Four Things INSEAD Looks For In Applicants

The year of COVID at INSEAD

Four Things INSEAD Looks For In Applicants

For years, INSEAD has ranked first in P&Q’s Top International MBA Programs ranking for years.

And for good reason too. Nearly 51% of INSEAD’s Class of 2020 had GMAT scores between 710 and 750. Additionally, 92% of INSEAD graduates are employed within 3 months of graduation with an average salary of $105,900.

Getting into the B-school isn’t easy. But what kind of applicant does INSEAD look for? Cindy Tokumitsu of Accepted recently broke down INSEAD’s four admission criteria and what it takes to get accepted into the B-school.


The first admission standard that INSEAD admissions officers look for in applicants is an “ability to contribute to the INSEAD experience during and after the program.”

This criterion, according to Tokumitsu, is specifically based on the school’s culture of interaction.

“INSEAD seeks students who bring something distinctive and meaningful to the program – it’s not just what you’ve done and plan to do – but what you have to say about it, what you’ve learned from it, how it informs your perspective, and how you may grow in the future – and your willingness to put that learning and growth at the service of your classmates and others,” Tokumitsu writes.


The second criterion is international motivation, which INSEAD describes as “adaptability and flexibility in multicultural environments.”

Tokumitsu says international motivation boils down to having: “perceptive insights” about international business, adaptability across cultures, and global goals.

“Your insights should show that you are thoughtful, synthesize your experience and distill meaning from it, and are open to learning as you grow professionally,” Tokumitsu writes.

Tokumitsu recommends that applicants with international work experience “present anecdotes and examples from it in your essays, make sure to portray your cultural adaptability and flexibility, and include insight you gained from this experience.”

Lastly, you’ll want to clearly elaborate on your global goals.

“In the goals discussion, of course mention the global aspect, but go one step further, e.g., not just ‘become CIO of global pharma company’ but add details about what that global aspect really entails for pharma, what are the specific global-related challenges and/or opportunities in the future, etc. Show awareness of global trends for your target industry, function, etc.,” Tokumitsu writes.


The third criterion, academic capacity, relates your GMAT/GRE score and university degree.

To evaluate your academic capacity, Tokumitsu shares a simple process: break down your exam score and undergraduate record. Then take a step back and see what both say about your academic capacity.

“This evaluation process may simply clarify that everything is fine on the academic front and you can focus your application efforts into other topics and considerations. Or, it may reveal that, while you are qualified for INSEAD academically, there is room to strengthen the impression of academic capacity,” Tokumitsu writes. “In that case, look for opportunities in the essays, resume, and (fingers-crossed) interview to fill in that gap through the examples, anecdotes, and details you include.”


The last criterion is leadership potential, which related to your work experience and the quality of your achievements.

To convey leadership potential, Tokumitsu recommends presenting your experiences, discussing elements of leadership and mentioning a leader who you look up.

When presenting experiences, you’ll want to highlight your leadership roles.

“In presenting these experiences, keep ‘quality’ on the radar screen and strive to weave in aspects of the experience that include this dimension,” Tokumitsu writes.

Whether it’s through your essay, resume, or interview, be sure to also discuss why certain experiences highlight your leadership potential.

“For example, you might have maturely handled an ethical challenge that didn’t necessarily involve leadership, but still showed qualities, such as courage, moral compass, willingness to prioritize values, etc., that one wants in a leader,” Tukumitsu writes.

Lastly, it can be helpful to mention, in your essay or interview, a leader who you admire.

“It may be someone you know at work, or a figure out in ‘the world,’” Tokumitsu writes. “No need to go on at length about such exemplars – but devoting a couple of lines in an essay or a sentence or two in an interview to such a mention is a great way to show leadership potential: you are thinking about leadership, you resourcefully gain insight from prevailing circumstances and apply it to your own situation, and you have the grace to elevate another.”

Sources: Accepted, P&Q, P&Q, INSEAD, INSEAD

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