I first learnt about INSEAD when I was doing my research for MBA programs back in 2011 while working at Unilever Pakistan. As someone who has lived in 8 cities across 4 countries in the span of my lifetime the global appeal of the program resonated strongly with me, and so it didn’t take long for INSEAD to become my dream school! However, that dream was put on the shelf as life decided to take me on a unique roller-coaster ride for the next few years.
In 2012, 3 years into my marriage, it came as a sudden jolt to us when my young, smart, handsome and healthy husband was diagnosed with a brain cancer; the most aggressive kind there was. Needless to say, my life came to a standstill. The next few years as I tried to balance my brand management role at work alongside my caregiver role at home, I realized that my priorities in life quickly started to change. My husband’s journey as someone battling a terminal illness coupled with my journey as his spouse and caregiver, put us center-stage into a life and world that we had never been privy to. After diagnosis, we frantically tried to educate ourselves about the disease and search for the best treatment available. We experienced first-hand the immense care and the extreme challenges of navigating through the healthcare system both in Pakistan and abroad. Two years after diagnosis, as the disease started progressing, I chose to take a sabbatical from work and focus all my time and effort into my husband’s care. This was, by far, the best decision I have ever made as it allowed me to dedicate myself completely to my husband’s care who needed it most at that time. A year later, in November 2015, I lost my dear husband to brain cancer.
As a young widow re-fitting the scattered pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that my life had become, I came to terms with where life had brought me and tried to re-align my internal compass to do what matters most to me. I started volunteering countless hours at the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada to support those still battling the disease, with the hope of making their journey easier than it was for my husband and me. I realized I needed to steer my career towards a role and sector that resonated with these personal goals.
This brought me to re-visit my shelved dream of attending INSEAD – a global, diverse MBA program which could potentially connect me with other like-minded individuals with a keen interest in the social impact sector. The application process felt overwhelming at first, but for me the main challenge was to open up about my personal story and let my essays truly reflect what inspires me to do what I do. I believe everyone’s story is unique and compelling. Even though it is not always easy to share our stories with others, it is important to understand that in doing so we can inspire those around us. The application process allowed me to dig deep into my story, to come to terms with it, and to share it in a way that could inspire others. I knew that only good things would come out of this process; aside from it forming a critical part of my application it also gave me the courage to start sharing and speaking about what I went through. There is a certain level of healing that comes with acknowledging loss and writing about it, and applying to INSEAD has in a way helped me as I heal.
Choosing Singapore as my starting campus was an easy choice. Coming from Toronto I simply wanted to start in a place where it would be warm – and boy, is it warm here! I packed all my summer clothes, made the trek across the globe on a 22-hour flight and arrived here on December 10th just in time for the Business Foundations Program (BFP) and the pre-MBA trip to Krabi! My INSEAD journey has already commenced and I wouldn’t trade this for a thing in the world! I figured out housing through the Facebook groups before I arrived which was not a very difficult task, but I still haven’t met my future housemate (she arrives after New Year!). However, I’ve already bonded with some of the most fantastic people through the BFP course and the Krabi trip and I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like once I meet the rest of our batch in orientation week in January. The best part of this program is that INSEAD chooses individuals with such compelling backgrounds that no matter how inspiring your own story is, you will always be surrounded by those who inspire you further.
Here’s to hoping this post inspires you to do what matters most to you!
Komal Syed, MBA '18D
Komal was born in Karachi, Pakistan but spent her childhood in Dubai, her undergrad years in Toronto and part of her career in both Pakistan and Canada with her most recent stint in Toronto. She was a brand manager at Unilever Pakistan, where she focused on the beauty and personal care business on brands such as Lux, Lifebuoy, Ponds’ and Dove. More recently she started working on a personal passion of founding a social welfare. In her free time, she loves travelling, doing volunteer work and horse-riding. She is always up for a good chat and loves to hear about what inspires people to do what they do, so if you bump into her you know what piques her interest!
This post has been marked as OLD. EssaySnark's advice and strategies for winning MBA applications don't change from year to year, but some of the school-specific admissions policies, essay questions, or other information covered in this article may be outdated.
You may already be aware that EssaySnark are fanboys of certain schools. Michigan Ross comes up a lot on this blahg. We tell everyone who will listen about how awesome Tuck is. We really like how transparent the Chicago Booth adcom is. One we haven’t been mentioning much lately, but should be, is INSEAD.
The thread that runs through these different schools is that in our experience, they are incredibly fair in the admissions process. That’s not to say that other schools are not, or that these are the only schools in this category. Instead, it’s just a comment on how attainable an admission can be to one of these great MBA programs, for the Brave Supplicant who does her homework and puts in the effort.
One driving factor behind this is the reality that these schools don’t get bombarded with applications. There’s varying reasons for it (which we likely exhausted all of your patience in exploring several months back). What this amounts to for the applicants, though, is often an admissions office that is willing to accommodate.
A great example of this is the fact that INSEAD does not ask for an undergraduate degree as a pre-requisite for admission.
Here’s what they say about it in their application FAQ1:
I don’t have an undergraduate degree. Can I still be considered for admission?
Yes. While the vast majority of our participants have undergraduate and/or advanced degrees, this is not compulsory for admission. Candidates who do not hold an undergraduate degree, but who have an excellent career record and GMAT score are also welcome to apply.
There’s a few other programs out there who also don’t have a strict requirement for a bachelor’s degree. We don’t know of a single Top 20 U.S. school that is flexible on this – certainly the other schools that we’re fanboys of are not. They will need to see that completed undergrad transcript as part of your app.
Michigan is even more restrictive in another aspect, in that they won’t let you apply without some work experience. So policies do vary radically, and a school can be hardnosed about certain things and still be fair. In fact, Michigan’s work-experience-required policy seems to us to be more fair than any other school – other schools will let you apply (and gladly take your app fee) even when they know there’s almost no chance that they’ll accept you. Michigan seems more real about this. They put a stake in the ground, there’s no ambiguity.
We’re calling out this INSEAD policy not because we think that there are scores of BSers without college degrees looking to get into business school. Instead, we feel that this policy is indicative of the overall open-mindedness in play at INSEAD. While they are uncompromising in their standards – they really do need to see evidence of leadership and contribution in your app – they are also very practical. They know that people take many paths to get to success, and they don’t want to be black-and-white in their thinking. If you’re coming at this from a non-traditional angle, you definitely have a chance to be considered here.
That being said… your essays better be damn good.
There’s a Round 3 deadline coming up for INSEAD’s January intake. Round 3 is a no-go at many schools but not the case here (unless you’re an Indian candidate, in which case we recommend you sit tight for Round 1 instead – we covered this in a recent answer on GMAT Club if you want to read more ).
Shameless plug: replaced by our guide for Applying to European Business Schools
1 On 1-15-17 the now-dead link to the INSEAD FAQ (previously at http://mba.insead.edu/faq/) was removed in the text above.
Filed Under: GPA and grades, school reviews & insightsBschools: INSEAD