Essay Analysis

ISB YLP 2024 Stage 1 & Stage 2 Essay Analysis & Essay Samples

What is ISB YLP? 

The ISB Young Leaders Program (YLP) is an entry channel to the full-time 1-year ISB Post-Graduate Program (PGP), for students still in college. This is a deferred admit program that ensures an admitted candidate a seat at the ISB PGP, after gaining approximately 2 years of full-time experience. Students in their final or pre-final year may apply through the YLP deadlines and secure an admit to the ISB PGP, as they complete college. The admitted candidates may then take up a full-time professional engagement of their choice, before joining ISB.


ISB YLP is a unique opportunity for college students to apply to one of the best business schools in the country. YLP Stage-1 does not require a GMAT/GRE score. Strong academic scores, therefore, are a big plus. Additionally, present a compelling story, that makes the admissions team understand your strengths, and believe that you will be a valuable addition to the class

Vikram Singh, CEO and Chief Mentor at ISBmantra, and a Former Admissions Officer at ISB

YLP Stage-1 is the first step in the application process, which requires the applicants to submit an essay, along with a few details about their profile. Please note that the Stage-1 application does not require a GMAT/GRE score. Applicants selected through Stage-1, move to Stage-2, where they must submit an essay, along with their test score. ISB Application Deadline, check this article to know the deadlines of ISB YLP stage 1 and stage 2.

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ISB YLP Stage-1 Essay Question

The Stage-1 Application Essay remains critical to one’s application, given that the essay is the only key component that the applicant is able to present to the admissions team, to communicate their best stories. 

The following is the Stage-1 Essay Question for YLP 2024:

Everyone is inclined towards a particular interest/goal which they are passionate about, be it in the field of academics or extra-curriculars. What is that one thing that you are passionate about? What are your current efforts in pursuing it, and what efforts will you put in the future to achieve that goal? (300 words max)

ISB YLP Stage-1 Essay Analysis & Tips

The question seems to have multiple parts and essentially, we need to focus on addressing these four components of the question through the essay:

  • What is the one thing that you are passionate about?
  • Current Efforts or activities that prove that interest/passion
  • Future vision/plan in the context of your passion
  • Efforts in the future that may be aligned with your plans

The YLP Stage-1 essay question can often be confusing, since, outside the academics, the things we are passionate about as college students, are often not what we want to pursue as a career. Especially when the question allows you to wander in the area of “extra-curriculars”, it may be very misleading to start talking about how you love organizing college the college fest, but don’t intend to be an event planner.

One may be passionate about music, or sports, or other activities, but one may not always have a goal around that passion. The question, therefore, needs to be viewed from the lens of an MBA application, and a correlation needs to be developed between what you are passionate about and what your professional goals might be. 

How do you go about it?

Think about something you really enjoy doing. It can be things like football or sudoku or travelling, etc. The problem is that in an MBA Application context, it is difficult to connect the dots forward, by talking about football, sudoku, or traveling. It will therefore be essential to connect the dots looking backward, and first identify what drives your interests and energy. Recall times when you did something that really got you hooked and that also has a larger applicability to it. 

E.g., Organizing College fest – and how planning, people management, etc. interested you and going forward you would like to work on complex projects that test your people and project management skills. 

 Or, working with data, the knack for which you may have developed in college or internship, etc., and how you are passionate about the power of data to solve complex business problems.

Or, some paper you read on Machine Learning and how you have been intrigued by the idea since then. Talk about the internship that you recently took up in the area and what you want to achieve in the near future. 

Or, some community work that you took up and that spurred your interest in large-scale social impact.

Or, some committee in college that you have been a part of and how that influenced you and your future plans (along with the passion with which you have been serving in the community).

These are just a few ideas to largely communicate that one would rather pick things that may further be relatable with one’s future plans if required – especially while building the YLP Stage 2 essay.

Then talk about your efforts during college, outside of college, virtually, etc. that have been aligned with your passion/interest. This will go on to validate your interest or passion and prove that you are committed to where your heart lies, thus implying that you will do what it takes to achieve your goals. 

Conclude with how you will look to grow in this field, with specific efforts that you plan to put in and in what direction these efforts will help you grow. 

The 300 word limit makes it all the more challenging to answer all the questions, but if you prepare well to include all these details, you will be able to differentiate your essay from the larger pool of applicants really well. 

ISB YLP Stage-1 Sample Essay Structure

  1. Intro – Start with establishing your passion or area of interest (50-60 words)
  2. Provide some more details about your passion and any activities or initiatives that may further prove your passion in that area. (80-100 words)
  3. Build on the current passion to present a logically feasible future plan, preferably in the professional context. It’s ok to present a direction instead of a concrete destination, since all applicants are college students and are yet to explore everything so concretely. (70-80 words)
  4. Talk about how you foresee achieving your plan, any interim steps that you want to take, any milestones that you may have marked for yourself – essentially, any kind of effort that you expect to put in before, during, and after the YLP to help achieve your goals. (80-100 words)

How Can ISBmantra Help?

Every applicant is unique; and so is every story. Our team of former admissions officers from ISB, along with a pool of 30+ ISB alumni, works with every applicant in a completely personalized manner to help bring out your unique stories. Further, your Consultant works as your coach, helping you in identifying your strengths, picking the most impactful stories, and presenting them through the essay. Explore our YLP Comprehensive Application Builder with Moneyback.

ISB YLP Stage-2 Essay Question

The following is the Stage-2 Essay Question for YLP 2024:

"How would you describe your ideal career? Have you identified the skills that you would need to acquire to accomplish it? How does ISB play a role for you to realize your ideal career??"

