Kellogg | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.15
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Indian Dreamer
GRE 331, GPA 8.5/10
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Ernst & Young
GMAT 600 (hopeful estimate), GPA 3.86
Kellogg | Mr. Innovator
GRE 300, GPA 3.75
London Business School | Ms. Private Equity Angel
GMAT 660, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
Harvard | Ms. Developing Markets
GMAT 780, GPA 3.63
Yale | Ms. Biotech
GMAT 740, GPA 3.29
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Marine Executive Officer
GRE 322, GPA 3.28
Kellogg | Mr. Engineer Volunteer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Ms. Global Empowerment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.66
Chicago Booth | Mr. Bank AVP
GRE 322, GPA 3.22
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Stanford GSB | Mr. Infantry Officer
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Apparel Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Armenian Geneticist
GRE 331, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 1st Gen Grad
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1
Ross | Mr. Travelpreneur
GMAT 730, GPA 2.68
London Business School | Ms. Numbers
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
IU Kelley | Mr. Fortune 500
GMAT N/A, GPA 2.2
N U Singapore | Mr. Naval Officer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.2
NYU Stern | Ms. Entertainment Strategist
GMAT Have not taken, GPA 2.92
INSEAD | Ms. Spaniard Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 8.5/10.00
NYU Stern | Mr. Army Prop Trader
GRE 313, GPA 2.31
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Ms. Healthtech Venture
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5

INSEAD’s Trickiest MBA Essay Question

What are the most challenging essay questions business schools ask applicants? That’s a question we’ve been answering on a regular basis now in five parts of a six-part series. We’ve tackled the most difficult questions from Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg, MIT and now INSEAD. Stacy Blackman, founder of the MBA admissions consulting firm that bears her name, is picking out what she considers to be the most challenging and then providing advice for how to approach each essay.

What constitutes a highly challenging essay? They may force you to be incredibly introspective, surprisingly creative or perhaps highly succinct. Some of the essays are not as straightforward as they seem, others are very straightforward, but it is tempting to stray off topic. Whatever the reason, we are here to help, with some tips taken straight from the Stacy Blackman Consulting series of school specific essay guides. Here’s the last of the series.

Most Challenging MBA Essay Question #6

INSEAD:

Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary.

Overview of the question

Self-awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses is an important aspect of any MBA application.  While you have likely encountered a version of this question in the context of a job interview process, this essay treatment requires you to clearly identify genuine strengths along with your areas of development.

The ability to discuss your weaknesses candidly is a strength in itself. In general, MBA programs are seeking smart, dedicated and self-aware students who are able to see themselves clearly and improve and adapt when necessary. Your own ability to understand the areas you might be able to improve is a great way to demonstrate this ability to self-assess.

Honesty is the best policy and you should be honest about your genuine areas for improvement along with the personal qualities you are proud of. Often your greatest strength is the flipside of a frustrating weakness. For example, you are an analytical and thorough worker who is detail oriented, and yet have a difficulty seeing the big picture in a strategic way.

Avoid insincere weaknesses that are clearly strengths disguised as weaknesses. Statements like: “my driven nature sometimes leads others to dislike working with me because I am always the strongest member of the team” certainly exhibits a weakness in interpersonal skills. The candidate may have intended communicate a strong work ethic and willingness to take on additional responsibility with such a “weakness” but the attempt can easily backfire. Overall, honesty and self-awareness will be noted and appreciated in the process whatever your strengths or weaknesses may be.

If you have difficulty knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, it can help to read through past performance reviews at work, think about projects where you were particularly successful and speak with your colleagues and friends about what their perception. Often your own desire and motivation to involve yourself in a particular task can reveal the areas where you feel strong and the areas of improvement.