INSEAD MBA Admissions: 3 Application Tips From the AdCom

Yaron Dahan, Expert Consultant and our Director of Business Development, travelled to INSEAD’s Fontainebleau campus and sat down with Virginie Fougea, Global Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, to learn more about the admissions process and application topics. 

This interview covers:

Jump to Related Articles for more video content on INSEAD, including additional videos from Virginie.

INSEAD’s Focus on Diversity 

When determining the makeup of an INSEAD MBA class, Virginie Fougea and the admissions team aim to create as diverse of a class as possible. To them, diversity encompasses much more than a vast range of passports. “It’s about the culture of the person, it’s about the languages spoken at home, about gender, about diversity in backgrounds, professional backgrounds as well as studies,” Ms. Fougea says. It’s all about creating the perfect environment for breeding ample and varied ideas. 

Diversity as a source of learning and enrichment: We are free from any dominant culture or prevalent dogma; we are open to, and respectful of, other views; we learn through the exchange of ideas and experiences.

– INSEAD’s First Founding Value

INSEAD prides itself on hosting students of more than 90 nationalities at its Fontainebleau  campus, generating a unique culture of its own where MBA students can genuinely learn about diversity first hand. The shared experience of “being a foreigner” is comforting to many and allows for students to bond easily. 

Additionally, only about 20% of the class are native English speakers; hence, there is a vast array of accents which serves as an audible indicator of the many cultures and backgrounds represented within the program. This unique linguistic characteristic is upheld by the school’s language requirement. In order to gain a spot in the INSEAD MBA class, one must not only prove fluency in English, but also be able to speak a second language at “at least a practical level”. These two languages are considered students’ “Entry languages”; during completion of the MBA program, students are expected to gain at least a basic knowledge of a third language, which is known as their “Exit language”.

That being said, English is the language of instruction for the core MBA courses and therefore, as a part of INSEAD’s admissions criteria, the school requires non-native speakers to demonstrate mastery of the language. Applicants can prove English fluency in one of a few ways:

With so much tangible diversity, it’s easy to see why INSEAD often includes a question about culture on its application. Ideas are shared from a multitude of perspectives, classmates are from all over the world, and discussions occur with different cultural norms. It’s important for the admissions committee to know how open-minded and sensitive to different cultures any given applicant is. 

But of course, INSEAD doesn’t just look for the most diverse; it also seeks the best and brightest. 

MBA Admissions Criteria at INSEAD

Like all prestigious MBA programs, excellence and achievements are essential to winning acceptance at INSEAD. However, there is a balance between the weight of the application criteria, and the admissions committee genuinely takes a holistic approach. 

For example, if an applicant had stellar undergraduate grades, it is acceptable to come in with a standardized test score (GMAT or GRE) that is below average. On the other hand, if the academic capacity is not clearly demonstrated by a strong GPA, that person would have to focus more on their test scores. 

So, How Important is the GMAT for INSEAD MBA Admissions?

Ms. Fougea explains that the GMAT is just one data point. It’s important to show academic capacity, but it will never be the sole factor in analyzing someone’s profile or denying a candidate acceptance. 

Statistically, INSEAD has a much broader middle range than other top MBA programs. This is perhaps due to the fact that they don’t have to manage their average score in the same way as US schools, where the competition for rankings is fierce.

Interestingly, there is no minimum GMAT score for the INSEAD MBA application. The admissions team does not want to discourage anyone from applying who might be a fit for the school. Individuals are encouraged to apply, even if their score is 40, 50, or 60 points below the average. Applying with a GMAT score somewhere around 600 makes sense, so long as the application is balanced. 

3 Tips for Prospective Applicants

So if you’re ready to apply to INSEAD’s MBA program, consider these three tips from the admissions Director herself: