As we get closer to the application deadline, I hope you have done some introspection to collect insights about yourself, your goals and your plan of action for achieving them. Today, I will share some thoughts about how you can present that information in a cogent and convincing manner. One of the most powerful tools available to narrate your story is the application essay, something we give a tremendous amount of attention to while reviewing an application.

Those who have already started the application process would have noticed that the form captures data on one’s academic record, work experience, awards and achievements, etc. Essays give you an opportunity to provide context for that raw data, highlight the most important information, and build a convincing argument as to why you should be part of the ISB PGP.

To start off, the most important thing to keep in mind while writing your essays is to answer the questions asked. Often, applicants only partially answer a question or even miss the point entirely! Think about it: we are asking you for specific information because we need it to evaluate you. If you don’t answer a question to the point, you are giving us incomplete or irrelevant information and adversely affecting the evaluation of your candidacy.

Next, let us take a look at each of the essay topics and I’ll give you some insight into what we are looking for in each one:

Essay #1: Attitude, skills and knowledge differentiate people. Elaborate with two examples on how you would differentiate yourself from other applicants to the PGP. (300 words max)

The question is straightforward. Give us two (not one, not three) examples that you feel will help you stand out from the crowd. The motivation for asking is this: We get a large number of applications from several promising candidates every year. We want to select the best mix of them so that the class as a whole is highly accomplished, experienced and diverse, since that leads to the most effective peer group learning and sharing. So use this essay to highlight your best qualities/strengths that you feel differentiates you from the rest. If you are struggling with this task, here are some ideas on how you can identify your differentiators.

Essay #2: How does the ISB PGP tie-in with your career goals? (300 words max)

We want to know what your career goals are and what is holding you back from achieving those goals currently. Think about short term, medium term and long term goals. We also want to know how you intend to utilize the learning, experiences, resources, etc that ISB can provide you to achieve those goals. If there are specific facets of the programme that most appeal to you, elaborate on them.

Essay #3: Pick the most significant achievement (professional or personal) you have had and elaborate on the key learning you took away from it. (300 words max)

I have emphasized this point many times already, but it is worth repeating again. To us, more important than your successes, awards or achievements is the learning you took away from your challenges. In this essay, pick one achievement of yours that had a huge impact on any or all of your team, your company, your client, your society, etc. This achievement should also have influenced your personal development. Give us context about the situation and the actions you took, briefly talk about the results it had and then elaborate on what you learned from it. How has this learning influenced your thoughts and actions since then?

Essay #4 (Optional): Please provide additional information, if any, that will improve your chances of being considered by ISB. (300 words max)

If there is something significant that you want to communicate to the Admissions Committee and it hasn’t been covered anywhere else in the application, this is right place to do it. Some ways to use this space well would be to provide context for any gaps in education or employment, talk about interesting causes or projects that you have taken up, discuss unique life experiences, address any specific concerns, etc. There are many other things that you can write about here, so please use your best judgement on how to go about this. Note that you should not feel obligated to use this space just because it is available – if you write something here that is neither informative nor impressive, you are only diluting the rest of your application.

Essay #5 (for Re-applicants): How has your profile changed from the last time that you applied to the ISB? (300 words max)

Once again, this is a straightforward question. We want to know how you have improved your candidature since our previous interaction. One year is a long time, and we hope to see a significant self-development effort on your part in that time, with commensurate results. If it has been more than a year since you last applied, then we expect to see even more self-improvement in that period.

So, while all 5 questions are simple, one important thing to note here is that you have limited space and the Admissions Committee has limited time, so please ensure that you provide only necessary and sufficient information to make your case.

Finally, before submitting your application, ensure that you have done a thorough spell check and grammar check to correct any errors that may have crept in. Applicants are most certainly evaluated on their communication skills and can be penalised heavily for carelessness or shoddy work. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to you if you are aspiring to be a business leader in a global setting! My advice to you is to start the application process early, write your essays well, spend sufficient time reviewing and improving them, and finally submit a great application.

All the best!