By The Glass At INSEAD: Finding The Right School For You

Every year, INSEAD hosts a big costume party called “The Dash.” It’s a great opportunity for students to dress up… or down! CREDIT: Carlos Duque

If you’re on this website, you’re probably trying to figure out which business schools you should apply to and how to get in. Chances are, you’ve been pouring over various rankings — The Economist, US NewsPoets&Quants. Perhaps you’ve even listened to a podcast or hit up Linkedin for 2nd and 3rd degree contacts who recently graduated from your target schools.

Some of you might apply to just two or three different programs; others will rack up double-digit applications. As an applicant, it’s easy to feel like a kid in a candy shop. Still, there are some big parameters that can help you narrow things down: do you want an urban or suburban campus, a large or small cohort, or a one or two-year program? At some point, you’ll buckle down and make a final list of schools.

Chris Poldoian at his first day at INSEAD CREDIT: Chris Poldoian


Here’s how I’d summarize the entire admissions process: you will melt your brain inside a GMAT prep-book; plumb your psyche for emotionally resonant topics for essays; submit a handful of applications; go through a gamut of interviews; and then pray to various gods. At the end, you’ll hopefully get a phone call from the adcom who will congratulate you on your acceptance.

Congratulations: the easy part is done! Now comes the hard part: picking the right MBA program for you. For some of you, the decision will be easy – either because you were offered a full-ride or you got into your dream school and money doesn’t matter (must be nice!)  If you’re like me, you didn’t have your eyes set on just one school. And maybe, just maybe, you’re as indecisive as me.

I have many bad habits. I eat too much processed sugar, spend too much time on Instagram, and use the filler words like “like” far too much. But my worst habit is my indecision. Maybe it’s a generational problem; after all, millennials like me grew up with so many choices. We had scores of snack options at the grocery store; hundreds of different movies to pick on Netflix; thousands of potential partners thanks to apps like Hinge and Bumble; and millions of songs to choose on Spotify. It can be overwhelming, so how do we make authentic decisions on the right school when there’s this glut of options?

Sure, you can talk to alums and current students. Most schools offer pandemic-friendly virtual welcome weeks. Chances are, these resources won’t be quite enough to help you decide. So what to do?

INSEAD students gathering after class


Well, I’ll tell you a little bit about how I finally made my decision on INSEAD. I was accepted to a few highly-ranked US programs, but I still felt stuck. I could envision myself at each of these schools, and it was paralyzing to pick one future life path over the others. Each day, I’d forecast the perfect career and consider which one of these schools would best help me realize that ever-changing dream. Choosing one school felt like closing the door on a different version of myself. I’d wake up one morning, thinking that maybe I wanted to do MBB consulting on the east coast; the next day, I’d envision myself a Californian entrepreneur. Plus, alums talk about meeting their spouse or potential startup co-founder during their program. What if I miss out? So many diverging life paths… so much pressure! With my emotions and internal logic entangled, I struggled to allocate the necessary headspace to make what felt like the most important decision of my life.

To help untangle that uncertainty, I spoke to close friends and family members – the people who have seen me at my best and my worst and know my deepest darkest desires and fears. It’s imperative during this moment to be conscious of the biases these people might bring to the table. For instance, my two roommates from college both got MBAs – one at Booth and the other at Saïd – so they were respectively inclined to recommend domestic or European programs. I sought the wisdom of my parents, knowing full well that they wanted to keep me state-side. I also spoke with my two recommenders, each of whom had valuable insight on my professional strengths and weaknesses. A word to the wise: don’t neglect these recommenders. They donated valuable time pitching you to each school. They deserve to be kept in the loop.

Look, getting feedback from others is great. An outsider’s perspective is useful… up to a point. No matter where you are in the MBA journey, you need to know yourself. When I was asking other people for advice, what I was really doing was trying to validate what I already felt, deep in my gut.

Chris Poldoian at San Sebastian CREDIT: Chris Poldoian


Before my MBA, I worked as a sommelier and wine consultant. I had the chance in the spring of 2021 to visit some biodynamic wineries in the south of France. After a year of being grounded state-side, I was reminded how much I loved experiencing foreign cultures. With each passing day of the trip, my mind coalesced around a very specific narrative. An MBA is more than a steppingstone to a particular job. An MBA is a chance to be pushed out of your comfort zone. I wanted to see the world with fresh eyes and be challenged intellectually inside and outside the classroom. I wanted a global perspective. I wanted diversity. I wanted an adventure. The only program that offered that was INSEAD.

When you’re making this big decision, try distilling down the truest version of yourself. Make a list of what makes you genuinely happy, or what are the “highlights” and “accomplishments” of your life up until this point, Then, ask yourself why you wrote those things and try to find a pattern. When I went through this process, everything I wrote was connected to the concept of travel and exploration. When I look back on my four years of undergrad, the most memorable part was my year abroad in Madrid.  I had even written an essay about cross-cultural exchanges through wine tastings. In hindsight, it is obvious that INSEAD was the perfect school for me.

When I arrived on campus, INSEAD’s fit became even more apparent. On the first day of orientation, I found myself seated next to students from Colombia, Cameroon, Lebanon, Morocco, and Japan. I spent the day switching between Spanish and English. It took me hours to encounter another American. In the months since our start, I’ve learned about German Christmas traditions from Ferdinand during cafeteria lunches; listened to Bassel explain Saudi Arabian financial policy during class; and debated the merits of Kendrick Lamar’s discography with Damien, my classmate from South Africa. It sounds sappy, but sharing these border-transcending moments energize me far more than an MBA ranking or MBB recruitment email. Every time I get to connect with someone else from my class, I walk away from the interaction knowing that I’m on the right path.

So for those of you trying to decide if INSEAD is right for you, I encourage you to think beyond the rankings. Sure, it’s nice knowing that INSEAD has been consistently ranked first amongst international business schools. Deep down, a big decision like this shouldn’t be made based on a ranking, a glossy brochure, or an average alumni salary. It should be based on your emotional response to a school. When you speak to other admitted students, do you feel a sort of kinship? When you describe each business school to friends or family, which program do you talk about with the most enthusiasm? At the end of the day, you should choose the school that’s right for you.

Everything else is just noise.

Chris Poldoian got his undergraduate degree at Tufts University, where he majored in Economics & Spanish Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. Passionate about food and wine, Chris worked as a restaurant manager and sommelier in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Houston before pivoting into freelance beverage consulting during the pandemic. In his spare time, he enjoys running marathons around the world and hosting a wine podcast called By The Glass.

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