How to write ISB Essays for 2020 application (2021 Intake) – Essay analysis from ISB alumni turned application consultants

ISB essay topics for the PGP application in 2020 , i.e. 2021 intake (class of 2022) are given below:

  • ISB Essay 1 Topic: Describe with examples the most important personal quality that you possess that significantly enhances your prospects of being successful as a leader? (400 words max)
  • ISB Essay 2 Topic: What are your short term and long term career goals? How will Post Graduate Program at ISB assist you in achieving your goals.(400 words max)
  • ISB Reapplicant Essay Topic: Please use this space to explain significant improvements in your profile since your last application to the ISB PGP.

In this article, Manan Puri, ISB Class of 2013 and Co-Founder of S4G, shares insights and tips on how to write essays for ISB application. He also talks about the changes in the application cycle and to ISB’s program due to the COVID-19 situation. Before we get to the essay analysis, let’s have a quick look at what has changed in the ISB MBA application cycle and the PGP program:

  • ISB’s Round 1 application deadline is 20th September 2020, only a change of 5 days from last year
  • ISB’s Round 2 application deadline hasn’t been announced yet. Unlike previous years, ISB might have only 2 rounds since around 200 ISB admits from 2020 have deferred their admissions to 2021. However, since the number of applicants is expected to decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your chances of getting into ISB are broadly the same as previous years, if not higher
  • Overall, the application remains similar to previous years
  • The program will commence on April 10, 2021. ISB could start with the Digital Head-start Module (DHM) for next year as well as the current class is expected to graduate by May 31, 2021

We’ve covered the changes to the program and application deadlines here and also in the table below.

 Cycle 1Cycle 2Cycle 3
Application deadlineSeptember 20, 2020 23:59:00 hrs (IST)TBDTBD
Interview timelines (tentative)Oct 1 to Nov 10
Those shortlisted will be informed FIVE days prior to the interview date
Final results (including those not shortlisted)Mid or Nov, 2020TBDTBD
Acceptance due date10 days from the offer date7 days from the offer dateTBD
Program fee payment dateMarch 31, 2021March 31, 2021TBD
Program commencement for PGP2021-22April 10, 2021 (Tentative)April 10, 2021 (Tentative)April 10, 2021 (Tentative)

How to write ISB essays

ISB 2020 Application Essay Analysis (2021 intake)

Like previous years, the underlying tenet of the essays remains the same, i.e. ‘Why you’ and ‘Why PGP/ISB’. However, the way ISB is expecting you to answer the former has slightly changed. Here’s our analysis of the essays and the areas you should focus on.

ISB Essay 1 Topic

Describe with examples the most important personal quality that you possess that significantly enhances your prospects of being successful as a leader? (400 words max)

This isn’t the classic ‘Why you’ essay wherein ISB gave you an opportunity to explain why you should be an addition to the program. In the past, this essay focused on your candidature for ISB and to demonstrate a good trait about the ISB, much like other schools have done in the past. For e.g.

  • At ISB we value diversity as it enhances both the in-class and out of class learning experience. Tell us how would you contribute to the same
  • Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value.  Tell us about a time…
  • Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community..

This year, ISB has moved away from this norm and forces the candidates to introspect a lot more on what qualities they possess to become a leader. This is a much harder essay compared to previous years.

ISB essay tips

Here are key essay tips to keep in mind while writing this essay in your ISB application:

  • Focus on the inputs to leadership: ISB knows that becoming a successful leader is always a work-in-progress. Hence, you need to demonstrate qualities (i.e. inputs) which add to you capabilities as a leader. For e.g. an ability and desire to innovate, helping others, taking initiative, challenging the status quo, etc. are all traits of good leaders
  • Focus more on the “How” than the “What”: While its important to mention your achievements, you must also ensure that you focus on how you went about achieving what you set out for.
  • Bring out personality traits: ISB loves diversity and aims to have a diverse class each year. That diversity really goes a long way in maximizing your ISB experience as you share the classroom with doctors, CAs, army professionals, journalists, engineers as well as commerce graduates.  However, more importantly, ISB is looking for YOU, the “real” YOU. They are looking to uncover the professional and find the personality lying beneath, who will really make the ISB experience worthwhile for not only herself but also for fellow classmates. Hence, make sure you mention about your leadership abilities, your entrepreneurial spirit, your determination, perseverance, passions etc. This will really help the ISB admissions committee understand you as a person which is very important to get that admission.   
  • Combine personal and professional examples: Leadership can manifest itself into different forms. ISB is not only looking for examples from your work, it is equally interested in how you are as the person behind the professional. Personal examples would reinforce your multi-faceted capabilities as a leader it is also a great way to show a clear pattern of leadership.

