The Indian School of Business (ISB) is widely recognized as one of India’s top business schools. The school offers a rigorous curriculum taught by renowned faculty and has collaborations with prestigious international institutions. Due to its reputation, ISB attracts a large number of applicants each year from diverse backgrounds.
ISB has recently opened their application process for the 2024 admission cycle. Here is the detailed timeline for the 2024 admissions cycle:
|Application Deadline||Tentative Interview Dates||Results|
|First Round||10 September, 2023||Oct – Nov, 2023||Dec 2023|
|Second Round||3 December, 2023||Jan – Feb, 2024||March 2024|
|Third Round||January, 2024||Feb – Mar, 2024||April 2024|
To be eligible, candidates must have two years of full-time professional work experience by April 8, 2024. This is a change from previous years, where the eligibility was considered until March 31 of the admission year.
While there is no template answer to the ISB essay questions, in this article, we cover the approach and best practices that can help you put your best foot forward as a potential candidate. Although the essays will certainly need to be personal, it is important to keep in mind the qualities ISB seeks in applicants. When discussing your experiences, you can then emphasize how well your skills align with those qualities. The qualities ISB looks for include clarity of thought, leadership, effective communication, team orientation, learning orientation, industry knowledge, problem-solving skills, and interpersonal skills.
We hope these guidelines will help you convey your story succinctly and honestly.
Essay 1. Provide an honest portrayal of yourself, emphasizing your strengths and weaknesses. Highlight the key elements that have shaped your personal journey. Give relevant illustrations as needed. (400 words)
This is a great opportunity to present your story to ISB. The essay prompt aims to go beyond simply assessing your academic and professional accomplishments, and seeks to gain deeper insights into your character, self-awareness and personal growth.
ISB is keen to know how you have evolved as an individual, the challenges you have faced, the lessons you learned and how these experiences have shaped your journey. It is important to be true to yourself as your authenticity can help differentiate your response to this essay prompt. Let us go through the steps you can follow to have a compelling essay to this prompt.
Firstly, start by reflecting on your personal journey and creating a master list of your accomplishments. Think of the achievements you are most proud of in your journey. Feel free to add to and edit the list, as the self introspection process takes time, sometimes hours or days. Aim to pick accomplishments that involve their fair share of challenges, as this can help showcase your strengths (point below) better.
For each accomplishment, connect it to a specific strength or strengths that you exhibited. For example, if one of your core strengths is perseverance, there could be multiple accomplishments from the above step where this trait can be linked to. While at this step, also highlight your values, motivations, and the core beliefs that you possess. These would add an additional layer and nuance to your story.
Once you have your master list, highlight the most important accomplishments. These can be picked by considering two parameters: recency and impact. The more recent the accomplishment, the better. Likewise, the more its impact, the better. Prioritize two or three accomplishments that are particularly significant, along with the associated strengths.
When considering weaknesses, it is recommended to follow the same steps as for the strengths. Start with listing the incidents in your life where you think you could have done better, especially ones where you had control over the outcome. For each such incident, connect it to a specific weakness or weaknesses. These can be areas of improvement. Try to avoid pseudo weaknesses as these do not portray authentic self introspection. For example, being a perfectionist is not really a weakness, and highlighting this (or something similar) as a weakness could indicate that you are trying to hide your weaknesses.
Subsequently, prioritize two or three incidents from the above point, along with the associated weaknesses. Consider two parameters to prioritize: recency and impact. The more recent the incident, the better. Likewise, the more its impact, the better. Also explain how these incidents have impacted your life, and discuss your efforts to overcome them. Working on your weaknesses demonstrates self-awareness and a drive for personal growth, both of which are positive attributes that ISB seeks to uncover.
As the next step, aim to strike a balance between highlighting your strengths and addressing your weaknesses. Focus on your growth and how you have overcome challenges, rather than dwelling solely on weaknesses. Likewise, avoid exaggerating your strengths. The key is to be honest, and to align to some of the values ISB looks for in a candidate. As a reminder, here are the values that ISB primarily looks for: clarity of thought, leadership, effective communication, team orientation, learning orientation, industry knowledge, problem-solving skills, and interpersonal skills.
Now that you have identified the important qualities and formative moments from the above steps, it is time to start weaving them together. Focus on maintaining a smooth flow throughout your essay, which should read like a personal story that portrays you as the protagonist. Use clear transitions to ensure a smooth flow between paragraphs.
Finally, conclude your essay by linking your personal journey to your future goals. Articulate how your strengths and the lessons learned will contribute to your success in the ISB MBA program and post your MBA journey.
Essay 2. Contemplate two distinct situations—one where you experienced success and another where you faced failure. Delve into the personal and interpersonal lessons you learned from these instances. (400 words)
Through this essay prompt, ISB seeks to assess your self-reflection, emotional intelligence, and ability to learn and grow from both triumphs and setbacks. While experiencing both success and failure contributes to personal growth, ISB is equally interested in understanding how you handle these situations and the lessons you took from them. Let us go through the steps you can follow to have a compelling essay to this prompt.
