ISB essays 2018 (2019 intake)

Old is gold, says ISB. And why not? After all, something that has been tried and tested is often going to be more reliable than something new and uncertain. That is the core philosophy on which ISB has launched its 2018-19 application. The familiar old interface (after an unwelcome change last year), essay topics similar to those seen earlier, and the (re)introduction of an optional essay are the key hallmarks that denote these changes. The ISB application for 2018 (2019 intake or Class of 2020) is now open, and ISB has announced a new set of essays to replace the ones from 2017. The ISB essays 2018, though, aren’t really a completely fresh set of essays, but somewhat modified versions of essays that have been used in its essay set by ISB in the past. The core elements that ISB looks for, though, remain the same across its essays over the years – differentiation, achievement, and fit with the school and the PGP program.

ISB essays 2018 – essay topics

Essay 1: 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? (400 words max)

Essay 2: 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? (300 words max)

Essay 3: Optional essay, for reapplicants. (this has been reintroduced this year, after it was removed last year)

As we have noted earlier, these essays are not completely new. In 2013-14 (and in earlier years too), for essay 1, ISB had used a similar essay, focusing on differentiation. In 2014-15, ISB had used an essay topic very similar to that of essay 2 this year. Some elements similar to these, in fact, had even been present in ISB’s essay set last year (2017-2018).

However, all that aside, this year’s essays are just that – specific and unique to this year. Let’s thus right away get into the analysis of these essays and how top ISB applicants can do their best on the ISB application 2018.

ISB essays 2018 – analysis

Essay 1: This year ISB has spelt ‘diversity’ literally in its essay topic. While it had always been there in a subtle way, this year it has been made explicit. That is important. It means you need to understand what ISB considers as diversity, and how you see that diversity in your profile contributing at ISB. That is the crux of the matter. Till last year, many applicants could (and did) get away by mentioning their achievements as differentiators in their first ISB essay. No longer. This year, it is all about what you bring in that would be unique (or at least rare) at ISB, and how you would use that skill to contribute to the school, in and outside class. Academic achievements, work excellence, and the usual extra-curricular involvement may not be enough to show this differentiation. You will need to dig deep – what qualities/experiences/knowledge do you have that are likely to be within the definition of diversity? There is no standard answer to this one, and that adds to the beauty of the question. For some people, this diversity will lie in their background or experiences; for others, it will lie in their exposure and knowledge; for yet others, it is their industry expertise or projects that can demonstrate this quality. Finally, these points need to be made relevant to ISB. For example, why should ISB care because you have a unique background or grew up in difficult circumstances? How does that make you a better applicant?

For this reason, the ISB essays this year will require a lot of thought, brainstorming, and discussion, and of course an excellent understanding of ISB. With 400 words to play with, there should be enough room in this essay to discuss this topic at length.

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Essay 2: The space here is going to be an issue. You need to fit in a lot here, within just 300 words – your career so far, the rationale for key choices, your goals, and your fit with ISB. Defining your goals is going to be at the core. Remember, not every goal is worthwhile, and not every goal requires business education. Similarly, moving to a management position or a business role isn’t really a ‘natural progression’, as many applicants tend to believe. You need to weave the threads in your story here – what has been your journey so far, and what is the next stop? The part around how ISB fits in again requires research and a strong understanding of the school, but of a kind that is different from what you needed for essay 1. There, the question was, ‘how will you contribute to ISB?’. Here, it is ‘how will ISB help you?’. At the cost of repetition, let us again reiterate that this essay will require thought, fit, and discipline – making a convincing argument around four different points in just 300 words is never easy, but it can certainly be done.

ISB deadlines 2018

In many ways, ISB is experiencing a sense of deja vu this year. It has gone back to the Round 1 deadline it used to have 4 years ago, bucking the trend of keeping October 15 (in line with many global schools) as the Round 1 deadline for 2015-2017, and settling for September 15 as the date for this year. The Round 2 deadline too has been moved forward – to December 15 – close to the November 30 deadline ISB had for years running, till 2014.

Just to be clear, the deadlines are:

Round 1 – September 15, 2018

Interviews  for Round 1 will be held between October 1, 2018 and November 7, 2018.

Round 2 – December 15, 2018

Interviews  for Round 2 will be held between January 1, 2019 and February 7, 2019.

ISB applications 2018 – key changes, and what they mean for applicants

ISB has changed quite a few things on its application as compared to last year’s PGP application. Here are the salient changes, along with what they mean:

The reapplicant essay is back: Last year, ISB had removed the reapplicant essay, doing away with an important avenue that helped reapplicants communicate their points of improvement to the school. Now, that essay is back, and it is mandatory for reapplicants to fill in that essay. Once again, thus, there is a focus on how your profile has improved since the last time you applied to ISB, for reapplicants. This is good, as you can show them the hard work done to be a better candidate.

The deadlines are earlier: Helps you to prepare for, and submit your ISB application in advance. This change has been made because ISB’s process had become too long-drawn, with R2 applicants getting decisions only by March. The change of the deadlines to Sep 15 (R1) and Dec 15 (R2) will help the school manage better, and will also help applicants applying to multiple schools to focus on ISB first, and possibly, most.

The old application system is back: In 2017, ISB had experimented with an external technology provider, changing the look and feel, and also the navigation for the ISB app, away from the familiar interface ISB had used since it was founded. The new system did not work, though, and ISB was forced to extend the deadline for R2 from Jan 15 to Jan 18, 2018, when the system could not handle the application volume on the eve of the deadline. Now, the old application and system is back. In our opinion, this is a welcome change, and ensures that applicants have the technological stability they need. After all, the last thing you need when you are submitting your application to a top MBA program is a technical glitch.

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