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ISB Essays Analysis for 2017- 2018

Posted on May 24, 2016
ISB essay analysis 2017 2018

So you’ve checked out the ISB application portal, and noted down the essay questions.
You’re now sitting with your fingers hovering over the keyboard ( or pen hovering over paper, if you’re old-fashioned that way 🙂 )
You stare at the blank page and the minutes tick on..and you’re thinking, what now??
Here’s where we come in! Last year, our analysis was the most viewed essay analysis of the ISB essays. This year, we bring to you yet another authoritative and comprehensive analysis!
In this post, we will show you a clear and effective structure you can use for your ISB essays, so that you can present the best version of yourself to the AdCom.
Read on for our analysis and break-down of each ISB essay of the 2017-2018 admission season!


Watch this video and learn how to write your ISB essays



ISB Essay 1:

If we were to admit just One more candidate to the Postgraduate Programme (PGP) at the ISB, why should it be you?
Word Limit : 500 words


What ISB really wants:

Imagine your closest competitor in the applicant pool. Give him/her a name and flesh out the details.
So you have done your undergrad from NIT? Your competitor has gone to IIT!
You have a GPA of 8? He has 9!
You have a GMAT of 720, you say? Well, he has a 730!
Basically, this person is roughly in the same league as you, but scores better than you on all data points.
So why should ISB pick you?
This question is what you need to answer through this essay.

How you should answer this:

We recommend the P-E-B ( Pitch – Example – Benefit ) as an effective approach to answering this question.
( Is there another approach? Sure, this question leaves a lot of room for flexibility. If you can think of a different approach, let us know in the comments section 🙂 )

1. Pitch:

Think about it – ISB has your grades, your GMAT score, your resume, and all other sundry details in other parts of your application.
So, what is the one unique thing that you want to tell them which will tip the scales in your favor?
If you have heard any of Steve Job’s speeches, this is the “one more thing moment”. This is the time in his speeches, when after talking about all the cool features, at the very end, he gives out yet another killer feature to wow the audience. Or take this analogy: If you had an hour long interview and after it got over, just before leaving, you turned around and said “One more thing” – what would it be?
Make your pitch stick in the reader’s mind. Read the below examples-
“I am very hardworking and meticulous in what I do. I never give up and always have a “never say die” attitude. I also work very well in teams, and can coordinate with people from diverse backgrounds.”
“I am like the “Wolf” in Pulp Fiction. I like to solve problems. Throw anything at me, and you have the man who can get you the answer”.
We don’t know about you, but if we were the Ad-Com, we’d want the person behind the second pitch! 🙂
There are two takeaways we want to point out to you from this example –
a. Say little, and say it well
Do not crowd too many ‘good qualities’ into your pitch. The minute you put down too many traits, the impact and power of each one gets diluted.
b. Be creative and original
Do not write a cookie-cutter essay that anybody else could have written instead of you. Bring your original voice into your essay!

2. Example:

As in any B-school essay, you need to substantiate the claim you have made with examples. Here is where you do it.
Do not try and fit in too many examples – use either one or two.
Whether you use one example or two, make sure you use the STAR structure.
The STAR structure essentially breaks down any story into 4 parts:

S -> Situation

T -> Task

A -> Action

R -> Results
#1 Situation:
What was the background to the problem? What was the enormity of the issue? Why did you come in? What did it mean to you? Make sure you give the reader enough background. This is like the first few scenes in a movie in which every character is described. This is to ensure you drive home the point about WHY it was so important for you.
#2 Task:
Explain clearly the task you had at hand. This could either be an explicit job role or something you assumed without being told. In either case you need to ensure you explain what is it that you were trying to achieve.It is important that you give a clear picture of WHY you chose to do that set of actions. What was the thought process behind it? Give them a glimpse of who you are.
#3 Action:
What did you do? Did you face any resistance? Did you have to change your plans midcourse? What was the biggest challenge that you DID NOT anticipate? A lot of writers spend almost 90% of the essay talking about what they did. Here is where you have to be careful. You need to be crisp and clear. Don’t get into too many details.
#4 Result:
What was achieved because of this? Did people save money? Did it help a particular client? Did you get a promotion or a reward or excellent ratings? Don’t repeat what is already mentioned in the “Achievements” section of your application form. Just touch upon the impact it made to the organization and to you. Be poetic and not prosaic.


Now that you have established the quality that you think is rare and valuable to ISB, tell them how you will put it to use at ISB. For example, if your pitch is that you are very resilient and competitive, how will these drive you to perform at ISB? Don’t be wishy-washy and vague…Get specific and tell the AdCom why you belong at ISB!
For instance:
“Having proved my mettle at an early stage in my career my confidence grew by leaps and bounds. I believe that this early display of leadership (‘early display of leadership’ is the pitch) sets me apart and makes me a worthy member of ISB’s student pool. I am confident that I can add significant value to ISB by taking the lead in the activities of the ‘Women in Business’ Club.”
“Having developed the ability to strive for personal change and improvement (‘constant personal evolution’ is the pitch), I believe I will be better placed as a leader to drive disruptive change in order to steer organizations in the right direction. I bring to ISB this commitment to constantly shape a better life for myself and others, and I hope to put it to use by mentoring my peers in the Senior Executive Club”
Want to see these tips in action? Read a sample essay answer that we’ve written!


ISB Essay 2:

Describe your short and long term career plans. How does the PGP fit in with those?
Word Limit : 300 words

What ISB really wants:

In one word – Goal-clarity!
ISB wants to know why B-school makes sense for your career.
They want to know whether you know what you’re getting into.
And..They want to know whether you are getting into it for the right reasons.

