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. Learn about the case method at IESE here. While the first-year is set, 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, and 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 f irst-year at IESE is simply extremely hard.
In 2013, I had the opportunity to interview a faculty member at IESE who provides really good insight into the program. While he has since left IESE for another school, he was a longstanding member of the faculty and helped significantly with student recruiting in Japan, where IESE now has quite a strong alumni presence.
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 whether 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 for that even to be considered. 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 Party Schools.
My clients who apply to IESE, typically apply to some combination of the three schools I mentioned in the previous paragraph and/or top 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 4 deadlines, 2 of which have passed at the time of writing. I wish I had been able to get this post up earlier.
Essays: Like with many top US schools, IESE has also reduced the total number of essays. Compared to IMD or INSEAD, 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. When considering what aspects of your experience to discuss, I do suggest you reflect on IESE’s mission statement to emphasize aspects of your experience that align well with the program.
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.
Essay 2: Describe a recent situation (1-2 years ago maximum) that demonstrates your fit with IESE's mission and values. (300 words)
You can find out about IESE’s mission here. I think any applicant should be able to provide a situation, most likely an accomplishment, which can be connected to IESE’s mission. I would pay particular attention to this part of the Mission Statement:
“Believing that businesses are above all communities of people who work better in an atmosphere of trust, IESE's mission and core values are articulated in its programs and school culture and carried-out by faculty and staff who lead by example. These emphasize:
- Respect for others
- Commitment to the common good of companies and society
- Learning and listening
- A general management perspective
- Human and ethical values
- International dimension
- Transformational impact
- Knowledge development”
The nice thing about both the mission and five pillars of leadership development is that they suggest a wide variety of themes for an essay. In 2013, I had an opportunity to attend IESE Dean Jordi Canals' presentation to alumni in Tokyo because I am a sponsor of IESE’s Japan Trek. One point he made was that ethics are incorporated into all the courses at IESE. While I don’t think it is necessary to write directly about ethics in this essay, I do think it is important that whatever you write about shows your compatibility with IESE’s focus on ethical leadership.
What I suggest doing is writing about an accomplishment which highlights your fit with IESE. For a detailed analysis of how to write an accomplishment essay, see my analysis of IMD Essay 1.
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.
Some Questions to get you brainstorming:
1. What do you want IESE to know about you that would positively impact your chances for admission?
2. What major positive aspects of your life have not been effectively INTERPRETED to the admissions committee in other parts of the application?
3. If you were going to tell admissions something about you that would not be obvious from rest of the application, what would they be? Why should IESE care?
4. What could you discuss about yourself that you think would really help admissions understand you and want to admit you?
As you can see, these questions would lead to very different kinds of responses. There is no one way to answer this question, but I believe there are right ways for every applicant to do so.
However you answer this question, it should give IESE further reason to want to interview you.
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.