Final Draft – Full Set of INSEAD Essays 1-4
This former client has consented to the publication of his/her MBA application material.
INSEAD MBA Essay Question #1:
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. (approximately 500 words)
Growing up, an only child in a family of entrepreneurs, immersed in COUNTRY’s nature, my mother often pointed out my self-reliance and confidence – two characteristics that have helped me develop a strong internal compass, a sense of what I want to achieve as well as the drive to follow through on my objectives.
I’ve always been one for setting objectives. I believe that natural inclination allowed me to challenge myself socially, culturally and professionally. For example, having set a goal to work internationally, I took positions outside my comfort zone in both the Arctic and COUNTRY. At 18, I dreamed of travelling the world, in recent years I pursued opportunities to do so, visiting ten countries on three continents in the last two years. A more everyday example might mean taking the initiative to improve my excel skills by adapting a spreadsheet to reduce the time my colleagues spend recording budget information every week. In my personal life I set myself a goal of learning to balance on a tightrope and juggle.
I was greatly influenced by my father, a very even-keeled man I respect, who encouraged me to be more competitive with myself than with others. While some look for affirmation externally, I tend to look internally – using personal goals as a means of one-upping myself or topping my personal best. Rather than competing with others, I’m much more interested in a slow and steady race against myself: most recently I’ve been training to run my first marathon after completing two half-marathons last year.
Is it possible to be overly efficient? In theory the answer should be no, but in practice I’ve found that my penchant for productivity has been problematic on occasion. While it is a great strength when working on my own, when leading a team, I’ve learned to redefine the question of ‘what constitutes efficiency’. When volunteering with the Boy Scouts or while at work I’ve often run up against the following scenario: I’m trying to lead a group to consensus. The discussion is sidetracked by a team member. My impulse is to quickly move the conversation back on topic…but I’ve learned that what might seem like ‘lost time’ is actually necessary for group cohesion. Allowing individuals to contribute their opinions is important to their own self-esteem and promotes out-of-the-box thinking. I’m constantly trying to improve on my ability to facilitate individuals expressing their ideas while simultaneously moving the group towards our end goal.
I feel that my involvement in the Boy Scouts organization, my travels and work in remote areas have instilled in me an extremely adaptive and creative approach to problem solving. At COMPANY 1 my creativity was recognized by management when I developed new tools to simplify the regular tasks my team performs. This included the introduction of free drafting software to easily estimate surface area of plan and shorten our proposal work from one or two hours down to 15 minutes.
INSEAD MBA Essay Question #2:
Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (approximately 400 words)
Picture it: Situated in the Arctic wilderness, at the Canadian Armed Forces’ relay station. Our protagonist doesn’t suspect that over the course of his sojourn: The client site supervisor will quit. He will battle days and days of fog which dash any possibility of moving equipment. Renegade shipping companies will lose critical samples. 300 metric tons of water will be discovered frozen solid. But the final coup de grace will come when the on-site team is attacked by a polar bear with an appetite.
Is this a) a trailer for the next Hollywood blockbuster or b) the most complex project I’ve ever encountered?
You guessed b? That’s correct! An end to the string of disasters came when I identified a common thread among the issues we encountered: Bad communication. I realized that good communication would be critical to preventing problems and low morale. During the project, I manned the phone from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm when I concluded my daily call with the client. On-site, I led daily stand-up meetings ensuring the team shared what they were working on. As a result everyone had an understanding of the project’s progression.
Clear communication and dedication from every team member, resulted in the project coming in on time and helped us secure three additional contracts with the same client! My boss was over the moon to have a new partnership with CLIENT, one of the biggest service providers in the Canadian Arctic!
John, the Boy Scout, was a complicated case. He rebelled against authority and had difficulty controlling his emotions. Recently he had insulted other teenagers and I felt that he no longer had a place in the troop. After much discussion, my team agreed to let him go – a decision that engendered tension among the troop leaders. One troop leader reluctantly agreed with us but harbored resentment because he felt he might calm down as time went on.
In retrospect I regret not exploring alternative solutions and feel that I pressured my colleague to go along with what I and the other leaders wanted. Later on I spoke with other troop leaders who had been in similar situations and learned of resources we could have leveraged. It was too late and I realize now that instead of remaining cool-headed I had allowed myself to make a decision under emotional duress. I continue to work on separating my feelings from my decision making both as a troop leader and in my professional life.
INSEAD MBA Essay Question #3:
Tell us about an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way. (approximately 300 words)
Having traveled over three continents – I knew that while I could sometimes stop a stranger on the street and ask for directions, as a tourist I was more or less on my own when navigating a new city. With that in mind I made my way to India where I discovered an extremely welcoming culture where helping a stranger was not only normal, it was perceived as a duty.
It was 8:00 pm when I found myself alone in the Mumbai Train station. In my pocket I had the address of an Indian student who was to host me in his home. I figured out that I needed to transfer trains three times to get to my destination 40 km away in New Mumbai. However all the signs were in a foreign language – making the situation confusing and stressful.
I had not spent three minutes in front of the map when I heard ‘Are you alright?’. A student from Mumbai University kindly showed me the way and brought me to the correct platform, without asking for anything in return. At the next station another man came to my rescue. In fact people spontaneously offered help throughout my stay in Mumbai. I was taken aback because nothing remotely similar had ever happened to me while abroad.
Several days later I was invited by an Indian friend to have dinner with his family and I took the opportunity to bring up how surprised I was at the warm welcome I’d received in India. He quoted the phrase, Atithi Devo Bhav or The guest is equivalent to God, a mantra from Hindu scripture. I think this speaks to a wonderful philosophy that I would never have imagined had I not traveled to India to discover a generous and welcoming people.
INSEAD MBA Essay Question #4:
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? (approximately 300 words)
While at UNIVERSITY I was involved in several clubs and activities. I was a student government member at large for the ASSOCIATION and co-President of my department’s delegation at the REGIONAL COMPETITION for two years.
However, the organization I’ve been most deeply involved with has been the Boy Scouts. At the age of eight I began with the organization as a Scout and continue to actively work with the Scouts to this day. I’ve been in a leadership role since YEAR, leading the guide troop, which consists of a group of 12 to 14 year-old boys with a group size varying from 12 to 16.
With weekly meetings, camping weekends, various fund raising endeavors, leadership training and other social activities, the Scout movement has been personally fulfilling. I estimate that in each of the three years I’ve led a Scout troop I’ve dedicated more than 600 hours of my time.
Throughout my years with the Scouts I’ve had the chance to work with many other NGOs: organizing blood drives, collecting food for the needy, cleaning the river shore and many other social engagements.
Leading a scout troop has been a way to give back to the community and the movement which taught me so much about teamwork, individual accountability and self-discipline. As a leader it’s been my privilege to pass along these core values to the next generation of Scouts. After all, how many 13 years old boys can claim they survived for 24 hours in the woods with nothing but a few matches, a rope and a tarp? Or that they slept outside in igloos when it was -30 degrees Celsius?