April 29, 2016

Indian School of Business: 2016-17 Essay Analysis

India’s Indian School of Business has released its essay questions for the new admissions season, as well as its deadlines: October 15, 2016 for its Cycle or round 1 and January 15, 2017 for its Cycle or round 2. Its essays represent a partial departure from its 2015-2016 essay set:

Essay 1 If we were to admit just one more candidate to the Postgraduate Programme (PGP) at the ISB, why should it be you? (400 words max)

Last year, this essay was phrased similarly but steered applicants to discuss their differentiation in terms of “(only one) achievement in your personal/professional life that you are most proud of.” Perhaps realizing the straitjacket that wording imposed (many applicants will have multiple differentiators), this year ISB has wisely allowed you to decide how you can add color or distinctiveness to their class. Given the 400-word limit, you probably won’t be able to do justice to more than 3 or 4 differentiators, so be strategic: discuss a range, such as from your professional (e.g., industry, function, career pace/impact), community (e.g., social impact), and/or personal (hobbies, family challenges) lives. Of course, your greatest differentiator may well be so distinctive that it will warrant all 400 words. That’s fine.

Essay 2 Describe your your short and long term career plans. How does the PGP fit in with those? (300 words max)

Last year, this essay prompt was ISB’s Essay 3. Alas, ISB has dropped its multiple-choice prompt, “Describe a (only one) defining moment in your personal / professional life when you had to make a risky decision” or “Describe a (only one) situation in your personal / professional life when you had to interact with people from diverse backgrounds.” Too bad: 900 total words (versus 1,200 last year) hardly seems sufficient to learn about a candidate in depth and sends the unfortunate signal either that ISB’s admission department is understaffed or that it’s more comfortable choosing India’s future leaders through more superficial metrics. Anyway, your task here is unambiguous: state your goals (plural: both short and long-term) as concretely as you can and demonstrate how deeply you have researched all of the ISB resources that will help you to achieve them.

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. (200 words max)

As it did last year, ISB’s optional essay allows you to discuss anything (i.e., not only extenuating circumstances) *provided* that it could significantly impact your application. This is a high bar, so don’t use this essay to talk about your greatest professional accomplishment unless you also explain briefly why you believe it’s essential to share this accomplishment with ISB.

ISB’s general advice for its essay set is worth repeating: “Please note: Amongst other things, your responses will be evaluated for depth of analysis and the unique perspective you bring to the issue.” Good luck.