Essay Analysis

How to write the ISB Essays for 2023 intake? Analysis, tips and sample essays

Very often, business schools use their essay prompts not only to seek information but also to communicate positive attributes of the school or the program. Look at these, for example:

“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?”

“How will you take advantage of being at the very center of business (Columbia)?”

“Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value.”

isb pgp essay

The Indian School of Business (ISB) has consistently posed questions that help the school assess applicants’ core professional and personal qualities and professional plans post ISB. Almost every year, there are two ISB essay questions – first, about one’s personal and professional qualities with examples demonstrating them, and second, about one’s career goals. 

As a part of the admissions process at ISB for the 2023 intake, you have to answer 2 essay questions for the Post Graduate Programme (PGP). The word limit for both essays is 400 words. If you are a reapplicant, you need to submit an extra reapplicant essay.

ISB PGP Essay Questions for 2023 intake

The following are the questions for the ISB PGP application for the 2023 intake:

Essay 1 : Peer Learning is a major building block of PGP at ISB. Help us in understanding how will you be able to add value to the PGP peer group through your personal and professional qualities/capabilities? (400 words)
Essay 2 : 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)

At ISBmantra, with our Core Team of Former ISB Admissions Officers we have mentored 1000+ applicants over the last 10 years. Here is our analysis of the ISB PGP 2023 Application essays. 

ISB PGP Essay 1 Analysis

Peer Learning is a major building block of PGP at ISB. Help us in understanding how will you be able to add value to the PGP peer group through your personal and professional qualities/capabilities? (400 words)

It is not surprising that ISB chooses to focus on “Peer Learning” as the core strength of the school, given the diverse participant pool that it is able to attract. Considering the large number of applicants with the typical Indian profile, the school is compelled to explore the potential of its applicants to add value to the learning of the cohort. It prompts the applicants to reveal unique, personal, and professional attributes that can serve to add value to the profile of the class.

The key is to highlight transferable skills on the professional front and core skills on the personal front; while presenting areas of knowledge relevant to the business school experience. While talking about yourself, avoid making claims, that you cannot corroborate with substantive evidence. Since you are applying to a business school, focus on your professional strengths rather than just your personal qualities. You may bring in your niche industry exposure, focused functional expertise, examples of strategic problem-solving, and demonstrated capabilities in leading budgets, teams, or projects. We also advise presenting one (preferably only one) personal trait, backed by relevant examples.

The next challenge is understanding the difference and the overlap between personal and professional qualities. There is often a fine line between what is inherent and what’s acquired – and a personal quality can be either of them. The key is to ask yourself if the quality has “global applicability” versus its importance being limited to specific contexts. Being “entrepreneurial”, for instance, will mean you are someone who takes initiative, doesn’t mind taking risks, and demonstrates a high level of ownership. Interestingly, your quality of being entrepreneurial has global applicability and doesn’t necessarily require you to have worked with a start-up or have started your own venture.

At the same time, there are certain skills that are personal but expected. Do not fall into the trap of showing how “committed” or “hardworking” you are. These are hygiene factors – you better be committed and hardworking if you are to make it to ISB and survive the rigorous year once you secure an admit.

As you list the qualities – personal and professional, what remains important is to assess if these qualities are relevant to ISB. It’s a good idea to illustrate how these traits will enable you to contribute to the class at ISB. Indulge in specific research to identify events, activities, clubs, and other platforms at ISB that you would like to use in the context of your skills/qualities. Recall where you contributed in a similar manner in the past. 

It is imperative that you invest meticulous thought and as many rounds of iterations as required, to design your response for a strong impact. Overall, it’s not an easy question to answer, but if drafted well, can very well seal the deal for you.