How you should answer this:

The Start (100 words):

Clearly state your post MBA short-term and long-term plans. Don’t use obscure statements such as “get into general management” or “want a leadership position”. That is code for “I have no clue what I want to do but want to surely boss around a lot of people”.
However, note that its ok to be relatively vague about your long-term goal. With jobs getting created and destroyed every year, it is not very feasible to guess accurately what you will be doing 10 years down the line 🙂
After that you need to talk about why are you the best person to get there. Here is where you talk about where you currently are in your career. What you have learned at work (not too technical) and what makes you ready to take the leap to your future goals.

The Middle (100 words):

Next, you need to talk about the opportunities to grow. Someone from a technical background might want to understand the business side of things to get a fuller context. Someone from an operational perspective might want to grow into a role that involves more people management. Someone who is an analyst might want a more client-facing role by becoming a consultant.
For every job there is some growth, or some career “next steps” that are possible. If you are in a role that has no such career progression then either you are not thinking hard or you don’t need an MBA.
Note here: Avoid references to how you hate your job or how your manager is a tyrant. Anything negative would go against you. Focus on the positives. Talk about how you are eager to take up opportunities that will help you grow in life. Show them the ambition, not the frustration.
Now talk about the 2 or 3 absolute “must haves” for you to get into that role. It could be the brand credentials of a top MBA for consulting. It could be the general management aspect of looking at things for someone in a finance career stream. It could be the wider perspective your teammates offer,that might make you a well-rounded Product Manager. It could be all of these.

The End (100 words):

Here is where you need to talk about why an MBA from ISB is going to help you get those skills. By this point, if your writing is clear and crisp, it should be a no-brainer on WHY you should be doing an MBA. It should focus on WHY ISB.
Steer clear of generic stuff. You don’t want an MBA because it has “world class infrastructure” and “renowned faculty”. That is stuff even IIPM could claim!
Do research. Talk to current students/alumni. Attend info sessions. Read up as much as you can about the school. If possible make a trip to the ISB campus! In short – pull out all the stops to ensure you understand why ISB is a good fit. Don’t do this to impress the Admission Committee.
Do this because your decision is going to cost you the next 1 year, and over 30+ lakhs (including lost opportunity costs). You better be sure 🙂
Want to see these tips in action? Read a sample essay answer that we’ve written!


ISB Essay 3:

Please use this space to provide any other information not covered elsewhere in the application that could significantly impact your candidature at ISB.
Note: It is not necessary for you to write this essay. Please use this space only if there is something really significant that you would like us to know.
Word Limit : 200 words

What ISB really wants:

With just two mandatory essays, the folks at ISB understand that you may not be able to convey everything that is relevant to your application. Hence the optional essay!
ISB is not really looking for anything different in this essay – they’re just seeking more information to help them make up their mind about you!

How you should answer this:

There are 3 categories of people who would benefit from this:
If you applied previously then this essay is MANDATORY for you to write. It should focus just on what has changed in your application. You should talk about what else has happened in this time (GMAT score improvement or taking up a new project). You should also write about the additional responsibilities at work that you might have undertaken.
If you received feedback on your previous application, then do mention a couple of things that you have done to understand it better. Maybe you spent time talking to some alumni from that school. Maybe you took up a course in Coursera to know more about your chosen post-MBA career.
Don’t focus on the minor details and get too tactical. Think of the bigger picture – what were their main concerns last time and how can you best address them in this essay.
Applicants with a break in education or employment:
If you got poor grades in college or have a gap in employment then this is the best place to address it. Tell them when the break happened and the reasons for it.
A big danger sign is when people start writing a sob story about how they fell ill or how fate played a treacherous game. Steer clear of that version. Tell them the reason but quickly shift gears to talk about how the experience has made you stronger/better and why ISB shouldn’t really worry about this gap.
Also a month’s break in employment or slipping beyond the top 25% of your class is not that big a deal so don’t bring the spotlight to things that you think area problem, that ISB may not consider a problem.
Applicants who want to talk about another Wow Factor:
Remember the other 800-pound gorilla has a higher GMAT, better work-experience and in general – better pedigree than you have. So here is where you show ISB that “you are who you are”and that you are better in many other ways.
You can talk about your family background or something unique about something that could NOT have been covered in the earlier essays. We see a lot of applicants using this to talk about one more project at work or one more detail that they could not fit in anywhere else. Wrong approach.
Instead tell them about your dream, your passions – about what has made you who you are today. After reading the essay, the person should say “Wow! I didn’t know that”.
But do remember – The question says, write this only if there is something really significant you want them to know. This is not the place for minor accomplishments. Use this only if you have something really strong to say that you couldn’t say elsewhere!
We have written this so anyone applying for ISB this year has a clear idea of what to write. Hope it helps you write a winning set of essays.
We realize that those who are new to MBA Applications writing might find this word limits tricky. Either you speak your mind at length and risk rambling; or you come to the point too quickly and lose the soul of your story. It’s a tight-rope walk all the way! Don’t lose heart..It takes some effort, but you can do it, as others have done before you!!

So here are the deadlines:
ISB Round 1 deadline: October 15, 2017

ISB Round 2 deadline is January 15, 2018
If you have any feedback, do let us know in the comments section below. We would also encourage you to share it with others who might benefit from this.

If you want us to have a look at your ISB essays or discuss whether your stories make sense then let us know by filling the form below. 


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