ISB – Essays
Before I begin analyzing the essays, I must mention a few things that I find extremely commendable as an ISB applicant :
- The simplicity of the process, and the extra mile that ISB goes in helping out the applicants. We have the Director of Admissions answering basic queries on a Pagalguy thread. And you can rest assured of a response for any of your queries to ISB, sometimes within the same day. The interfacing is superb, and completely on par, if not better, with other global schools.
- The feedback provided to all the unsuccessful applicants.
- Allowing the use of previous set of recommendations ! (for re-applicants)
- You can contact a student matching your profile. ISB gave me the contact within a day, although the student is yet to respond to my queries !
Only glitch in their otherwise impressive application process is the removal of ‘Kolkata’ as an interview location for this year. Does it mean that the batch doesn’t have a sizeable representation from eastern India, and will they treat it as a diversity factor if an applicant comes from this corner of the country ? 🙂
Moving on to the essays, there is nothing usual about them. No why MBA and why ISB questions. I think that out of modesty, they didnt want all the applicants to mention the FT rank at some point or the other in their essays, which would have been a possible case had they asked a why ISB question.
Essay 1 – Please give three reasons why ISB should admit you into the class of 2010. These reasons should ideally differentiate you from your competition.
As far as I can remember, ISB’s first essay has always been a variation of this theme – how will you add to the diversity, whats unique about you etc. The question just gets more pointed here, you need to first state why the hell should ISB admit you, and you can keep adding to the diversity later !
Its a brilliant topic for an essay, and speaks blatantly about the high competition levels that exist among the Indian applicants, in India or abroad. I think this question stems from ISB receiving a lot of solid applications over the last few years, but choosing only a select few due to the competition and the requirement for differentiation in the mix of the batch.
So to make things easier, for ISB as well as for the applicant, give them 3 reasons which make you unique. 3 reasons why you can beat the competition.
It can be an extremely high GMAT score (or an extremely low one !), your nature of work, your nature at work, diversity factor, an extra curricular activity that only you’ve had the privilege to do, your background, your academics, anything else under the Sun which differentiates you. The important point to note is that the reasons should in some way ‘add value’ to your profile, and make your case stronger. Justify how your reasons add value to your candidature, and differentiates you at the same time.
Also, identify your competition correctly.
Essay 2 :You are contesting the election to be the President of the ISB Student Body. Write a speech you will deliver to the student body on why they should elect you as the President?
Ok. So you’ve made it to ISB based on your first essay. Now you need to show how the reasons you came up with as a distinctive factor for getting admitted will stand you in good stead once you are in the thick of things. Every other person in the batch now has something unique about him/her, how do you now plan to be the best ? More importantly, how do you plan to convey your strengths to the batch in such a way that they get entirely convinced to elect you as the President ? Remember, its a speech, so you can’t begin listing your strengths one after the other. Obama doesn’t do that; he chooses to present a vision and inspire people, instead of reading out his resume. Thats the key to this essay as well.
I think this question is as tough as it can get. Especially because it follows an essay where you’ve already highlighted your key attributes. To build up from where you left in the last essay, and show how these skills or achievements are ‘relevant’ in a batch of talented people can never be easy. In my opinion, this essay should be the reason for a lot of applicants to chicken out, and can hence be your armour if you choose to answer it passionately and hit it right.
Essay 3 : CASE : You have been appointed to head the team to build a dam across the River Zumba. Success in this project is critical for your company and would earn you a promotion. Failure would mean that your company would be bankrupt and will take along with it, its investors and its employees. Building a dam across the river would result in deforestation of a portion of the rainforests and would mean relocation of the tribals and destabilization of wild life at Zumba. There is resistance from environmental groups against your project. You are meeting the head of the resistance movement in one hour wherein you would have to explain your decision. Describe what you would do and why? (You will be evaluated on the creativity and practicality of your solution).
Great going. You made it to ISB based on your first essay, you either became the President or came close to it via your second essay, and now’s the time for you to employ your skills where it really matters – in your work. You have the above situation. To begin with, you can be in the middle of the same situation in almost any kind of work and not necessarily travel to River Zumba for the experience. This is your scenario – You have the responsibility of a critical project at your workplace, and success means exemplary recognition, and failure means you’ve drowned yourself along with the others on the ship. Things get murkier because there’s a group of people who won’t let you work properly on the project, let alone succeed. This is a tough situation, and can hit you anytime in your work. River Zumba and all just makes it a bit more exotic.
How good are you at dealing with challenges ? Didn’t you want to do an MBA because you loved challenges, and were good at surpassing them ? So this is your chance to prove yourself. And this is not an exercise in creative writing, but in creative thinking and maintaining the balance with its practicality. Of course, its all theoretical, but see the kind of progression these essays on the whole have made – from an applicant, to a student, to an employee post ISB. For this reason alone, I think the ISB adcom needs to be congratulated for coming up with such powerful themes. As an applicant, one needs to explore and introspect in depth why he/she wants to do an MBA and whether he fits into this programme, ‘how’ this fit will translate into value for you and for ISB while you are there, and how would one react to a challenging situation at work where the stakes are extremely high.
Maybe I’m reading more into the essay topics than meant originally. Having said that, these essays are not going to be easy. Especially the speech, I think.
I won’t be beginning them until first week of August. By then, I hope to have a final list of my schools ready as well !
For ISB applicants, would you elect me as President if both of us made it to ISB ? 🙂 Would you yourself like to be elected ? Would you rather be better off in not contesting any elections ? Forget the essays, and tell me the truth 🙂
Update on 8th Sept 08 – ISB Application submitted