IESE, like all business schools, is in search of capable, ambitious candidates who know why they need an MBA and what they want to do once they have one. The school does not demand too much from its applicants with respect to written essays, requiring just one 300-word submission, but candidates must also record a brief video essay. An optional essay is available for anyone who has still more information to share with the admissions committee, whether to mitigate a shortcoming in their profile or to highlight a key strength or story that the committee would otherwise not learn about. Our more detailed analysis of IESE’s essay prompts for this season follows.
IESE 2023–2024 Essay Tips
Career Goals Essay: What are your short-term and mid-term post-MBA goals? How will the IESE MBA program help you achieve them? (word limit 300 max)
With this straightforward query about your expectations for where you will go with your MBA after graduating, IESE simply wants you to spell out what you have in mind as you approach this phase of your life and career. Be as specific as possible, yet still succinct, in your description of where you see yourself after graduation and several years further down the line, from the industry and role to any additional details about which you currently feel confident (perhaps certain companies or responsibilities that appeal to you in particular). The school’s 300-word limit prevents you from going into excessive detail about your past, but be sure to offer enough information to provide context and support for your stated goals. You want the progression from one stage of your professional career to the next to be clear and reasonable.
Next, you must explain how being an MBA student at IESE will assist you in achieving your professional aspirations. The admissions committee wants to see that you have dedicated just as much thought, if not more, to why you want to study at IESE as you have to what you want to do for your career. Think carefully about what you need to learn or gain (with respect to skills, network, experiences, and knowledge base) to be able to reach your stated goals, and then detail which specific resources and opportunities at the school you believe will allow you to do so. Your goal is to convince the admissions committee that IESE is the missing link between who and where you are now and who and where you envision yourself to be in the future. To accomplish this, you need to do research on the school that goes beyond its website, viewbook, and related marketing materials and make direct contact with students, alumni, and other school representatives. Attend an in-person admissions event or visit the campus to familiarize yourself with the program’s environment and resources, if possible, and if not, check out online events and options that might allow you to do so. Understanding what and who the school truly entails, as well as how it works, is key in identifying and then articulating your need for an IESE MBA in particular. By thoroughly understanding the school and clearly discussing how the particular offerings you have identified relate directly to your needs, you increase your chances substantially of crafting a truly effective essay.
The core components of this essay are elements of a traditional personal statement, so we encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which explains ways of approaching these topics and offers several illustrative sample essays. And to learn more about IESE’s academic program, unique resources, and other key features, download your free copy of the mbaMission IESE Business School Program Guide as well.
Optional Essay: What would you like to highlight about yourself or your journey which may have not been captured in your application? (word limit 300 max)
With this prompt, IESE acknowledges that some candidates have aspects of their profiles that might need a little special clarification or that could be additive in some way to their candidacy but do not fit anywhere else in the application. This essay is therefore your opportunity—if needed—to address anything that might trigger questions for an admissions officer, such as a low GRE or GMAT score, a legal or disciplinary incident, or an unusual choice of recommender. Or, you might believe you have an as-yet-untold story that the admissions committee truly needs to hear to be able to evaluate you fully and fairly. However, keep in mind that by submitting an optional essay, you are requiring the already taxed admissions readers to do additional work on your behalf, so do not rush to fill this space just because you fear that not doing so will somehow count against you (it will not), and also avoid being overly verbose or sharing more information than is truly necessary just because you technically can. Ensure that the admissions committee’s extra time and effort are truly warranted. If you feel you might have a valid reason for submitting this additional essay or are not sure whether the issue you are considering would warrant doing so, we encourage you to download a free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, along with multiple sample essays.
Video Essay: This year you will also complete a Video Essay as part of the application. Once you submit the written application and pay the application fees, you will receive a Kira Video Essay link (within 24-hours) to be completed by the Application Round Deadline. The link will expire in 48-hours after receipt, hence to provide yourself with adequate time we recommend submitting the written section a few days ahead of the deadline. There will be two video essay questions that you will be required to complete. We will consider your application as complete and ready to be reviewed only once we have received your answers to the video questions. All instructions for this section will be shared with you along with the link.
Video components like this are usually a result of the admissions committee’s desire to see and hear the candidates they are evaluating—to put a human “face” to the statistics and other inanimate elements of the MBA application. Keep this in mind as you approach this segment of IESE’s application, and make being authentic and natural your primary goal. The admissions officers are not looking for the next viral TED Talk presenter or late-night TV host. They just want to get to know you as a unique individual who might one day join the school’s community.
So, start by taking a deep breath. We understand that videos might make you feel as though you are being put on the spot, but IESE is really not trying to make you squirm. As we just noted, the admissions committee simply wants a more dynamic representation of your personality than a written essay can provide. You cannot answer any of the school’s video questions incorrectly, so do not worry about giving the “right” answer. Just respond to each query honestly, as smoothly as you can (despite any nervousness you might be feeling), and be yourself.
Take some time to imagine potential questions and practice responding calmly and naturally. To access one hundred common interview questions you can use to help prepare, download a free copy of the mbaMission Interview Guide, which of course also includes advice on preparing for and mastering the interview process. To practice responding to more random queries, you can Google “icebreaker questions” to find lists of examples. As you practice, strive to minimize your use of filler words and phrases (e.g., “um,” “uh,” “like,” “you know”) so that you are less likely to depend on or default to them when the time comes for your actual video submission.
Although you can prepare as much as you want, you get only one chance at the recording. If you stumble while answering or ultimately are unhappy with your answer, unfortunately, you cannot do anything about it. You will not be able to rerecord your responses or try again another time. This might make you nervous, but we encourage you to view the situation a little differently. Again, IESE wants to get to know the authentic 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.