Friday, November 13, 2009

INSEAD's 4-step approach

I kid you not, this is what they look for (it is on their website and I'm pretty certain that if you want to attend or are currently a student, you have to have each of the 4 pieces of the puzzle):

Academic Capacity - GMAT & GPAs are a good indicator

Leadership Potential and Professional Experience - experiences in your college and career should highlight this aspect of your personality.

International Outlook - background, essays, experiences (living & working)

Ability to Contribute to the INSEAD Experience - this is either something you do or don't do. It is hard to suddenly come up with this trait and you'll know right away if you fit this.

So, while this blog is mainly for friends & family to follow along in my ride through INSEAD, feel free to ping me with questions on this topic if you're really interested in INSEAD. I will say that MOST business schools will look for almost all of the above criteria as well.

Info Session (a.k.a interest-solidification-session)

One of the things I LOVED about my research into INSEAD was how the marketing/info-sessions and the admissions process is separate.

That is to say - the person that travels the globe meeting prospective students and asking questions has NO influence in the admissions process.

Why is that good you ask? Why would you NOT want to meet, say, the Admissions Director? Well to be quite honest, it is because so many students get worried about how they "come off" and the first impressions they might be creating in front of the Admissions Committee that they, at times, become self-promotional (hoping that the AdCom remembers them come-application time) to ask direct, pertinent, and at times, difficult questions. This was true of all the info sessions I attended EXCEPT INSEAD's.

People were asking a whole spectrum of questions ranging from PC to Non-PC. The session included clips from YouTube (by current students & alumni) as well as a very candid view of the application and admissions process.

The informal-yet-formal feel of the meet-and-greet made it easier for potential candidates like myself to really feel the significance of the INSEAD experience.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


The GMATs were more of a pain that I want to admit. I took it once, cold, and did decently - mind you, I had to rush back to my apartment at 7:45AM to get my passport because the testing center would not accept my Driver's License as a valid form of ID (I probably should've read the directions better!)

After I tipped a cabbie $20 for getting to my apartment in Lincoln Park and back to Downtown in under 15 minutes (this includes me sprinting up 3 flights of stairs in relatively uncomfortable business attire) - I started the test, in probably the worst pre-testing frame-of-mind. But after that first experience I realized exactly what needed to be done to make the GMAT a friend in my MBA journey and not a mortal enemy standing between me and my goal...

My advice (and I actually have an email drafted with all these details so if you want more details please contact me) - is to simulate the test-taking conditions and take at least - AT LEAST - 5 FULL length tests on your own. You could also apply for a GMAT-test-prep course, but I did not have the flexibility in schedule, so I went DIY.

Think of preparing for the GMAT as training for the Marathon, except when runners tell you generally not to run the full 26.2 mi until the day of, I advise you to take SEVERAL FULL LENGTH tests. Runners tell you that the last 5 miles is adrenaline, autopilot, or self-preservation. With the GMAT, the "last 5 miles" can be the difference between a 680 and a 700 - you've finished a lot of questions and the CAT (Computer Adaptive Test) is getting ready to neatly tuck you into the score niche you belong in. Going into autopilot and/or sprinting requires a change in pace that I would not recommend. You want to feel how you will feel - completely drained - post-GMAT (even during practice tests so you know what you're up against). If nothing else, it just means that you have even MORE energy day-of the GMAT since you've already finished the figurative 26.2 miles a few times prior :)

In the end, the GMAT is strategy. Once you realize the mind-game that it is, you see much clearer - it is like one of those painted illusions... squint your eyes a little and it all makes sense. In this case you have to squint your whole life a little bit for a short period of time. I suggest 3 months of prep - this involves diagnostic tests, practice problems, and full length tests. There are several companies with GMAT prep and each book has at least 1 if not 3 full length tests. The practice material is also great.

I hope the visual analogies help (yes I'm a visual learner :)

Anyhow, that was my struggle with the GMAT. And a successful one at that. We're good friends now, although we may not write or call that often, we both know we've got each other's backs...

And I cannot forget to mention - it is always helpful to have a significant other of some sort helping you out ;) I know that it was especially difficult for me to stick through the self-imposed study schedule without the help of my better half... (she comes up more often in posts closer to the actual acceptance too - notice a theme? yep. teamwork=priceless ;)