ISB YLP Stage-2 Essay Analysis & Tips

Business schools often ask applicants about their career goals, both short-term and long-term.

Typically, these goals should be linked to one’s professional background or experience. However, for ISB YLP applicants with almost no full-time experience at the time of applying, linking future plans to past experiences can be challenging. As college freshers, our aspirations are often driven more by our interests than by our current skill sets. When asked by your parents what you wanted to do when you grew up, you probably picked professions such as pilot, doctor, policeman, scientist, or even cricketer or footballer. If you are writing your YLP Stage-2 essay, chances are high that you have pursued none of these streams.

At this point, therefore, do you have a better understanding of your future plans? Have you mapped out potential career paths that may lead you to a career you consider ideal? What kind of research have you done to understand your options well? Is an MBA critical to those plans? Answering these questions will allow you to present a coherent and thorough career story.

The essay prompt has three parts – all interlinked, but each part is nuanced in its own way. Let’s dive deeper into each part and understand what you can write in your essay.

1. How would you describe your ideal career?

It’s easy to state that you want to become a Management Consultant, a Product Manager, an Investment Banker, a Brand Manager, or an Entrepreneur – and none of these is a right or wrong career plan. What’s more important is to be able to “personalize” your answer. If your ideal career involves building innovative tech products that solve problems in the healthcare sector, that’s perfectly alright. Instead of getting stuck with designations and jargon, go ahead and present what you envision yourself doing. Stating that you want to become a Product Manager or the Chief Technology Officer of a large company means nothing if you don’t explain what you hope to be doing in that role and why it excites you.

2. Have you identified the skills that you would need to acquire to accomplish it?

Since there is no right or wrong answer to your ideal career, it all boils down to how you use this part of the essay to impress your application reader. You may have zeroed in on a career path, but to convince the ISB admissions team, you need to explain how you identified that goal, how you gained exposure to the field, how you developed an understanding of the role, and the key skills you seek to develop to excel in that role.

Steve Jobs famously said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.” This is your time to connect the dots looking backward. Did you take up any projects that got you interested in this field? Did you pursue internships where you gained more exposure to the industry or function? Did you talk to seniors from the industry to develop a better understanding of the field? Discuss anything and everything that shows you have really engaged with your chosen career path.

As a YLP applicant, remember two things while answering this part of the question:

  • Your full-time professional career may have just started. Do not try to present a lot of gaps in your skill set to justify the need for an MBA. The skills identified may be areas you are beginning to become good at and will continue to work on.
  • It’s alright not to have everything figured out perfectly. As long as you have a direction, you can take some time to understand the destination. Present a high-level direction in terms of the industry or the function that excites you and the career paths you would like to explore.

3. How does ISB play a role for you to realize your ideal career?

Applicants often end up investing a lot of space on “Why ISB”, but ISB knows what ISB has.

So, focus more on your plans and the skills you seek to acquire. While having a plan is crucial, it’s also acceptable to experiment, make mistakes, learn lessons, and adjust your career path. You cannot aspire to work with Google, not know how to get there, and just hope that ISB will magically secure your dream job. On the contrary, you have two important years to shape your career before you join ISB. You need to have a plan for the two years before ISB and at least two years after ISB.

Try and answer this part of the question by breaking it into three sub-questions:

  • What kind of roles do you expect to take up now?
  • What kind of roles would you like to take up after ISB?
  • How will ISB equip you to move from role 1 to role 2?

Answering these questions will convince the reader of your clarity of goals – even if they are expected to evolve with time. Avoid writing short fiction about your future plans. ISB is not looking to read a list of the best courses, professors, or international exchange programs it offers. Instead, talk about what you want to do and how specific components of the ISB program will be relevant to your goals.

You are still in college and are yet to gain good exposure as you enter the corporate world. It’s completely alright, therefore, to also present a Plan B or “similar” options that you would be open to exploring.

A.M.Kannan, Senior Mentor – ISBmantra, Former ISB Admissions Director

Quick Tips: ISB YLP Stage 2 Application Essay

Qn: How should I approach the essay on describing my ideal career?
Ans: Avoid generic designations and focus on specific roles or industries you are passionate about. Further, personalize your answer by explaining what you envision yourself doing and why it excites you.

Qn: What should I include when discussing the skills I need to acquire?
Ans: Discuss how you identified your career goal, your exposure to the field, and the skills you need to develop. Highlight any projects, internships, or conversations with industry professionals that informed your career choice.

Qn: How important is it to link my career goals to my current skills?
Ans: While it’s helpful to link your career goals to your current skills, it’s also acceptable to acknowledge that you are at the beginning of your journey. Emphasize your direction and the steps you plan to take to develop the necessary skills.

Qn: What should I mention about ISB’s role in realizing my career goals?
Ans: Outline the roles you expect to take up before and after ISB, and how ISB’s program will help you transition between these roles. Focus on specific components of ISB’s offerings that align with your career aspirations.

Qn: What should I do if I’m unsure about my career path?
Ans: It’s okay to be uncertain. Focus on your interests and the industries or functions that excite you. Use the next few years to explore different paths through internships and networking.

Qn: What common mistakes should I avoid in my YLP essay?
Ans: Avoid generic statements and clichés in your essays. Do not present career goals that are either too rigid or too open-ended – draw a balance between knowing what you want to do and being flexible as you progress in your career

ISB YLP Application and Interview Assistance

ISBmantra is the only consulting company with a team of former ISB Admissions Officials, along with 25+ISB Alumni.
We provide detailed assistance for your ISB YLP Stage 1 and Stage 2 Application Essays and Interview.
Feel free to reach out to us for any queries. 

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