ISB Application 2008-09 Essay Analysis

It is application season again and ISB is out with its essays again. Well, it has been quite some time now. I was just thinking about those essays and thought of analyzing what an applicant is expected to write. Basically, ISB must have some purpose behind giving out those topics. We should analyze that. This year's competiton is going to be tough and there are multiple reasons.

1. ISB has been ranked 20th in the FT Global MBA rankings. That made sure ISB gets enough media coverage and international popularity.
2. ISB has been growing at an exponential pace. With its awesome faculty and impressive placement numbers, ISB sure will make it big time in the international B-school community.

I wrote the analysis of last year's essay topics too. ISB sure does come out with a unique essay each time that stumps the applicants and the applicants who are writing multiple apps must write at least one essay that is unique to ISB. (At least, I am stumped!!!). Last year it was "million dollars or knighthood" dilemma. This year it the "Zumba river" ethical dilemma essay. Let's see what this year's essays have in store:

1. Please give three reasons why ISB should admit you into the class of 2010. These reasons should ideally differentiate you from your competition. (300 words max)

This essay is similar to last year's essay 1 that clearly asked about your diversity factor. Most of the B-schools today focus on peer learning. Of course, in today's times, a business graduate needs to be aware of the functioning of different industries, needs to have an open mind, develop a global adaptability and be responsive of different cultures. To achieve this, a B-school should ensure that it has the right mix of students that learn from each other well. This calls for a diverse batch:

a. diverse in terms of nationality:the FT rankings will attract applicants from different countries. the current batch has 4% of international students (international passport holders). For a global school, there is a long way to go.
b. diverse in terms of industry: As is a fact, there are a lot of engineers and consultants applying to a lot of B-schools. While discussing a case, you expect a different opinion from your peer group. For example, while sitting in the entrepreneurship class, you may want to hear the legal implications from a lawyer, you may want to learn how to approach a VC from someone who has already done so. Just imagine the amount of practical learning you get.
c. miscellaneous: There are other ways to differentiate yourself. Maybe through your work-experience, your contributions outside of your work, your extra-curricular achievements. It can be anything.

Just think of ways how you can differentiate yourself from people of your background and how that will contribute to the student body. Breeze!

2. You are contesting the election to be the President of the ISB Student Body. Write a speech you will deliver to the student body on why they should elect you as the President? (300 words max)

This is a typical and an atypical essay. It is a typical leadership essay where you have prepare a manifesto and do a sales pitch for yourself. But what does ISB have to do with that?

This is an opportunity to present yourself as a leader. You need not be in a leading position at your workplace. Just identify the qualities of a good leader: taking initiatives, thinking out of the box, looking at the bigger picture, etc. Just reflect back on your work-life and bring out examples where you have shown such traits. These examples help identify people with natural leadership bent of mind. The examples may not be necessarily of the workplace. You may want to show how active you are outside of your workplace and taken initiatives in community activities too. This is the place to show just that.

Coming to the second part. Keep in mind that this is about ISB's Student Body president. So obviously you need to know about ISB and what contributions you will make at ISB. Of course, there are always things to be done for improvement at any place. So do your research. Find out what are the responsibilities of the ISB Student body and what is the role and scope of the president. Connect with ISB and think of how ou can contribute were you the president.

3. CASE : You have been appointed to head the team to build a dam across the River Zumba. Success in this project is critical for your company and would earn you a promotion. Failure would mean that your company would be bankrupt and will take along with it, its investors and its employees. Building a dam across the river would result in deforestation of a portion of the rainforests and would mean relocation of the tribals and destabilization of wild life at Zumba. There is resistance from environmental groups against your project. You are meeting the head of the resistance movement in one hour wherein you would have to explain your decision. Describe what you would do and why? (You will be evaluated on the creativity and practicality of your solution). (300 words max)

An Awesome Essay!!! I loved it.

A very practical situation. A similar ethical dilemma can be faced in any industry at many situations. You are presented with two positions: one is profitable for your company and the other for mankind and environment. On the first look, it looks like a dilemma. But if you think deeply and passionately for one stance, you can convince anyone why our position is stronger.

You are expected to come out with a practical and creative solution to come out of the situation and be a winner. As always, you have to show what qualities you have and be a convincing and effective leader in this situation.


The above is just my personal interpretation of the ISB essays. I request all my readers to provide more inputs if there is any other aspect that can be thought of or if I have been wrong in my thought process. All the best to all ISB applicants.

B-school preliminary shortlist

Gmat Done. Yes, a long time ago now. Now, if I look back 730 is not a bad score. The thumb rule, I have learnt, is that your GMAT score should be above the average of the schools where you are applying. And 730 is above average to all the schools I am applying to. No worries.

Now the next step was to shortlist the schools. Last week, I had been so busy that I did not get time to research schools at all. So the weekend was deicated to prepare a preliminary list, at least. Well, at first I shortlisted around 14 schools. That is a big number and I guess impractical too. So I understood I had a lot of work to do.

My situation

It is a do or die situation for me. I am 28 and it is just the right age for me to do an MBA. I am at such a juncture in my career that if I do an MBA right now, it would be ideal. I do like my job, rather the industry I am in. I want to rise in high-tech industry but not in the job function I am in, that is engineering. So the more I stay here, the more stagnant I will become since I do not aspire to grow in this function. An MBA right now just seems right.

Where do I want to be

I would definitely like to work in the US for some time. In addition, the exposure you get in US is not comparable to any school in India. From family or stability perspective, staying in India is logical, but I want to think long term. My family, wife are understanding, so I can afford to move to US for some time. Now coming to the job function. I have made a tentative plan of where I want to be. Keeping this factor in mind, I prepared my tentative list.

I want the best

Now coming to the shortlisting.

Outside of US:

Duke - Fuqua
UCLA - Anderson
UCB - Haas
CMU - Tepper
Emory - Goizueta
Michigan - Ross

Now that is a big list I know. And I have less time, considering I am in the office for 10 hours every weekday.

My thought process

I think I'll start writing the most common and long essays first. The benefit will be I will just have to tweak the common essays (like career goals) for every application and reduce my efforts. Based on my progress, I'll see which schools I can eliminate. I also have to divide the schools into R1 and R2. I guess 50% distribution would be just fine, keeping at least one top 10 in R1 and one in R2. As the application progresses, your writing improves, you think of stronger points and you will know how to write better, and impactfully.

Now let's see. I want to ask my readers. What is your shortlisting strategy? Am I going wrong somewhere?