ISB PGP Essay 1 Sample Structure

  1. Identify and isolate the list of qualities/capabilities that you would like to present
  2. Present concrete & diverse examples of these qualities
  3. Establish how you will use these qualities to add to peer learning at ISB

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ISB PGP Essay 2 Analysis

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)

The career goal essay has consistently found a place in the ISB application, especially given that unlike most international programs of similar repute, ISB provides complete placement support. This remains one of the primary reasons why ISB is very keen to understand your short-term goals. We strongly recommend that you do not get too engrossed in detailing your plans for the “future and beyond”. The focus should be on what you want to achieve immediately after the MBA.

Provide specific details about the industry, function, etc., pertaining to your post-MBA dream role. Do not get into designations. You may very well be made the CTO of a company with 5 employees – but is that what you want? It helps to keep your short-term goals consistent with your past. The recruiter is going to value your experience until now; hence do not underplay it. The idea is to demonstrate your intention of effectively leveraging the experience and exposure you have gained until now. You may want to move to a different function or industry. Focus on the transferable skills that will equip you to perform in your new role.

If you recognize that the role/industry you want to enter is a bit too competitive, it may be a good idea to also present a Plan B. But both your Plan A and Plan B must be consistent with your long-term plans. 

What you want to achieve in the next 4-5 years isn’t going to represent your ultimate destination but the path leading towards a larger purpose. It will be interesting to connect your short-term goals to what you may want to achieve in the medium to long term. Again, do not get into designations, but focus on presenting the direction you would want your career to take. Define your long-term plans to include the foreseeable future – let’s say 8-10 years from now. Your plans may very well evolve with time and experience, but a base plan must be in place, to begin with.

Conclude by validating the indispensable need for an MBA and why you think ISB precisely resonates with your aspirations. Remember not to go overboard with ‘why ISB’, since it would be too simplistic to expect to be selected just because you were able to list several clubs, electives, and the faculty at ISB. The essay is more about you and how ISB remains the most relevant choice in your scheme of things. 

ISB PGP Essay 2 Sample Structure

  1. Briefly establish your career progression to date and the skills that have been developed
  2. Present your short-term and long-term goals and the specifics that may be required in the context of your profile
  3. Talk about the knowledge and skill gaps that exit, which may be critical to your future plans
  4. Finally, talk about how the ISB PGP can help you get there

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ISB PGP Re-applicant Essay Analysis

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

If you applied in R2 last year and are now applying in R1, you have had just about 8 months, and this span may not reflect significant changes in your profile.

Did you still create opportunities to enhance your skills? You presented certain career goals in your last application. Did you take up professional initiatives and self-learning opportunities to move towards your professed career goals? Did you assess what might have gone wrong, talk to alumni and industry experts and attempt to position yourself better this year? If your GMAT score was not good enough, were you willing to push yourself and retake the test? If you ended up scoring the same again – the school will still appreciate your intent and your commitment to the goal of doing the MBA at ISB.

Talk about the new projects, new learnings from these projects, things that you got to do for the first time, interactions you have had that had an impact on you and your career plans. Do not forget to include the experiences that helped you refine your core and soft skills further.

If you presented a goal or a career plan last year that you failed to justify in the interview; or if, after more thorough research, you have decided to opt for an alternative plan that you can validate, do not hesitate to make a statement.

Feel free to present the specifics of the research you engaged in to arrive at a more rational career plan. For all logical purposes, this is a better approach than presenting the same career plans again, when you are not too confident about being able to substantiate them in the interview.

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ISB Sample Essays

Essays are the most powerful tool for you to narrate your story. It is an opportunity for you to highlight the important information, building a convincing point on why you are a good fit for the ISB MBA program. When you start writing your ISB essay, it is important to keep in mind to answer the entire question and not just a part of it.

Here are some sample essay questions asked by ISB in the past few years :

  1. Enrolling in a Business School is an important career decision. Critically look at your career to date, the choices you have made, the key influences behind those choices, your goals for the future and how do you think ISB’s PGP can help you in achieving your goals. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Describe with examples the most important personal quality that you possess that significantly enhances your prospects of being successful as a leader.
  4. What are your short-term and long-term career goals? How will the Post Graduate Program at ISB assist you in achieving your goals? 

