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January 27, 2013

IESE MBA Application Essays (2012-2013)

This is my analysis of IESE Essays (2012-2013) for admission to the MBA Class of 2015.

IESE offers an intensive case study based MBA program. It was founded with the active cooperation of HBS and its first-year is a core curriculum program where a section of approximately 70 students will take all the same classes together. While the first-year is rather rigid, the second-year allows for great flexibility including the opportunity to take courses in Spanish and opportunities to study abroad.  If you are looking for academic rigour, international diversity amongst students and faculty, want to spend two years in one the world’s greatest cities, IESE should be on your short-list.  Based on what I observed during my 2012 visit there and through talking with former clients over the years, IESE offers an intensive MBA education. The first-year at IESE is simply extremely hard.

One of the nice things that IESE does is actually provide initial feedback to potential applicants. You can get feedback on your profile by completing this feedback form. Knowing where admissions sees potential fit is a great way to determine whether to apply.

IESE is no party school. It might be in a town well known for having a good time, but if you have any thoughts of  enjoying the fun in Barcelona every evening, I think you will have to wait for the second year of the program.  During your first year at IESE, expect to be reading cases and talking cases.  Last year, I also visited IMD, another program well known for being intense. I think it fair to say that these two European non-party schools contrast with LBS and INSEAD, the other top European B-schools, but ones well known as P(arty) Schools.

My clients who apply to IESE, typically apply to some combination of the three schools I mentioned in the previous paragraph and/or US two-year programs.  You can find testimonials from 2 of the 7 clients I worked with who were admitted to IESE in past years.

IESE has 6 deadlines, 3 of which have passed at the time of writing.  I wish I had been able to get this post up earlier, but in future years I hope to have it up well in advance of the first round deadline.

Essays: Like with many top US schools, IESE has also reduced the total number of essays. Compared to IMD, INSEAD, or LBS, IESE’s essay set is small and relatively easy to answer. If you have already done the essays for IMD or INSEAD, the IESE essays will be particularly easy.

IESE Essay 1: Describe your short-term and long-term career goals (post MBA). (300 word limit)
This is a very standard goals statement. The fact that it is brief means you need to provide a future focused statement. Extensive discussion of your past experience or of why you want to attend IESE will just not fit here. However, I think it is important to explain why you want an IESE MBA at least briefly.  Your reader should both understand what your goals and have at least a clear idea, though not the details of why you want an IESE MBA.  This is the advice I have given to my clients applying to IESE.  As is generally the case, conceive of your short-term goal as a plan and your long-term goal as a vision.  Make sure that your goals intuitively connect together because you don’t have space for any sort of extensive discussion of goals that don’t connect together logically.

If you are having difficulty formulating your goals, please see my method for formulating goals, which can be found in my analysis of Stanford’s goal essay.

IESE Essay 2: Describe two substantial accomplishments and one failure in a professional or private endeavour. (600 word limit)
This is very limited word count to cover all of this. Please see my analysis of INSEAD’s substantial accomplishments (Essay 2) and Failure (Essay 3) questions as that analysis applies here.

The only differences between IESE and INSEAD is that INSEAD will give you  400 words for the accomplishments and wants one to be personal and 400 words for the failure.  In the case of IESE, you are free to distribute the 600 words in any way you like, which means you might find yourself needing say 250 words for one accomplishment, 150 for another accomplishment, and 200 words for a failure.

IESE Essay 3: I wish that the application had asked me… (200 word limit)
Think very carefully about how you want to use this.  I would avoid discussing something negative here unless absolutely necessary. Instead focus on something(s) that you think will help IESE understand why you belong in their program.

I don’t suggest using this as a place for simply explaining something negative like a bad GPA or GMAT or TOEFL, instead provide admissions with greater insight into who you are. Use this question to balance out the rest of your application by discussing some aspect of who you are that has not been sufficiently focused on.

Specifically ask yourself, What else can I tell IESE that help them understand why they should admit me?

While you will likely use this space for an essay that might be utilized for another application, it is critical that IESE not get the impression that you have done so. As with any school, I think it is important that IESE admissions gets the impression that you specifically tailored this essay to their school.

Since you have already discussed your goals, I would not suggest using the essay for that purpose. You may want to use this as a contribution type essay where you discuss one or more ways you can contribute to the program. If you decide to write a contribution type answer here, please see my analysis of LBS Questions 3-5.

However you answer this question, it should give IESE further reason to want to interview you.

My post on IESE interviews will be coming soon.

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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