Six Common Myths and Misconceptions About INSEAD

Every year countless applicants ask us about the INSEAD MBA requirements. Given the school’s high profile around the globe, it’s not surprising that so many applicants think about spending time in Fontainebleau and Singapore (It is also a good chance to explore the world!). What does surprise us, though, is how common some misconceptions are among even those applicants who have extensively studied the INSEAD MBA program. We always urge these applicants to go back and do their homework a bit more before they start working on their INSEAD MBA requirements. If you’re considering getting an INSEAD MBA, ask yourself: How do you know if the school really is a good fit for you? And, perhaps more importantly, how do you address the INSEAD MBA requirements? Today we look at six things that applicants think they know about the INSEAD MBA: Is the INSEAD MBA really a global program? Or is it just an American school located overseas? While INSEAD may have physical locations in three very different countries, with students representing over 80 nations on campus, and it has been successful in defining itself as a global education, some still criticize the INSEAD MBA as being an American school experience. The large number of U.S. nationals who attend, the concentration of American faculty, and the relationships with so many American companies may give this impression. In the past, this was simply a reflection of the power of the U.S. in business the world over, and that may be changing. Regardless of nationality, all students and faculty at INSEAD have a global worldview, and all are interested in learning about business from this broader perspective which is simply not as pervasive (yet?) at any American school. The INSEAD MBA program also puts a cap on the number of admits from a specific country to ensure diversity. Typically, France, U.S., and India would have the biggest contingents but the cap on admits from one nationality makes discussions balanced and viewpoints well-represented from around the world. Faculty are also from all over the world. Thus, allowing keen students to observe communication and teaching styles across cultures. In fact, an INSEAD MBA requirement is to demonstrate open-mindedness, intellectual curiosity, and adaptability. This means that applicants need to show they are open to learn new ideas from the rest of the world and can collaborate with students from diverse backgrounds. A typical INSEAD MBA class is facilitated with discussions about practices and examples across the world, ingraining the nuances of working across cultures. Thus, we advise applicants that an INSEAD MBA requirement is to be careful with cultural biases, actively demonstrate multicultural engagement and collaboration in their professional and personal lives. The school wants to make sure that you will make the most of your INSEAD MBA experience, by growing from it, and contributing to your peers’ learning. INSEAD MBA is in France so I need to speak French to apply. Is it an INSEAD MBA requirement to speak French? No — but you need to speak a second language to gain entry (and a third to graduate). Courses are taught in English, not French, and the program rotates through the different campuses — and in fact, applicants to the program are not guaranteed that they will be assigned to one location or the other to start the program, and a large number switch campuses at least once. An INSEAD MBA requirement to apply is to be fluent in English, though students must be familiar with at least one more language before entering, and must demonstrate a working knowledge of a third during the course of study. Do expect to have more students, and even professors, that would have English as their second language. They will be fluent but some nuances would be different. This makes the learning experience more enriching especially if you will be working in an increasingly global environment. Thus, speaking English like a native with perfect accent is also not an INSEAD MBA requirement. For international applicants, don’t stress about this, focus on your substance instead. After all, even best-selling authors Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Arianna Huffington speak with heavy accents as they deliver thought-provoking points to a global audience. The INSEAD MBA program is a great opportunity to develop your presentation and communication skills to a global audience, while also closely collaborating with groupmates from different cultures in a high intensity environment, a good simulation for the global work environment. INSEAD MBA is only good for someone who wants to work in Europe. The location in France can be an advantage if your goals are to stay in Europe however many American graduates do return to the U.S. after finishing school. The job search can be more difficult for these students, but that can be true for American graduates of any international program, including those at London Business School, HEC Paris, IE, IESE, among others. With its Singapore and Dubai campuses, the INSEAD MBA is also gaining traction in Asia and the Middle East. Topping the widely followed Financial Times “Global MBA Ranking” in 2016 and 2017 has also helped the INSEAD MBA gain additional recognition around the world, including in the U.S. INSEAD MBA students are older. Actually, the average age in each intake is currently 28 — the same as for American schools such as Stern and Haas. The average age decreased over the years as the INSEAD MBA program has accepted a wider range of candidate profiles. Successful applicants to the INSEAD MBA program definitely are able to articulate how they are ready for the experience, and often students will have already led rich lives with diverse and impressive accomplishments. Part of the INSEAD MBA requirement in filling up the application form is to state time spent outside your home country. This allows the applicant to share global exposure from a young age, whether for exchange programs, internships, travel, or work. The INSEAD MBA admissions committee values cross-cultural experiences. Thus, younger candidates with global exposure can show social maturity that would enable them to make the most out of the INSEAD MBA experience as they are expected to be comfortable functioning and contributing in a multicultural environment as soon as they start their INSEAD MBA program. All INSEAD MBA students are sponsored. Just like with other full-time MBA programs, some INSEAD MBA admits do have their tuition covered by their employers and will return to work after graduation, but the vast majority are self-funded. (Economic downturns can affect percentage of sponsored students as the security of staying with their employer are more enticing for those pursuing their MBAs in this environment.) The major exception to this are students who come from the Big Three consulting firms — McKinsey, Bain and Booz. These students typically are sponsored, in exchange for a commitment to return to their firm. However, candidates may be pleased to note that all three of these marquee companies, and a host of other well-known consulting firms, recruit a large number of additional INSEAD MBA graduates each year. The presence of the sponsored consultants also provide great inputs into the day-to-day lives of management consultants and tips on the application process. Moreover, the INSEAD MBA is an attractive proposition for self-funded students. Its short program duration, 10 or 12 months, considerably decreases the opportunity cost of lost salaries. Thus, the INSEAD MBA consistently ranks among the best in terms of ROI (return on investment), when tuition fees, living expenses, and opportunity costs are factored in. Since it’s a top-ranked program, a stratospheric GMAT score is part of the INSEAD MBA requirements. Actually, INSEAD GMAT requirements are on average a bit lower than you’ll find at similarly-ranked MBA programs. This program, as some other international schools do as well, values a variety of attributes in a profile, with test scores being just one. As with any MBA program, a high GMAT can help, and a low GMAT can hinder, a candidate’s chances, but there are lots of other factors taken into consideration by the INSEAD MBA Admissions Committee when evaluating an application. Although not stated as part of the INSEAD MBA requirements, having a good balance between quantitative and verbal scores help assure the INSEAD MBA Admissions Committee that you have the academic capacity to keep up with the rigorous INSEAD MBA program. Thus, if this is a weak part of your application, use the essays to show a track record of excelling with analytical work, or play up unique contributions that you will share with your INSEAD MBA peers and the school community. We hope this blog gave you a better idea of the INSEAD MBA requirements, an inside look at the INSEAD MBA experience and how this could be the right program for you.  If you’re ready to start building your own application for INSEAD or other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!