After the GMAT, writing the admissions essays is one of the most daunting tasks. For those of us who are not born writers, just to get started on the essays can be tough. While I researched most of the top MBA schools for close to two years, I eventually ended up applying only to INSEAD. Through this post, I hope to share with you the specific steps I took to get started on my essays for INSEAD.
Keep a diary for admissions essays: I got this tip from a HBS video I watched online when I first started my research and it helped me capture all those fleeting thoughts I had throughout the day. Copy the admissions essay questions into your diary/notebook/Word document.
Reflect often and reflect deeply: Think about what you would say to a good friend/favorite sibling/significant other over coffee in response to the question. Take them out for coffee if it helps. Think/talk about where would you like to be in 5 years? What makes you interesting? What makes you a leader? This may make you slightly uncomfortable as it will gradually become a collection of your most personal and deep reflections about yourself, your abilities, your leadership theories, fears and what you would like to learn at MBA school.
Think stories: Anecdotes from your childhood, high school or undergrad. Stories from work/personal situations that convey something about you and relate to questions.
Observe yourself from a third person perspective in those stories—what did you do or didn’t do? What did that tell you about yourself and how does it make you a better leader to know what you know now? What else will you need to learn to become even better?
Write in bullets if it helps: After a few days/weeks, you should have enough material to start writing in bullets a first draft of each essay. You may find yourself spinning out an entire essay in the first sitting for some essays. For others you may have to go back to reflecting and capturing new thoughts again, which is alright as well.
The essay process becomes much easier once you have something on paper that you can discuss with friends and family, especially those that have gone through the MBA admissions process themselves. The self-reflection process will undoubtedly be extremely useful once you do embark on your MBA. Good luck!
Sweeny Chhabra, Forté Fellow
MBA 2013, INSEAD