IMD Essay Analysis, 2008-2009

IMD essay questions are a bit unusual in that they require 1,230-character responses, with the exception of what we have labeled essay A (the school does not label its first two essays) which is 2,000 characters. Clearly, IMD emphasizes brevity, so applicants will need to offer the Admissions Committee several quick and impressive “blasts” that will hold its attention.

A) Position sought after graduation
Please give us your short term career goal post MBA (up to 5 years). Describe how the IMD MBA will help you achieve this goal and how you will approach your job search. (maximum 2,000 characters)

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the “MBA Mission Personal Statement Guide.” We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store.  Please feel free to download your copy today.  

B) Most important achievement
What do you consider to be your single most important achievement and why? (maximum 1,230 characters)

Essay 1: Two situations of importance to you
Situation 1 (maximum 1,230 characters)
Situation 2 (maximum 1,230 characters)

Essay B and Essay 1 are very similar; the key is to choose a diversity of accomplishments within these three opportunities. (Clearly, candidates’ answers will vary significantly, based on their different professional, personal, community and academic accomplishments.) It is important that you not forget that two elements need to be tackled: the story of your accomplishment and a reflective element (the “why?”). The second half of this question should not be ignored; your personal thoughts are no one else’s and can differentiate you from the pack.

Essay 2: Failure to reach objective
Please comment on a situation where you failed to reach an objective and what you learned from it. (maximum 1,230 characters)

The best failure essays show reasoned optimism and tremendous momentum toward a goal—a goal that is ultimately derailed. You will need to quickly show that you were emotionally invested in your project/experience, which will enable the reader to connect with your story and vicariously experience your disappointment. If you were not invested at all, discussing the experience as a failure or learning experience will not be credible.

Of course, the reflective element is vitally important. It is very easy to offer trite and clichéd statements about your experience and what you learned about yourself (Note: everyone learns resiliency, so consider another key learning). Truly creating a unique statement about your road forward and your lessons learned will take time, but the payoff will come in the form of an essay that is much more personal and revelatory than thousands of others.

Essay 3: Leadership
Describe a situation where you had to demonstrate strong leadership skills. Explain how effective you were and what you learned. (maximum 1,230 characters)

In this essay, you will need to show a clear cause and effect relationship between your actions and the resulting implication for others. A successful essay will show how you took specific steps to produce the desired results, focus on the results themselves and then, most importantly, add a reflective element, explaining the personal significance or learning that resulted from the experience. This essay does not demand that you exemplify rousing leadership—the goal is to show how you exercise your influence and bring about a new and better reality.

Essay 4: Describe yourself
How do you imagine your superior would describe your strengths and weaknesses to someone who does not know you? (maximum 1,230 characters)

With respect to your strengths, even in such a short space, it is vital that you offer evidence of them by way of examples. Being insincere with your weaknesses and offering disguised strengths will only show that you do not have the capacity for self-reflection or the ability to manage criticism. You might find being forthright difficult, but by identifying weaknesses that are not damning (meaning those that are not critical to your success at IMD), you will gain the credit that disingenuous statements (e.g., “My weakness is that I am too passionate about my work…”) will only undermine.

Essay 5: International Exposure
Describe a situation where you successfully worked across cultures and/or nations. (maximum 1,230 characters)

IMD is quite an international environment, and the school is clearly eager to know that you will assimilate well and deal with others with sensitivity. As you write about your international experience, keep in mind that you must show yourself in action—not just illustrate that you have been around people from other countries, but show that you have had your impact on these people and have facilitated the contributions of others.

Essay 6: Differentiators
IMD receives numerous applications per year. Give us four bullet points that clearly differentiate you from this applicant pool. (maximum 1,230 characters)

This may seem like a daunting request, but these bullets can each be 50 words long, so you have some space to potentially explain your differences. You don’t necessarily need to have four completely distinct broader experiences, but the particularities can make the difference. For example, you might be a banker like many others, but one deal of yours may be a true standout, or an aspect of your team structure may have given you a particularly interesting insight.

Essay 7: Alternatives
If you are not admitted, what alternatives will you consider? (maximum 1,230 characters)

This essay can be a conundrum for some; the key to a successful essay is to show that you will continue to progress outside business school, but that you have an identifiable need for your MBA as well. Essentially, you want to show that your career will not grind to a halt, but that you could better approach your tasks and reach your ambitions with an MBA and will either reapply or simply attempt to acquire your MBA via de facto experience.

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