ISB Application Essay Analysis 2018- 2019
So you googled for the term “ISB Essay Analysis” or some variant of that phrase to land up on this page.
And chances are you have taken the GMAT, and feel that you have a shot at applying to the ISB this year.
However, you have no idea how to go about writing an MBA application essay. Or maybe you tried but are frustrated staring a blank Word document – not knowing how to proceed further. Afterall, you have never written essays in a long time – let alone essays that expect you to introspect into the deepest corners of your heart and mind!
If all of this looks overwhelming then worry not! You have come to the right place.
Over the last several years our ISB Essay Analyses have helped 1000s of students write their application essays (honestly – we don’t know the exact number, this is more of a guesstimate based on the feedback and comments we have received).
In this article we will take you behind the scenes to analyze what exactly ISB is looking for through the essays and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to tackle the application essays this year.
So grab your cup of coffee. This article will take you about 10 minutes to read if you choose not to process anything during this read, and slightly longer if you chose to take notes and internalize the information.
We will be touching upon the following sections:
1. Important dates and rounds for ISB
2 a. Essay 1 Analysis
2 b. Essay 2 Analysis
3. What does ISB look for in applicants
4. How does ISB evaluate the essays?
5. The process of writing: how to impress the ISB AdCom
Let us get started right away!
1. Important dates and rounds for ISB
Okay so let us look at the dates released this year:
So one surprise that ISB sprung was shifting the application deadlines by a month. Old timers might remember that the September deadline was followed about 4-5 years back. So why has ISB pulled the dates back?
There are 2 possible reasons:
a. Till last year the R2 results would be out in March and the school started in April – giving the students no time to wind up things before starting their year.
b. The students who got the R1 admits had ample time to prepare for the program by reading up on various topics – this would not be a stark advantage this year.
Having said so, is applying in the 1st round advantageous?
Well as per the ISB official website, here are a few reasons why you should be doing so:
1. Full tuition fee waivers will be offered only to Cycle 1 applicants
2. 50% of all merit and need-based waivers will be offered to Cycle 1 applicants
But we can tell you from experience that this is more of a push from the marketing team to ensure that people are applying to ISB as the first school of choice. Apart from the 2 reasons cited above.
We would also recommend applying in R1 if possible. But if for whatever reasons it is not – then do apply in R2. It is not like everyone applying in R2 will be rejected. At the end of the day, they will shortlist all the best applications that they receive each year.
2. The ISB Application Essays for 2018-19 (for Class of 2019)
This year too, as it has done traditionally, ISB has stuck to two themes:
a. Tell us how you are different from others
b. Tell us why you want the ISB PGP
On the face of it, the premise seems pretty simple but let us dig deep into what ISB is asking us through the 2 questions:
3. What does ISB look for in applicants
We have done a pretty detailed analysis of the profile in the Class of 2018 over here:
ISB Class Profile overview
This article should give you an idea of where your statistics are vis-a-vis a “typical” ISB student.
Now, as per the ISB website, there are 3 things that the ISB uses as “selection criteria”:
Let us look at it in detail:
1) Academic Credentials
This would be your 12th standard grades, graduation grades, post graduation and certification scores and of course, the all important: GMAT/GRE score. Here is our analysis of the GMAT and GRE scores needed for ISB:
> 5 Things You Should Know About The GRE Scores for ISB
> The Secret Behind the GMAT Score for ISB
2) Leadership Potential
To quote the ISB site: “Applicants are evaluated on the basis of the impact they have made in their past professional and personal life.”
What this essentially means is this: tell us something that was a big deal. Either at work or outside of it.
This should be quantifiable – you should be able to say what you achieved by this. Typically this can be measured by out of turn promotions, and/or awards that attest your achievement.
3) Personal Attributes
To quote the site: “At ISB, we would look for versatile and well rounded individuals who can contribute to the society in positive and meaningful ways.”
Essentially this means: We don’t want self-absorbed people who cannot look beyond their own personal gains. We want people who can be team players because almost all the activities at ISB are organized by the students.
Also, given that ISB follows the “case study” methodology – it is important to have a diverse opinion in the classroom so that the quality of participation is higher. This is good news for people who bring a different perspective.
Here are some of the “myths” that stop people with lower GMAT scores and higher work experience from applying.
4. What does ISB look for in your essays.
The question isn’t so straight forward. For this we need to dissect and understand in which category YOU fall into.
So typically ISB has the following 4 types of applicants:
Let us understand each of the types and see where you fit in. As you read the description try to mentally fit yourself into 1 of the 4 categories. If you are not able to do so yourself or are confused then you can ask a friend (or even reach out to us) for help. The idea is you HAVE TO BE one of the four types.
a. High Achievers:
So you have been a topper / ranker / any-term-that-says-you’re-a-high-achiever all of your life. You typically went to one of the IITs and have ended up with an obscenely high GMAT score. Moreover, you work for an employer that most people would die (or kill) for.
