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The INSEAD MBA Application & Admissions Decision Process

At Menlo Coaching, we’re fans of INSEAD, one of the top European MBA programs. If you are considering applying to this prestigious and highly ranked institution, you may be in the process of navigating the INSEAD MBA application: What are INSEAD’s preferred GMAT scores? How can I make the most of INSEAD’s essay requirements? 

In this article, we will use the experience of Virginie Fougea, INSEAD’s global director of admissions and financial aid, to help you understand the admissions process, what kind of applicants INSEAD wants, how best to prepare your application for your one-year MBA in Fontainebleau or one of INSEAD’s other campuses.

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The MBA Admissions Decision Process at INSEAD

It is important to note that, when you begin the INSEAD MBA application process, there is an admissions officer (not an algorithm) who tracks the entire process. They can answer any questions you have, discuss concerns you might harbor about certain portions of the application, and accommodate you if you have a shorter time frame and need an early decision.

After that, the decisions process beings. The admissions officers have a complete, A to Z review of all submitted materials: essays, career resume, video interviews, and assorted other submitted materials so that anything you have deemed important for INSEAD to know is understood. They then hold a pre-selection committee where the admissions officers decide whether or not to invite you for an in-person interview with an alumnus, usually in their home country. 

INSEAD MBA Interviews

INSEAD uses MBA alumni instead of admissions officers during the interviewing process. As a result, the interviewee can ask questions about the program and expect more detailed answers that draw upon the alumnus’ lived experience: what did the program meant to them, why did they decide to go to INSEAD, and what kind of career were they able to have as a result? In turn, the alumni interviewer gains an insight into whether you would be a good fit for the INSEAD program from the perspective of a fellow classmate– do you interact in a way that fits with INSEAD’s academic and student culture?

Alumni interviewers then send interview reports, after which your INSEAD application is reviewed by two more members of the admissions office. Those documents end up being about two pages long in total. By the end of the process, there are three comprehensive accounts of the application ready for the decision committee—made up of admissions officers, alumni, and faculty—to vote on their final selection. 

Beyond the expected “accepted” and “denied” decisions, INSEAD might also waitlist an applicant or give out a conditional acceptance where they believe, for instance, that the person would make for a great INSEAD MBA with another year of life or work experience.

How is the Final Decision Made?

Ms. Fougea was willing to give us some insight into how she evaluates the essays and what INSEAD looks for in general. 

It is typical for her to give a quick glance at the academic part of the application to check and see that they meet the INSEAD MBA admissions requirements:

Remember that those are minimum qualifications. The average INSEAD GMAT score percentile is in the middle 80s so many applicants will want to improve their scores as much as possible. You can check out our article on studying for the GMAT for more on how to raise your GMAT score. 

She then says that, rather than look at the CV or Resume, she’ll look at your first Motivation Essay.

For the 2019-2020 school year, the INSEAD Motivation Essay 1 prompt reads: “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 when necessary (approx. 500 words).” For Virginie, the personality of the applicant is an essential part of the decision, sometimes more so than other qualifications. She says that she will supplement this first essay with video interviews in order to try and get a holistic sense of the applicant. It is only then that she looks at the job description, CV, and other academic materials in order to make sure they are a good fit. 

As you can see, a successful INSEAD MBA application is one that makes an excellent impression in the personal essays. It is important to be open and honest in your INSEAD essay as well as having as much information about the school as possible. If there is anything that Virginie Fougea insists upon, it’s that an applicant be as prepared and engaging as possible in their INSEAD essays. She recommends that you do not attempt to hide aspects of your personality that might allow the admissions committee to gain a more holistic view of who you are as a person.

See also: INSEAD MBA Application & Tips from the Adcom