IE Business School Essay Tips and Examples

How to Get into IE Business School: IE Essay Tips and Examples

The application essays for IE University’s International MBA Program are not overly taxing from a length perspective, but they require candidates to make some important decisions as to what they choose to share and how. We imagine most applicants will end up devoting a good bit of time to considering their options as far as topics to cover and just as much (if not more) time to crafting the presentation of that information. The school’s broad personal essay prompt instructs candidates to essentially “tell us anything important,” and applicants can do so in a video, via a PowerPoint presentation, or in writing. At the other extreme are IE’s “live questions,” which give applicants almost no time to prepare their responses in advance. Read on for our advice on approaching the school’s essays for this season.

IE Business School 2023–2024 Essay Tips

Personal Essay: This section is important in understanding who you are, not just as a student but also as a person in order to grasp the value that you could add to our program. Take this as an opportunity to showcase your unique attributes and personality. There are three formats you can choose to express yourself: a video (max. 3 minutes), a PowerPoint presentation (max. 10 slides), or a written essay (between 250–650 words). Please pay special attention to punctuation, structure, and content.

What is the most important thing that you would like us to know that is not in your resume or application?

IE’s essays are found in the “express yourself” part of the application, which should be a clear sign that the admissions committee wants you to imbue your responses with personality and character. Essentially, this prompt is a way of asking you to reveal who you are as an individual, apart from what the rest of your application already conveys about your job, education, activities, and interests outside of work. We encourage you to be as creative as possible without extending yourself beyond your comfort zone. Play to your strengths. If you are a strong writer, do not feel you need to make a video to stand out. If you are good at extemporaneous speaking, a video would likely be a more fitting choice. If you are great at organizing thoughts in a compelling and clever way, maybe a PowerPoint presentation would be your ideal option. Whichever format feels most appealing to you and aligns best with the kind of information you want to convey is probably the one you should focus on.

As for the content of your submission, be sure to adhere to the school’s stipulation of “not in your resume or application.” The admissions committee will already have a lot of information about you that it can and will use to get to know you better from your resume, recommendations, short-answer question responses, academic transcripts, and test scores. You should therefore approach this essay by first thinking about what these portions of your application convey about who you are as an individual and candidate, so you can determine which parts of your profile still need presenting. 

A primary goal in responding to this prompt is sincerity. Avoid becoming gimmicky in any way. You are not trying to seem “cute” or even more creative than the next applicant; you just want to tell your personal story and provide a more dynamic image of yourself. We recommend that you start by grabbing some paper and making an old-fashioned list of your key experiences, achievements, pastimes, and passions. Then, consider what IE will already know about you and your story and strive to choose the item(s) from your list that can best complement that information to create a well-rounded representation of you. With a maximum of three minutes, ten slides, or 650 words, you will need to be relatively succinct, so take care not to spend too much time or space on unnecessary buildup or repetition. You want your story to have life and sufficient context so the admissions committee can fully understand and appreciate it, but you also want to give yourself enough room to share details that will imbue your message with color and individuality.  

Live Questions: Once you have submitted the application form and paid the admissions fee, you will receive an email to complete an online assessment through our partners at Kira. During this exercise you will be answering questions to demonstrate why you would be a valuable asset to the IEU community. This will take around 20–30 minutes.

For this portion of the IE application, you will receive three questions. For two of them, you will need to respond in a video of one minute each, after taking 30 seconds to mentally prepare. For the third question, you will submit a written response and be given five minutes in which to craft it.

We know that required videos—and spontaneous ones, in particular—often strike fear into the hearts of business school candidates, but let us reassure you a bit about this component of the IE application process, so you can relax and put your best self forward. First of all, keep in mind that these kinds of video/on-the-spot questions are not intended to trip you up or entice you to do or say anything that would immediately disqualify you from consideration. They are primarily opportunities for the admissions committee to put a “face,” so to speak, with your written application and learn a little more about your personality, energy level, communication style, and other such intangibles. Your goal is not to provide the “right” answer that the school is expecting to hear (because no “right” answer exists!) but to be yourself so as to convey a genuine impression of you as an individual. If you focus on being authentic and sincere, you will provide the admissions committee with exactly what it is seeking. 

To get a bit more comfortable with the format before you complete this part of the IE application, we suggest practicing responding to interview-type questions in front of a mirror to exercise maintaining a pleasant and natural expression as you speak and timing yourself to ensure your answers do not tend to run long. Although you can prepare as much as you want, you will have only one chance to record your response(s) when you do the official interview. If you stumble while answering or ultimately are unhappy with your answer, you will not, unfortunately, be able to rerecord anything or try again another time. This might make you nervous, but we encourage you to view the situation a little differently. As we have noted, IE wants to get to know the real you through these video essays. If you fumble for words or lose your train of thought, just laugh or shrug and continue with your response. Accepting a mistake with a sense of humor and grace will give the admissions committee a more positive and natural impression of your personality than rigid scripting and overpreparation ever could. For sample questions you can use to practice, consider downloading a free copy of the mbaMission Interview Guide, in which we present a list of 100 common interview queries.

IE’s prompt notes that it intends for these questions to allow you to “demonstrate why you would be a valuable asset to the IEU community,” so the school will want to see evidence that you have done your research on it and developed a true and thorough understanding of its culture. Ideally, your responses will convince the admissions committee that you are eager to take advantage of opportunities at the school, that you have thoughtfully considered your potential role and place within the program’s community, and that you understand what you can offer as an IE MBA student.

So, read student blogs, peruse discussion boards, catch up on the past year or more of the program’s press releases, spend some time on IE’s YouTube channel—these are all good places to start (or better, continue!) educating yourself about what life at the school is really like, beyond the coursework. You can also learn more about the school’s defining characteristics and key elements by downloading your free copy of mbaMission’s IE Business School Program Guide.

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