Firstly, start by reflecting on the key peak points in your life, including both the highs and the lows. Create a master list of incidents i.e. the incidents where the normal course of your life changed, for the better or worse. These can be in your professional (preferably) or personal life. Feel free to add to and edit the list, as the self introspection process takes time, sometimes hours or days. Aim to pick incidents that involve their fair share of challenges.
For each incident, list down the key lessons you learned. For example, if one of your failures was losing a job (pretty extreme), think about what you could have done better (if it was under your control), and how you would approach a similar future situation to avoid such negative outcomes.
Once you have your master list, carefully select two contrasting incidents: one where you experienced success and another where you faced failure. Consider two parameters while prioritizing your incidents: recency and impact. The more recent the incident, the better. Likewise, the more its impact, the better.
Subsequently, deep-dive into the situation where you achieved success. Follow the CARL framework (which we use at admitStreet in our brainstorming sessions and suggest to candidates for customized usage in essays): describe the Context/ Challenges, the Action you took, the Result of your action (preferably quantified), and the Lessons you learned thereby. Highlight the impact on your personal and interpersonal development, and the lessons you learned across these dimensions, as requested in the essay prompt.
Now, transition to the contrasting situation of failure. Follow the CARL framework: describe the Context/ Challenges, the Action you took, the Result of your action (preferably quantified), and the Lessons you learned thereby. Discuss the setbacks, emotions, and lessons learned from this experience. Reflect on how it influenced your personal growth, resilience, and ability to adapt.
Now it is time to analyze the lessons you learned from both the situations discussed. Explore how each experience shaped your traits and values. Aim to align them to some of the values ISB looks for in a candidate. As a reminder, here are the values that ISB primarily looks for: clarity of thought, leadership, effective communication, team orientation, learning orientation, industry knowledge, problem-solving skills, and interpersonal skills. Make sure to give equal attention to both situations, avoiding an overly positive or negative tone. Maintain a balanced approach that highlights your resilience, learning, and personal development.
Finally, conclude your essay by highlighting how the lessons you learned can be applied to your MBA journey and in your life/ career post MBA.
Essay 3. Given your previous experience and future aspirations, how do you plan to use the PGP at ISB to fulfill your professional goals? Optional (250 words max)
While this essay is optional, it is highly recommended to have a strong response to this prompt as it shows to the ISB Adcom that you have given enough thought about your past experiences, career goals, and how the ISB MBA fits in. This prompt, similar in theme to the previous year’s essay prompt(s), aims to gauge your clarity of vision, alignment between your past experiences and future goals, and the potential impact of the ISB MBA on your professional journey.
To excel in this essay, it is crucial to present a well-thought-out plan that effectively connects your previous experience, future aspirations, and the unique offerings of the PGP at ISB. The more clear, concise and compelling your experiences, goals and especially “how ISB fits in” are, the easier it would be for ISB to ascertain if you would be a good fit. Let us go through the steps you can follow to have a compelling essay to this prompt.
Firstly, start by reflecting on your key achievements (could be rephrased from the above essays while repeating verbatim may not be a good idea), skills, and lessons learned from your previous professional experiences. Highlight the specific experiences that have influenced your career trajectory so far and influenced your goals. Quantify your achievements wherever possible, while adding enough context so someone who isn’t familiar with your domain can easily understand.
As the next step, clearly articulate your future goals i.e. target sector, function, geography and ideally also company (or your own venture if applicable). Ensure there is a linkage between your past experiences and your future goals. If the link isn’t obvious, mention why your goals matter to you and what are the transferable skills you bring to make that transition possible. The key is to demonstrate a deep understanding of your target industry, function, or entrepreneurial venture.
Now, to effectively answer “why ISB”, it is time to display your knowledge and research of the unique resources offered by ISB. Research in-depth about ISB’s curriculum, alumni network, faculty, industry connections, placement statistics and experiential learning opportunities to identify specific elements that align with your goals. Also speak to alumni, preferably ones in your target industry, to understand how they made the transition and what resources helped them the most.
Draw a clear and logical connection between your past experiences, future goals (both short and long term), and how ISB can best bridge the gap. Highlight how ISB’s specific resources such as the pedagogy, learning environment, network, alumni, etc. will fill in the gaps in your skill sets (both hard and soft skills) and effectively help you transition to your target destination/ role. It would also be a good idea to mention which of your values are aligned to the ones ISB looks for in a candidate. As a reminder, here are the values that ISB primarily looks for: clarity of thought, leadership, effective communication, team orientation, learning orientation, industry knowledge, problem-solving skills, and interpersonal skills.
Finally, articulate how your professional goals align with ISB’s mission and how you envision making a positive impact within the ISB community and as a potential alumni. By showcasing your vision, alignment, and passion, you can present a persuasive essay that resonates with the AdCom and positions you favorably for the ISB MBA. Lastly, keep in mind that this question in particular may be discussed during the interview, so having a solid response is critical.
We hope our analysis of the questions will assist you in crafting compelling answers.
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