Essay 1: Describe with examples the most important personal quality that you possess which significantly enhances your prospects of being successful as a leader?
(400 words max)
Before approaching an MBA application essay question, it is important to understand the school’s objective behind asking that question. ISB’s first essay prompt for this year is to identify that unique “most important” personal quality that you bring to the myriad diverse qualities that the cohort cumulatively will have.
The first obvious challenge is to identify that “one” quality that you would want to highlight. Identifying the quality will just be the first step though! The key challenge is that the quality will need to be backed by multiple credible and recent examples. For the reader at ISB, who will be going through several essays, the examples should be strong enough to develop an instant connect. The best way to establish the identified quality is to “show” instead of to “say” that you are awesome at something. It will be important, therefore, to take the Situation-Task-Action-Result framework to drive home the point.
Examples of your identified personal qualities showcased/practised at work or during college will help connect them with how you will leverage these qualities during and post ISB. In an interview scenario, it opens a window for a constructive discussion leading to different leadership styles and the style you will follow. Knowing some leaders at work or outside and their qualities which influence you the most will also help.
The next challenge is to understand the difference as well as the overlap between personal and professional qualities. There is often a fine line between what is inherent and what’s acquired – and a personal quality can be either of them. The key is to ask if the quality has a “global applicability” versus its importance being limited to specific contexts. Being “entrepreneurial” will mean you are someone who takes initiatives, don’t mind taking risks and demonstrate high level of ownership. Interestingly, your quality of being entrepreneurial has global applicability, and doesn’t necessarily require you to have worked with a start-up or having started your own venture. At the same time, there are certain skills that are personal, but expected. Do not fall into the trap of showing how “committed” or “hardworking” you are. These are hygiene factors – you better be committed and hardworking if you are to make it to ISB and survive the rigorous year once you secure an admit.
Not always will you need to explicitly contextualize the content of Essay 1 with Essay 2 but remember that your effort and communication should add up. The reader will appreciate and find you a more suitable candidate if they are able to mentally add up how your qualities will help you achieve your goals and career plans – especially coming in handy as you take up leadership roles in future.
Surely, a lot to attend to through just 400 words, but good time, planning and effort can help you put together a strong essay.
ISB PGP Sample Essay Structure – Essay 1
- Identify and isolate the quality that you would like to present
- Present concrete and diverse examples of where you demonstrated the quality
- Establish how the quality enhances your prospects of being a successful leader
Essay 2: What are your short term and long-term career goals? How will Post Graduate
Program at ISB assist you in achieving your goals? (400 words max)
The career goal essay has consistently found place in the ISB application, especially since unlike most international programs of similar repute, ISB provides complete placement support. This remains one of the primary reasons why ISB is very keen to understand your short-term goals.
As you start writing your goals, it will be important to be very specific about your plans immediately post MBA and not get too engrossed in detailing your plans for the “future and beyond”. While the world and the economy are likely to change significantly in the coming years, you better have a strong and specific reason to have invested your time, money and effort in the ISB MBA at this point in your career. It helps to keep your short-term goals consistent with your past. The recruiter is going to value your experience until now; hence do not underplay it. The idea is to demonstrate your intention of effectively leveraging the experience and exposure you have gained until now. You may want to move to a different function or industry – that is justifiable. Focus on the Transferable Skills that will equip you to perform in your new role.
If you recognize that the role/industry you want to enter is a bit too competitive, it may be a good idea to also present a Plan B. But both your Plan A and Plan B must be consistent with your long-term plans. All that you will do in the next 4-5 years should not be considered the ultimate destination, but rather, a path leading towards a larger purpose.
While presenting your long-term goals, do not get into specific designations, but focus on presenting the direction you would want your career to take. Define your long-term plans to include the foreseeable future – let’s say 8-10 years from now. Your plans may very well evolve with time and experience, but to begin with, a base plan must be in place.
A major part of your essay should also go into establishing the quality, context and highlights of your past experience. If you have undertaken any major industry or function shifts, cite what you learnt at each stage, alongside demonstrating that you achieved seamless transitions.
Conclude by validating the indispensable need for an MBA and why you think ISB precisely resonates with your aspirations. Remember not to go overboard with ‘why ISB’, since it would not earn you any brownie points just because you listed several clubs, electives and faculty at ISB. The essay is more about you and how ISB is an ideal choice in your scheme of things. Keep it short and sweet.
ISB PGP Sample Essay Structure – Essay 2
- Briefly (about 100 words) establish your career progression to date and the skills that have been developed
- Present your short-term and long-term goals and the specifics that may be required in the context of your profile
- Talk about the knowledge and skill gaps that exist, which may be critical to your future plans
- Finally, talk about how the ISB PGP can help you get there
Sanjay Dhingra is the Chief Mentor & Managing Partner at ISBmantra & Admit Square Consulting. An ISB PGP alumnus himself, previously he was an Admission Officer at ISB where he reviewed, interviewed, and admitted students to the ISB PGP, Early Entry Option (EEO), YLP & PGPPro programs.
Essay Analysis written with inputs from AM Kannan, former Director of Admissions at ISB, Vikram Sigh, former Admissions Manager at ISB and Prashant Tibrewal, Founder of ISBmantra.
As the only consulting company with Former ISB Admissions Officers on Board, ISBmantra boasts a success rate of over 80% with its ISB applicants. You may send your details to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free profile evaluation.