Based on our analysis of ISB Essay questions from the previous years, we understand that ISB typically asks three categories of questions: 

  • Why should ISB select you?
  • What are your career plans post ISB?
  • Why ISB?

Here are two ISB Sample Essays, which will give you further insights on developing holistic ISB PGP Essays.

ISB Sample Essay 1 :

I have deliberately explored beyond the traditional boundaries and outside my comfort zone, in the effort to evolve more comprehensively, as an individual and as a professional. Be it launching my footwear venture while still in college, stepping into a fundraising role at Cerestra, a niche private equity firm, or moving to a new country where the orientations and regulations were unfamiliar, I have measured up to every challenge and performed commendably, in every domain I have operated in. The appetite for quest and learning is the defining feature of my personality.

Working in one of the most internationally diverse cosmopolitans, Dubai, has taught me to respect and embrace diverse cultures and ethnicities, in the workplace and outside it. My international experience will serve to add global perspectives to classroom discussions with the diversely accomplished peer group at ISB. I hope to share valuable insights and perspectives, culled from my professional journey, during experiential learning and case study sessions.

I learned the dynamics of the Real Estate industry in an emerging economy through my stint at Cerestra, the first ‘education real estate’ focused private equity in India. I furthered my understanding of the industry in a developed economy, through my work in the Corporate Finance team of Sobha Realty, one of the largest real estate developers in the Middle East. I hope to leverage my knowledge of the industry while participating in and leading the SREI Infrastructure Club of ISB. By organizing networking sessions and coffee chats with industry stalwarts and treks, and site visits to leading companies, I want to further the club’s objectives and provide a practical platform to promote the development as well as the investment aspect of Real Estate.

I was introduced to long-distance running 3 years ago and founded ‘The Barclays Global Markets Running Group’. As a team of 15 colleagues, we participated in various 10 km and 21km marathons in Mumbai. I hope to continue the trend at ISB and introduce the Running Club. 

Having had the opportunity to interview for the ISB YLP even with a 640 GMAT score, during college, I have remained focused and driven by my ISB dream, and plan to consolidate and draw from my professional experiences post-college, to contribute to the learning of my peers even as I enhance my own knowledge and skills in the process.

ISB Sample Essay 2:

Working with Barclays allowed me to engage proactively, in Finance, the domain that fascinates me immensely. Leveraging my CFA Level-2 learnings, I embraced FinTech and complicated marketing strategies, while transforming into a mature professional. Targeting the sought-after ‘buy side, I learned the impact and mechanics of ‘socially relevant’ investments at a niche private equity, Cerestra, which exposed me to the core and core plus investment strategies. Impelled to explore the mammoth Real Estate industry, I joined the Corporate Finance team of Sobha Realty, Dubai. Collaborating with CXOs to start new verticals induced a steep, learning curve.

Post-MBA, I hope to operate as an Associate at a prestigious Private Equity or Asset Management firm, where I can specialize in Real Estate. Working with companies like Aditya Birla Group, Kautilya Finance, or Shaporji Palonji Investment, I can hone my skills in identifying the most rewarding asset investment opportunities. After consolidating my competencies, I aspire to launch a crowdfunding venture to fund Indian developers, who focus on affordable housing. I aim to provide low-cost capital to affordable housing projects, by pooling investments from the growing middle-class segment. 

The ISB PGP will acquaint me thoroughly with the theoretical and application-oriented aspects of business functions such as Operations, Marketing, Technology, and Strategy while allowing me to imbibe multidimensional skills from the richly diverse peer group. I hope to collaborate with the Punj Lloyd Institute in research on Crowdfunding Real Estate. The Practicum Courses will enlighten me about mid-sized firms in fundraising. Scanning student blogs, researching college facilities, observing the profiles of reputed faculty, and conversing with alumni like Anubhav Chakrabortty (ISB’19) and Shailesh Chandak (ISB’12), about their transformational journeys at ISB, I reaffirmed my belief that ISB is the best equipped and most enabling platform for me to accelerate my onward journey.

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