You have a very high chance of getting in! I don’t need to say this to you.
Just a word of caution:
You need to ensure you navigate through this application process carefully. You don’t want to be misunderstood as either a 800-pound alpha male gorilla who suffers from low EQ or an applicant who is aiming for the top 10 US B-Schools but wants ISB on “stand by” mode.
b. Diversity Candidates
So, not many people can claim of having the demographic profile you enjoy. You typically work for a very underrepresented industry. Say, you are an NIFT graduate working in the merchandising department of Levi Strauss. Or you are a doctor who practices in the Vidarbha region. Or how about an Army major who has served on the Siachen glacier. Foreign applicants fall in this pool too.
ISB would love to have you in the class to improve its diversity.
There is only one thing for you to be worried about:
Most people in this category end up not having great GMAT scores – which is fine as long as it is above 600 (read why here!). So, you need to help address concerns about your ability to manage the coursework. The second part of the concern would be – no one in your industry NEEDs an MBA so what would be your “why”. If you can articulate clearly on how an MBA is going to help you then you should pretty much nail the application.
Note: Though women applicants are favored – you won’t be in this group if you are from the typical pre-MBA industries of IT, Finance etc.
c. Poor Profiles
Typically you come with one of 3 issues in your application:
(i) You have a gap in your academic record – typically patchy with “breaks”
(ii) Your experience level is on the lower side – again with some gaps
(iii) Your GMAT score is about 50-point lower than your peer group’s.
In some cases, you may have more than one issue to tackle.
ISB is really worried about taking you in the Class of 2019 because you just don’t seem exciting enough for them to take you in.
If retaking the GMAT is out of question, then our recommendation is to focus on the unique traits and characteristics in your personality. Write kicka$$ essays and pray you get an interview call. And if you do get an interview call – dazzle the interview panel with your wit, personality, and humor. You get the drift? So you need to really outshine in the other departments!
d. Demographically Disadvantaged
There is a very high chance you are probably in this category. You have a decent GMAT score – 680-720 types. You have decent acads (top 25%) from a decent college (think: DCE, RVCE, PEC etc). You work in a very traditional industry (IT, Finance, Operations) with an employer who recruits heavily from campuses (TCS, Wipro, Infosys, PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, Reliance, Tata).
There is nothing wrong with your profile but ISB is just confused on how to evaluate you. There are just too many of your ilk applying this year. With the startup scene slowing down, and tech & manufacturing sector not looking very rosy in the face of automation – there are just a LOT of applicants this year who have similar profiles as yours.
So what do you do:
Here are 3 key things you need to do:
Differentiate! Differentiate! Differentiate!
The biggest mistake people do is they try to “fit in”. They will say the same things that everyone else is saying and pick same post-MBA goals (consulting). So the essays read the same “I was working on this tough project, the client was demanding, and my boss had quit – so I stepped up to the plate, worked late hours, and won laurels for completing the project on time.”
Here is a simple exercise. Create an imaginary character. Let’s call him Amit.
Amit has a profile “similar” to yours but just a little better.
So, if you have 3 years working in Infosys, Amit has 4 years experience working in Microsoft.
If you have graduated from BITS Pilani then Amit has graduated from IIT-Delhi.
If you have a 720 on the GMAT then Amit has a 740 on it.
You get the picture? Everything like you – but just a little better.
So, the challenge you have now is: how do I convince ISB that I am better than “Amit”.
Note: For women applicants, just replace Amit with Anjali 🙂
5. How to write to impress the ISB Adcom?
Okay, we know the heading sounds interesting but the answer is quite contrary to what you might expect:
Do not attempt to impress the ISB AdCom!!
Not only will they be able to see through that you are not being yourself – you will also do a great disservice to yourself by sounding similar to the other 1000s of applicants!
“Be yourself” can be a pretty daunting task. Not only do you need to (a) figure out who you are (b) also, be that person!
You can take a printout and post it where you will be sitting to write the essays.
That’s about it folks!
We hope that this blog has given you a fair idea and an outline on how to go about with your ISB MBA application process. This blog is a good starting point but in the end, it’s the execution that matters!
The key to drafting a successful ISB application essay lies in your ability to clearly communicate your thoughts in detail yet without exceeding the word limit.
If you have a great GMAT score with an excellent profile and are confident about your way ahead then you should be able to manage the application journey independently.
However, we also realize that people who don’t have a stellar profile and are unfamiliar with writing detailed essays might find it difficult to come up with an amazing essay highlighting their story and adhering to the word limit. You might run the risk of speaking your mind at length or getting to the point too quickly and losing the soul of your story. It’s a tightrope walk all the way!
Don’t lose heart!
For an important application like this, many applicants take professional help from application consultants in order to increase their chances of getting into ISB.
If you have any feedback, do let us know in the comments section below. We will personally try to answer all your queries.
If you are applying to ISB & found this blog useful then we would encourage you to share it with others who might benefit from this.