ISB MBA Essays 2020-21 – Tips & Analysis

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ISB Application for their MBA program (PGP) is now live with the R1 deadline on 20 September 2020. ISB has changed its first prompt. There has been a trend with global MBA applications to focus on getting to know your motivations and values that drive you, and Essay 1 is a chance for you to show, rather than just talk about your values.

Applications for 2020 are expected to be more competitive as admits from this year have been deferred, leaving lesser seats for 2021. We suggest applying in R1 if ISB is indeed your top choice.

This year’s ISB essay topics are:

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)

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)

There is also a reapplicant essay, which is to be only written by candidates reapplying this year.

ISB Essay 1 Tips & Analysis

Straight Speak – Tell us about your ONE strongest characteristic that has helped you achieve success in your endeavours, and give examples from your experiences thus far to show how this impact the way you work.

Of course, the first thing you need to do is think long and hard about that ONE value/quality/strength that you leverage consistently to achieve your goals/targets. This can be perseverance, empathy, innovation, entrepreneurial, hustle/resourcefulness, an inherent drive to create impact, or leadership. We suggest you start by shortlisting a few values and strengths you possess, and achievements you have had in your career. Next, we recommend analysing and introspecting about your achievements and finding a value that runs across them. This is what you should speak about, and this exercise would have already helped you shortlist the examples you include in this essay.

Structure – Use 2 or 3 of your strongest achievements, where you have solved the biggest problem or made the largest impact, and dedicate at least 300 words to it. Speak about each example using the Situation – Task – Action – Result (STAR) framework. To make the essay read well, and leave a more lasting impact, we also suggest including a crisp introduction and a conclusion reiterating how this value has helped you become an effective leader.

Remember, the main objective of this essay is to gauge what value-add will you bring to the ISB community that will enhance both in-class and outside classroom experience for your classmates.

ISB Essay 2 Tips & Analysis

Straight Speak – Does the candidate have a clear vision of what they want to achieve in their career? How does an MBA fit in that plan? How will ISB be able to help the candidate achieve his goals and will ISB be able to find employment?

ISB has always placed emphasis on the career goals essay, and even the interviews focus on this aspect. ISB prides itself in giving you all the support for you to achieve you goals and further your career.

Whenever we start working with MBA applicants, we hold long discussions with them about their goals, the path they want to take to achieve them and why do these goals excite them. This is invaluable in making your goals clear and actionable. Short-term goals should be as specific as they can be, as it shows clarity, and should be related to your career thus far in some way. If I was in hospitality, and my goals are investment banking, it wouldn’t go down too well with the evaluator. Also, your goals should ideally be such that an MBA is imperative to achieve them.

When it comes to long-term goals, these can be 5, 10 or 20 years down the line, it doesn’t really matter. They should just make sense looking to your career thus far, your short-term goals and your overall profile.

Now, our next task is to show how our career thus far has instilled in us knowledge and skills that are needed to achieve these goals. This is a good avenue to bring out your strengths and should be supported through experiences from your career, concisely. If you’re planning to switch industries, speak about your soft-skills and transferrable skills that might be applicable. This part of the essay is especially important as it allows you to highlight your strengths and achievements.

Next, we have to show the need for an MBA by citing skills, knowledge or exposure that is missing from your profile. This will be the perfect Segway into a pointed “Why ISB” paragraph to show that you’re excited by what ISB give you and it is indeed a top-choice for you.

Suggested structure –

Short term goals. What you plan to achieve. Long term goals and why. How short-term goals will help you in achieving long term goals.

Career thus far, showcasing skills, knowledge, experience, and achievements relevant for goals.

Highlighting gaps in profile, thus requiring you to gain an MBA.

Why ISB is perfect for you.


Yup, that’s that. These essays are 400 words each, which we believe is sufficient to bring out most “spikes” in your profile. If you’d like to discuss your ISB MBA Application further, you can always register for a FREE ISB MBA Admission Session with our experts, who are ISB Alums, and have been part of the ISB admissions process. Click here to sign-up.

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