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Decoding INSEAD’s Motivational Essays


Embarking on the journey to INSEAD, one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools, requires not just impeccable credentials but also an introspective and authentic presentation of oneself through the application essays. Amongst the most unique elements of an INSEAD application are the motivational essays, a triad of introspective prompts designed to probe deep into the applicant’s persona, beyond the surface of professional achievements.

Understanding the nuances of these essays is crucial for aspirants aiming to craft compelling narratives that resonate with the admissions committee of this prestigious institution. Let’s delve into the specifics of the INSEAD motivational essays and explore how you can leverage them to showcase the breadth and depth of your experiences.

Unpacking the INSEAD Motivational Essays

The Purpose Behind the Prompts

INSEAD seeks to understand the human behind the application – your individual story, your struggles, and the lessons that have sculpted your character. Each essay prompt is a window into your soul, asking not just for a recount of events but for the emotional and intellectual journey that you have traversed.

Word Count Wisdom

Brevity is the soul of wit, and INSEAD emphasizes this with specific word count requirements for each essay. It is a test of your ability to communicate succinctly, ensuring that every word on the page serves a purpose in painting a vivid picture of your personality and potential.

Crafting Compelling Content

For your INSEAD essays to stand out, you must weave narratives that are not just factually accurate but are also imbued with your personal voice and vision. This is your stage to display how your unique experiences and perspectives will enrich the diverse tapestry of INSEAD’s global community.

Strategies for INSEAD’s Essay Prompts

Motivation Essay 1: “Give a candid description of yourself…”

For the first motivational essay, INSEAD asks candidates to provide a candid description of themselves, focusing on personal characteristics that they consider strengths and weaknesses, and to discuss the main factors that have influenced their personal development, providing examples when necessary.

This prompt serves as a canvas for self-reflection, allowing you to paint a picture of your personal evolution. The key here is to demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to evaluate one’s journey critically. When discussing strengths, illustrate them with scenarios that showcase their impact on your personal or professional life. Weaknesses, on the other hand, should be presented as areas of potential growth rather than insurmountable flaws, ideally with examples of efforts you’ve made to address them. Link back to the influences that have shaped these traits, whether they be people, experiences, or inner revelations.

This essay is an exercise in self-awareness and vulnerability. Addressing your strengths and weaknesses with candid humility while reflecting on the influences that have shaped your character is pivotal. It’s about striking a balance between confidence and introspection, demonstrating a clear understanding of your own narrative.

Motivation Essay 2: “Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why…”

In the second essay, INSEAD is interested in hearing about the achievement you’re most proud of and a situation where you failed. This dual prompt invites you to journey through your peaks and valleys — the highs of success and the lows of failure.

For the achievement part, focus on why this particular success holds significant value. What did it teach you, and how did it shape your subsequent choices? Discussing failure, crucially, should not just be about the setback itself but about the rebound. Detail the introspective journey that followed, the lessons learned, and how these experiences have impacted your relationships with others. The admissions committee will be looking for evidence of resilience, the ability to self-reflect, and mature from life’s inevitable setbacks.

Here, resilience is the key theme. The prompt urges you to showcase your capability to learn from life’s oscillations. How you articulate your proudest achievements and the wisdom gleaned from failures will offer INSEAD insights into your character, maturity, and potential for growth.

Motivation Essay 3: “Describe all types of extra-professional activities…”

The third motivational essay seeks to understand who you are beyond professional titles and work accomplishments. This is where you discuss your involvement in activities outside of your professional sphere and reflect on how these experiences have enriched you.

Whether you are an avid volunteer, a sports enthusiast, a cultural patron, or active in politics, this essay is about what these activities say about you as a person. How do they reflect your values, your energy, and your commitment to interests beyond the office? INSEAD values diversity and the breadth of experiences that each student brings to the table. This essay is your opportunity to showcase your individuality and how it complements the multifaceted INSEAD community.

This essay is your chance to present the multidimensionality of your identity. It’s about illustrating how your passions and pursuits outside the professional realm contribute to your overall persona and how they align with INSEAD’s ethos of fostering a well-rounded community.

Frequently Asked Questions

Essay Overlap: To Repeat or Not?

It’s not uncommon for experiences to be relevant to more than one essay prompt. The challenge is to present these experiences with fresh insights, ensuring that each essay stands alone as a distinct facet of your profile.


As you embark on the task of distilling your experiences and insights into words, remember that INSEAD is looking beyond the text. They are seeking to discover the person they will teach and learn from, the leader who will contribute and transform. With each essay, you have the chance to prove that person is you.

Enrich your understanding of the INSEAD MBA experience by exploring the stories of those who have successfully navigated this journey. Discover how a candidate overcame a low GMAT score and a gap in work experience to secure her place at INSEAD on Priya’s Success Story.

In penning your motivational essays, let authenticity be your guiding principle and strategic introspection your method. Through this process, not only will you craft a set of essays that stand out but also embark on a journey of self-discovery that will prepare you for the transformative experience that is an INSEAD MBA.

For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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