300 words max)

CAREER ESSAY 4 (Unchanged)

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

CAREER ESSAY 5 (Unchanged, Optional)

If you are currently not working or if you plan to leave your current employer more than two months before the program starts, please explain your activities and occupations between leaving your job and the start of the program. (Optional)

Applying to INSEAD? Learn from Adhiraj’s successful journey to the INSEAD MBA where he received a €25,000 scholarship

Key Takeaways

Motivation Essay 2: Focused on Failure

This essay has shifted its focus entirely to failure, removing the earlier requirement to discuss an achievement. With the word count remaining the same, here’s how to approach it:

  • Deep Dive into Failure: INSEAD wants you to explore a failure in depth, discussing how you handled it and what you learned from the experience.
  • Reflect on Emotions and Lessons: Address the setbacks, your emotional response, and the lessons you learned. Reflect on how this experience influenced your personal growth, resilience, and ability to adapt.
  • Highlight Personal Development: Discuss how this failure shaped your traits and values. Maintain a balanced approach that underscores your resilience, learning, and personal development.
  • Leverage Other Essays for Achievements: Although the achievement aspect is removed from this essay, Motivation Essay 1 (strengths), Career Essay 3 (career path), and the Optional Essay are avenues to highlight your significant achievement(s).

Pro Tip: Conclude by connecting the lessons learned to your MBA journey and future career aspirations.

Motivation Essay 3: Extracurriculars Removed

With the removal of the previous essay on extracurricular activities, applicants may feel they have less space to showcase their involvement outside of work. However:

  • Video Essays as a Platform: INSEAD’s KIRA video essay questions will likely cover extracurricular activities, allowing you to highlight these aspects.
  • Focus on Key Extracurriculars in Other Essays: If you have significant extracurricular achievements, such as being a national-level athlete or musician, Motivation Essay 1, Career Essay 1 and/ or Career Essay 3 are your avenues to highlight them.

Pro Tip: INSEAD would still want to know about your Extracurriculars through other avenues in the application. Aim to strategically leverage Motivation Essays, Career Essays and/ or KIRA interviews to showcase your extracurricular involvement and its impact on your personal and professional life!

Other Essays Remain Unchanged

The rest of the essay prompts remain the same. Despite the changes to the Motivation Essays, the overall application process retains its structure.

  • Holistic Approach: Think of the INSEAD application as a canvas to portray a comprehensive picture of yourself.
  • Honesty Trumps: Use this wide canvas wisely. A well-crafted, honest portrayal can create a compelling narrative that highlights your unique qualities.

Final Thoughts

INSEAD’s new essay prompts present a valuable opportunity to showcase your personal and professional growth.

The key is to approach these essays thoughtfully, reflecting deeply on your experiences and how they have shaped your journey.

Use this revised structure to present a well-rounded and honest portrayal of yourself, demonstrating to the admissions committee why you are an ideal candidate for INSEAD.

Drop us a line if you need personalized mentorship on your INSEAD (or other global B-school) applications!

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