INSEAD Quietly Revamps MBA Apps

INSEADpixIn the midst of an admissions season, INSEAD is quietly revamping the way candidates apply for admission into its one-year MBA program in Fontainebleu, France, and Singapore. The changes—released on the school’s website this week—were done without notice or fanfare.

The school is reducing the word counts for its essays by 400 words to 2,300, eliminating one required essay and consolidating several others. The result is a slightly more streamlined application for candidates who want to apply to the institution that bills itself “the business school for the world.”

“It’s not a revolution like some of the U.S. schools which have made dramatic changes in recent years,” said Caroline Diarte Edwards, former head of INSEAD admissions and now a director of Fortuna Admissions, an MBA consulting firm. “They wanted to make some effort to reduce the word count overall because the INSEAD application is pretty laborious and longer than any of the other top schools. But they didn’t want to do anything too drastic because at the end of the day what they care about is getting to know their candidates as well as possible.”


The new application goes into effect immediately, though it is likely that applicants who have already worked on the old forms can also submit them for the next deadline. INSEAD, which has two intakes annually, has a Round 3 application deadline coming up on March 5th for its incoming class in September intake and a Round 1 deadline on the 21st for incoming students in January of 2015.

Of the prestige schools, INSEAD takes in the largest single number of MBAs in any given year. The latest class numbers 1,024, roughly 100 more than the annual intake at Harvard Business School. The school’s one-year MBA program makes INSEAD a place where a lot of consulting analysts go to punch their MBA ticket before returning to their firms. The school says that nearly four out of every ten students with consulting backgrounds go back to their employers after receiving their INSEAD degrees.

It’s the major reason why INSEAD’s consulting placements are so unusually high. Some 51 of the 108 graduates who went to McKinsey & Co. in 2012 from INSEAD actually were people who returned to their company. Some 24 of the 60 who went off to Boston Consulting Group had worked for BCG. And 16 of the 52 who joined Bain & Co. did a return trip, along with 15 of the 24 who were hired by Booz & Co. Those four consulting firms were the biggest employers of the Class of 2012.


INSEAD is also one of the few schools that declines to disclose how many people apply to the school’s MBA program or how many candidates it admits, largely because the school’s acceptance rate is well above peer schools. Insiders say the school accepts more than 30% of its applicants—more than European rival London Business School, and significantly higher than the most selective U.S. schools. Stanford accepts only 8% of its applicants, while Harvard accepts about 12%.

“They don’t publish admissions data and that is because they don’t want their numbers to be compared to the top U.S. schools,” says Edwards, who served as director of admissions, marketing and financial aid at INSEAD from 2005 until April 2012. “They don’t want people to look at the data and say, ‘Oh, it’s not as selective as Harvard, Stanford or Wharton.’ It’s a result of having quite a different applicant pool.” More than half the applicants at the school, she added, apply only to INSEAD. “They are very self-selecting and they don’t necessarily want to go to Harvard, Stanford or London.”

Some prospective applicants to INSEAD are put off by a requirement that they speak two languages—with English being one of them—and that graduates must learn a third language by commencement. “It means a lot of people don’t apply because they can’t meet the language requirement,” says Edwards.

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