ISB has announced the essay topics for 2018 intake (class of 2019) applications. Unlike previous years, there are only two essays (even for re-applicants). However, the underlying tenet remains the same, i.e. ‘Why you’ and ‘Why PGP (thereby ISB)’. Here’s our take on the essays and the themes which you should cover.
Essay 1: If we were to admit just one more candidate to the Postgraduate Programme (PGP) at the ISB, why should it be you? (500 words max)
This is the classic ‘Why you’ essay wherein ISB gives you ample opportunities to demonstrate your skills and achievements. This essay is similar to the ones asked in previous years with different use of words. For example,
· 2013: Please make a strong case to differentiate yourself from an exceptional set of applicants applying for PGP
· 2012: If we were to admit one more student to the class of 2012, make a compelling argument as to why that student should be you?
· 2011: Give 3 reasons as to why you should be selected to the class of 2011. These reasons should ideally differentiate you from the applicant pool and should be backed with some data.
However, this year there are an additional 100 words you may write. You could choose one or more of the options below:
· Outline another attribute / achievement with a solid example
· Mention anything else which will add to your candidature at ISB (i.e. the optional essay of previous years)
· If you are a re-applicant, you could highlight what has changed in your profile since the last time you applied
ISB will also try to assess the rationale behind your choice to utilize the additional words. Remember, you DO NOT have to use all the 500 words. Try to be as concise as you can. After all, with every additional word, you are staking a claim of the admission committee’s time. Be judicious!
In general, there should be two underlying themes in your essay:
· Your achievements highlighting your merit and differentiation you bring to the table
· How would you contribute to the overall experience of your peers / to ISB as a school
Your ‘themes’ should be underpinned by concrete examples and the attributes highlighted in those. You should not mention more than 2-3 attributes so that you can articulate well within the world limit. These examples could be personal or professional, pick them based on overall impact. Also, remember that the areas covered in these essays complement other parts of your application.
Essay 2: Describe your short and long term career plans. How does the PGP fit in with those? (300 words max)
This is the classic ‘Why PGP’ essay and naturally ISB wants to know how it would enable you to reach your goals.
This essay should cover WHAT are your goals; HOW an MBA / PGP fits in the picture and WHY ISB is your choice.
You should start with your overall experience and the career plans in the short and long term. Make sure to articulate the linkage between your past and the future you envision for yourself, i.e. why you want a particular career path. Importantly, be specific about the industry or role you intend to target.
Then the focus should be on how a PGP from ISB fill the gaps you have. This is your opportunity to showcase the research you’ve conducted about ISB. Avoid focusing only on things such as world-class faculty, infrastructure, networking, etc. Instead, cover the specific clubs, events and centers of excellence which would help your achieve your goals.
Overall, your essays should have linkages between cause and effect and must flow seamlessly like a coherent story.
PGP Essay 2 Analysis
Describe your short and long term career plans. How does the PGP fit in with those? (300 Words Max)
Career goals always remain a crucial part of any MBA program that you apply to. While schools mostly focus on your goals immediately after the MBA, ISB asks you to discuss your long term plans as well. Do note that there is a difference between ‘plans’ and ‘goals’ (which we will come back to in the later part of this analysis).
In the short term, business schools are keen to know what you want to achieve immediately after the MBA. Provide specific details about the industry, function etc. of your dream role post MBA. Do not get into designations. You may very well be made the CTO of a company with 5 employees – but is that what you want? It helps to keep your short term goals consistent with your past. The recruiter is going to value your experience till now, so do not leave it behind. The idea is to build on the experience and exposure you have gained till now. You may want to move to a different function or industry – that’s all right. Focus on the Transferable Skills! You certainly don’t want to do the same things after MBA that you were doing before MBA, but it’s your transferable skills that will equip you to perform in your new role. If you realize that the role/industry you want to get into is a bit too competitive, it may be a good idea to also present a Plan B. But what’s most important is that your Plan A and Plan B should both be consistent with your long term plans. All that you do in the next 4-5 years is not an end in itself, but is directed towards a larger purpose after all.
Moving on to the ‘long term plans’ part of the essay, any MBA candidate worth his salt, would want to become the CEO (of an MNC or of his own company). It cannot be your ‘Plan’! It’s like saying, “I plan to become the Captain of the Indian cricket team”. You can plan (and therefore put in good effort) to play good cricket, and that may (or may not) lead to you becoming the captain of the team. Even in the professional context, you may always ‘plan’ to achieve certain expertise, broad results or professional milestones that may lead to you gaining a CXO position.
But what remains to be answered is how long is long term - 10 years? 15 years? 25 years? Practically, you have no clue what will happen in 15 years from now – the industries, businesses, roles and market dynamics may all undergo a drastic shift. It is therefore ideal to define your long term plans to the foreseeable future – let’s say 8-10 years from now. It’s pretty possible to plan for this period. Your plans may very well evolve, but it’s important to begin with a base plan in the first place.
Schools are more concerned about your short term plans, so do not commit too much space to the long term part of your essay. A major part should also go into establishing your past experience in the context of your career goals. And finally, conclude well establishing the need for an MBA and why you think ISB fits in perfectly. Again, do not go overboard with ‘why ISB’, since you are not going to be selected just because you are able to list all the clubs and electives and faculty at ISB. The essay is more about you and how ISB remains an interesting choice in your scheme of things. Make it short and sweet.