ISB essays story

  • Art of Storytelling: Merely highlighting the outcome and the fact that you were at the centre of it wouldn’t be enough. Often, candidates fail to explain the need for them to action and demonstrate the trait. Hence, use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Results) method to communicate the examples. At the end, also mention what you gained from the experience.
  • Be Authentic: In the ISB interview, expect questions on each and every line you write in the essay so make sure your examples are believable and you did experience / significantly contribute to the situations / outcomes you portray. Hence, do not go overboard with the traits of becoming a leader. If you have the potential, the ISB admissions committee and alumni on the interview panel will be able to gauge it without you having to exponentially oversell
  • Don’t forget how you’d contribute to the class: Although ISB hasn’t specifically asked for it, you should still highlight how your experiences and traits would help brand ISB and your peers. This is still an opportunity to demonstrate your research on the school.

Remember that the areas covered in this essay should complement other parts of your application. Needless to say, stay within the word limit.

This essay requires a lot more thought and would need large number of iterations. Regardless of the outcome, you’d know far more about yourself during this process than you do now!

ISB Essay 2 Topic

What are your short term and long term career goals? How will Post Graduate Program at ISB assist you in achieving your goals.(400 words max)

This is the classic ‘Why PGP/ Why ISB’ essay which has featured over the years in the ISB application. Naturally, ISB would like to know how it would enable you to reach your goals.

This essay should cover WHAT are your goals, HOW an MBA fits in the picture and WHY ISB is your choice. The essay is more about you and how ISB is a very good choice in the mix. ISB’s principles for evaluating this essay include (but are not limited to):

  • Realistic expectations from the school
  • Clarity of thought on your goals
  • High employability post MBA

ISB essay goals

You should start with your overall experience and the career plans in the short and long term. Make sure to articulate the linkage between your past and the future you envision for yourself, i.e. why you want a particular career path. Also, try and be specific about the industry or role you intend to target.

Then the focus should be on how a PGP from ISB fill the gaps you have. This is your opportunity to showcase the research you’ve conducted on ISB. Avoid focusing only on things such as world-class faculty, infrastructure, networking, etc. Instead, cover the specific clubs, events and centres of excellence which would help your achieve your goals.

Your essay should cover various facets of “life at ISB”, including:

  •  The Network: The ISB network is the biggest asset you will take away from ISB. With over 10,000 alumni spread across the globe, the network helps you connect with industry stalwarts across consulting, financial services, Private Equity, IT, startups, and the list goes on. Given that the essays are read by ISB alumni, it is imperative to mention this point as they would undoubtedly understand the value of the ISB network. Therefore, this is a must-have in your application essay.    
  • The Faculty: With the best faculty from top B-schools (such as Harvard, Wharton and Kellogg) taking courses at ISB, along with some renowned names as in-house faculty, this is surely one of the top reasons to go to ISB. Some professors such as Jag Mohan Raju (Marketing), Robert Stine (Statistics) and Prashant Kale (Strategy) are “gurus” of their field and are known across top academic circles all over the world. 
  • Diversity: The class at ISB is generally more diverse than other B-schools in India. With an average work experience of 4-5 years, the class includes doctors, journalists, media professionals, ex-army personnel, chartered accountants, commerce graduates and IIT engineers. Diversity is the X-factor that differentiates ISB from other top B-schools in the country and should be covered in your essay.
  • Brand ISB: Despite being a young school, ISB is already a brand and is counted amongst the top 30 B schools in the world (according to Financial Times 2016 Global Business School Rankings). The brand is recognized across the globe and opens a lot of doors which would otherwise be closed for you.   

ISB PGP Re-applicant Essay Topic

Please use this space to explain significant improvements in your profile since your last application to the ISB PGP.

Candidates who have applied to ISB previously need to write an essay showcasing improvements in their profile. This is an opportunity to convince the ISB admissions committee that you have improved upon your profile and enhanced your crednetials by upskilling or adding to your experience.

This can be in the form of professional initiatives, self-learning opportunities, a higher GMAT / GRE score. ISB is a very reapplicant friendly school and encourages you to reapply. In fact, reapplying showcases that you are keen on joining the school and hence is taken positively by ISB.

ISB reapplicant essay

One final tip, your essays should be like a correct critical reasoning passage, they should have linkages between cause and effect and no out of flow statements which are of no significance to the premise of the passage.

Hope the above essay analysis helps you write a solid ISB application. To understand your chances of getting into ISB, contact us a free profile evaluation by ISB alumni on [email protected].

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