Friday, November 13, 2009

INSEAD's 4-step approach

I kid you not, this is what they look for (it is on their website and I'm pretty certain that if you want to attend or are currently a student, you have to have each of the 4 pieces of the puzzle):

Academic Capacity - GMAT & GPAs are a good indicator

Leadership Potential and Professional Experience - experiences in your college and career should highlight this aspect of your personality.

International Outlook - background, essays, experiences (living & working)

Ability to Contribute to the INSEAD Experience - this is either something you do or don't do. It is hard to suddenly come up with this trait and you'll know right away if you fit this.

So, while this blog is mainly for friends & family to follow along in my ride through INSEAD, feel free to ping me with questions on this topic if you're really interested in INSEAD. I will say that MOST business schools will look for almost all of the above criteria as well.

Info Session (a.k.a interest-solidification-session)

One of the things I LOVED about my research into INSEAD was how the marketing/info-sessions and the admissions process is separate.

That is to say - the person that travels the globe meeting prospective students and asking questions has NO influence in the admissions process.

Why is that good you ask? Why would you NOT want to meet, say, the Admissions Director? Well to be quite honest, it is because so many students get worried about how they "come off" and the first impressions they might be creating in front of the Admissions Committee that they, at times, become self-promotional (hoping that the AdCom remembers them come-application time) to ask direct, pertinent, and at times, difficult questions. This was true of all the info sessions I attended EXCEPT INSEAD's.

People were asking a whole spectrum of questions ranging from PC to Non-PC. The session included clips from YouTube (by current students & alumni) as well as a very candid view of the application and admissions process.

The informal-yet-formal feel of the meet-and-greet made it easier for potential candidates like myself to really feel the significance of the INSEAD experience.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


The GMATs were more of a pain that I want to admit. I took it once, cold, and did decently - mind you, I had to rush back to my apartment at 7:45AM to get my passport because the testing center would not accept my Driver's License as a valid form of ID (I probably should've read the directions better!)

After I tipped a cabbie $20 for getting to my apartment in Lincoln Park and back to Downtown in under 15 minutes (this includes me sprinting up 3 flights of stairs in relatively uncomfortable business attire) - I started the test, in probably the worst pre-testing frame-of-mind. But after that first experience I realized exactly what needed to be done to make the GMAT a friend in my MBA journey and not a mortal enemy standing between me and my goal...

My advice (and I actually have an email drafted with all these details so if you want more details please contact me) - is to simulate the test-taking conditions and take at least - AT LEAST - 5 FULL length tests on your own. You could also apply for a GMAT-test-prep course, but I did not have the flexibility in schedule, so I went DIY.

Think of preparing for the GMAT as training for the Marathon, except when runners tell you generally not to run the full 26.2 mi until the day of, I advise you to take SEVERAL FULL LENGTH tests. Runners tell you that the last 5 miles is adrenaline, autopilot, or self-preservation. With the GMAT, the "last 5 miles" can be the difference between a 680 and a 700 - you've finished a lot of questions and the CAT (Computer Adaptive Test) is getting ready to neatly tuck you into the score niche you belong in. Going into autopilot and/or sprinting requires a change in pace that I would not recommend. You want to feel how you will feel - completely drained - post-GMAT (even during practice tests so you know what you're up against). If nothing else, it just means that you have even MORE energy day-of the GMAT since you've already finished the figurative 26.2 miles a few times prior :)

In the end, the GMAT is strategy. Once you realize the mind-game that it is, you see much clearer - it is like one of those painted illusions... squint your eyes a little and it all makes sense. In this case you have to squint your whole life a little bit for a short period of time. I suggest 3 months of prep - this involves diagnostic tests, practice problems, and full length tests. There are several companies with GMAT prep and each book has at least 1 if not 3 full length tests. The practice material is also great.

I hope the visual analogies help (yes I'm a visual learner :)

Anyhow, that was my struggle with the GMAT. And a successful one at that. We're good friends now, although we may not write or call that often, we both know we've got each other's backs...

And I cannot forget to mention - it is always helpful to have a significant other of some sort helping you out ;) I know that it was especially difficult for me to stick through the self-imposed study schedule without the help of my better half... (she comes up more often in posts closer to the actual acceptance too - notice a theme? yep. teamwork=priceless ;)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

To Apply or Not to Apply

When I first started applying to business school, all my research seemed to come back to the "top" schools in USA - Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg/Booth, etc...

At no point did I even consider the obvious implications of the global trend in business to come to the obvious (yes over-stated/redundant use of obvious :) conclusion - What about non-US based Business Schools - what about International Business Schools like IMD, ESADE, and INSEAD?

I have my better half to thank for this eventual epiphany, which occurred over a Thai meal in her apartment in Hyde Park. She was quizzing me on topics for essay-writing and we were discussing our common international background - India, Thailand, USA - all in the last 27 years...

From that conversation onwards, I could not stop thinking/reading/researching INSEAD.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Business School, like many key decisions in your life requires significant thought and perspective.

Two obvious questions:
1. Part Time vs. Full Time
2. Local vs. International

Another thought:
3. What industries you're interested in pursuing your MBA in - if there's a specific school to which you want to apply to for a specific program that you know is the best-in-class. You need to have researched several schools and attended at least a couple of info sessions so you can meet-and-greet admissions officers, current students, and alumni. The culture of a school plays a huge part in your desire to go or not go there.

Of course, you must consider your preparedness in the process:
4. GMAT - is the score in the acceptable range for question #3

5. Essays - what are the various essay topics for your school and others you like. They publish this quite frequently an there are tons of blogs and wikis on what schools like, don't like, and additional tips. My advice on this is to remember, very sincerely, that if you try to WOW someone and they are reading 1000s of essays, there is a relatively high probability that they can notice the "try to" part. You have to be true to who you are, or your answers will not flow and you, upon re-reading after say a couple of days/weeks can sense the lack of genuineness.

6. Resume - generally speaking if b-school is in your future you need something that displays your ability to see the bigger picture. I'm not saying get involved in Save the World because it'll look good on your resume - I'm saying, you'll look back at your resume and realize, "Hey - a career in Business fits my future as well..." because that is what the AdCom needs to see...

Finally you have to ask yourself:
7. Is this the right time? This includes life - your commitments and obligations, because once you start this journey you have to invest 110% of yourself. If you cannot do so, then you may miss out on several benefits...

It took me a while to come to the place that I was, but the idea was to answer all the questions with honest answers - look inside and say, "Am I ready?" or "Am I just trying something new?" - both are valid points and sometimes when you are trying something new you end up opening the door to a challenge that changes who you are and what you are capable of.

Look before you leap, unless you're ready to leap into the unknown and go with the flow!