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ISB – Essays

July 22, 2008
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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

13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2008 5:59 pm

    Excellent Analysis ahembeea!!! I can see that you have started putting in a lot of effort in your apps. Great going.

    I am bookmarking this link. Would come in handy when I start working on my app. Thanks for this.

    And all the best for your apps!!!

  2. July 22, 2008 7:05 pm

    Good analysis…

    ISB is known for coming with very innovative essay topics. Previous year it was “A Million dollars or Knighthood, what would you choose and why”. This year it is the third essay.

  3. ahembeea permalink*
    July 22, 2008 7:34 pm

    Teacher – thx. Blogrolled you as well.

    Leoneidas – Definitely different topics. I remember this essay the last year, had a tough time! At least you had a choice here, but this time the last essay leaves the full space open for you to get creative.

  4. Vik permalink
    July 22, 2008 8:57 pm

    i must say i find the essay questions (specifically the third one) to be quite foolish.

    what could isb possibly gain about a candidate by asking a question like that? if they’re going for the “creative” question, why not give a completely blank slate like chicago and nyu do.

    the first question gives a little room, albeit with very little framework, to set out your goals, timelines, intended contributions, etc; although im sure that many applicants will overlook many aspects of the “why mba” question. fault to them i suppose.

    the second question almost seems repetitive of the first. if you’re going to describe WHY you should be at isb – i would think there is much overlap with WHY you should be the isb student president.

    of course there’s lots of room for interpretation and it does put quite a bit of interpretation in the hands of the applicant, but i find their line of questions to be somewhat odd.

  5. ahembeea permalink*
    July 23, 2008 12:46 pm

    Vik – they are definitely odd, but I wouldn’t call them foolish. At least we’ll be compelled to write essays dedicated only to ISB, and can’t do a copy paste work from our essays for other schools.
    The first question is to stand out from the applicant pool, the second question is to stand out from the selected students. The answers may be similar, but the line of thinking should be different.

  6. July 23, 2008 4:21 pm

    brilliant write-up Ahembeea! Great work.

    I agree that the questions are good. They are creative questions and pertain to what ISB is seeking, namely attitude, not aptitude. They have aptitude plenty from the Indian IT scene, they want to see people behind the stats…. great thinking

    The third question is a stumper, though….. still don’t know how to begin.

  7. August 1, 2008 5:01 pm

    WWHHYY the F**K do you think you will be elected as the prsident.
    I would be the next ISB president.

  8. As_desperate_as_anyone_else permalink
    August 4, 2008 2:06 pm

    Extremely good analysis of the MBA essays. Especially like the comment about Obama – I think most of us would make the mistake of selling “just” ourselves rather than selling a vision/dream and then hinting at why you are the best one to achieve it. And I agree this is the best chance to score. The rest of the 2 essays you can be sure are something that everyone is going to score at. Besides, the best thing is that the President essay does not really need you to have “achieved something in the past”!!

    I would like to make a couple of comments though:
    I attended a ISB session in Singapore and the facilitators made it clear that ISB has discontinued giving feedback to unsuccessful applicants.
    The Zumba river essay is a repeat and I am at my wits end thinking about a “creative” solution. I think there is only one.

  9. ahembeea permalink*
    August 4, 2008 5:48 pm

    As_Desperate – I didn’t know that its a repeat. The solution, as long as its creative, cannot be limited to just one. What do you think ?

  10. August 9, 2008 3:58 pm


    Try its the best essay writing service and they will write the essays for you.

    I am trying them and believe me they are pretty good. I will post their first essay here (last years). I got the call last year because of their essays

    May be this time I can crack the interview as well.


  11. buggedbyessays permalink
    August 25, 2008 1:17 am

    great post ahembeea….

    attended the ISB info session in Mumbai and they seemed to be glued to one thing – “diversity”….i was paying more attention to how great the sea looked from 30th floor of world trade tower….

    for those who believe in fate and omens, i had my bit of good luck during the session..just asked the guy sitting next to me regarding his GMAT scores and he boasted an AWA of “6.1”. when i informed him that there is no way he could go beyond 6 he said it’s out 10 and insisted on a bet…that’s how my campaign started on a winning note..hope the good luck continues…touchwood 😀

    talking of ISB, unfortunately i belong to the bucket overflowing with applicants – male engineer IT 4 years..add to that a receding(others tell me it’s reced”ed” but I am still in a state of denial) hairline and I seem to be the most unwanted species for ISB adcom

    For all the good work that you are doing ahembeea you have my vote for the president of the GSB…

    c u at ISB

  12. Tamanna permalink
    October 23, 2008 12:59 am

    Great analysis…. I took help in essay writing from…. and they suggested me pretty innovative ways to answer these three questions… the reviewers are pretty high profile people… do check this out.. I think it could be useful…


  13. Saurabh permalink
    November 8, 2008 11:18 pm

    Actually have not used apphelp, but used for my ISB R1 Application. They delivered excellent stuff and I got Interview call. What impressed me most was the empathy, knowledge and absolute command of their chief editor Anshu, who is an ISB Alum. These guys are really doing a great job!!

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