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How to write ISB Essays, Resume and LoR - ISB 2024 Application Breakdown

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

ISB application for the 2024 intake is now open.

Over the last 4 years we have helped 50+ candidates get interview invites and admits from ISB. For the 2023 intake, 23 candidates applied to ISB with us, of which 19 received interview invites and 16 received admit/waitlists from the school.

In this post, we go into the details of building a strong application for the Indian School of Business, along with tips on how to write ISB essays, build the resume, and get the perfect LOR!

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Round 1 deadline to apply for the 2024 intake is 10th Sep'23.

Join us for a Live Webinar on ISB 2024 Applications on 1st Jul'23 at 1:00 pm IST.

Indian School of Business (ISB) is one of the best Business schools in India, consistently ranking among the Top MBA programs worldwide. The PGP program at ISB brings together a cohort of ~900 candidates each year, with an average work experience of 4-5 years. In the latest FT Rankings, ISB is ranked at 39, ahead of Indian peers such as IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta.

In this post, we break down the entire ISB application, their requirements, how to tackle different sections and optimize your chances of securing an admit from India's best business school.

ISB has brought significant changes to its 2024 intake application compared to the previous intakes. So what worked in the previous years might not really work this year!

We will cover 3 major areas in this article:

Building the Perfect Resume for ISB

There are 2 key things that candidates need to keep in mind while building their resume for ISB.

  1. ISB does NOT ask candidates to upload a resume.

  2. The following sections – Academic details, Work experience, Awards, and Extra-curriculars - are utilized to automatically build one.

Let's go step by step into each of these sections.

Academic Details

  • Input your academic details, college marks, professional courses, and test scores.

  • ISB does not require TOEFL/IELTS if you have an English medium bachelor’s degree.

Work Experience

Key aspects

  • You can add different roles you have had in your career.

  • For each role, you have 5 bullet points for highlighting your responsibilities, and 5 to highlight your initiatives and achievements.

  • Each bullet can be maximum 100 (one hundred) characters in length.

Best practices:

  • Break down different roles into separate building blocks of your career, including different roles within the same organization. This will allow you to showcase growth/change/movement in your career.

  • Identify the top projects you have had in each role, and break those down into the bullets for your key responsibilities and initiatives and achievements.

  • Key Responsibilities – clearly highlight the role/leadership role you played in different projects and the objective of those projects. Quantify the business impact if possible.

    • For example: Led a team of 2 analysts to optimize the report generation process for a Fortune 500 client

  • Initiatives & Achievements – clearly highlight the results you achieved and the associated action in a single bullet. Quantify as much as possible.

    • For example: Reduced report gen time by 85%; implemented 4 automation systems across 3 business verticals

Awards / Extra-curricular

  • Awards: Highlight which award your received and why. You can add maximum 5 awards. Each award has a limit of 100 characters description.

    • For example: Award (100 char limit): Received Student Achievement award for contributions to literary activities during college

  • Extra-curricular activities: Highlight what you did, the impact you created or your contribution. You can add maximum 5 activities. Each activity has a limit of 100 characters description.

    • For example: Organized 15 public speaking workshops for 1000+ students in college

Join us for a Live Webinar on ISB 2024 Applications on 1st Jul'23 at 1:00 pm IST.

How to Write ISB Essays

ISB has completely changed its essay questions for the 2024 intake. Apart from replacing the earlier mandatory essay prompts with 2 completely new questions, they have also introduced an optional essay.

The mandatory essays have a 400-word limit, while the optional essay is 250 words. The two mandatory essays are highly self-reflective and personal in nature. What this means for the applicants is that they will need to introspect and reflect on their lives so far, and unearth meaningful experiences which have shaped their perspectives, lives and decisions. You can find the details of the essays below.

Essay 1: Provide an honest portrayal of yourself, emphasizing your strengths and weaknesses. Highlight the key elements that have shaped your personal journey. Give relevant illustrations as needed.

Essay 2: Contemplate two distinct situations—one where you experienced success and another where you faced failure. Delve into the personal and interpersonal lessons you learned from these instances.

Both these essay questions are completely new for ISB and are heavily inspired by INSEAD's famed motivation essays. Answering these questions requires a high degree of self-awareness and clarity of thought.

The key to working on either of these questions is to first start with a blank slate, identify the key defining moments of your life, the decisions you took in such moments, and then tying those experiences with a streamlined thought-process of why you did so and how they have shaped you as a person.

Your strengths and weaknesses can be focused on either - personal or professional attributes. However, just mentioning the strength or the weakness is not enough. You will need to provide a detailed elaboration of how did you build those attributes, and how they have affected your life so far.

For instance, if you believe that curiosity is a strength that you have, then be sure to highlight how it has affected your life. How it has driven you to explore new things, learn about areas that were not under your direct role or responsibility, and how that has helped you either in your professional or personal life with clear examples.

Needless to say, such examples or clarity of thought are not the easiest things to figure out. So go ahead and connect with your friends, family, and anyone else with whom you can have deep conversations. People who have known you for long periods, and who can help you reflect, while also acting as a sounding board for your reflections.

Ensure that you talk about both, strengths and weaknesses - and give them enough space in the essay. An ideal split would be 50/50 with each half focusing on one area. However, even if you split the essay 60/40 in favour of the strengths aspect, it should not cause trouble.

Similarly, for the second essay, ensure that you clearly bring out the achievement and the failure through specific examples. However, the key to this essay is not how big your achievement was, or how catastrophic your failure, instead it is about why you consider these experiences to be your success or failure.

While sharing your examples, ensure that you provide a clear context - highlighting the situation you were in, the challenges you were facing, and the task you had to perform. Follow that with a description of the various actions that you took which will help you showcase your leadership style to the Admissions Committees. These two facets are extremely important.

Once you have established the challenges and the actions you took to address those challenges, the results will follow suit, quickly followed by the learnings you have had through the experience. The learnings you have had is another important part of this essay. They can be focused on leadership learnings, or perspectives you have developed about working with others, building a high-performance team, how to motivate teams, how NOT to motivate others, or anything that you believe is important in a professional setting!

Optional Essay: Given your previous experience and future aspirations, how do you plan to use the PGP at ISB to fulfil your professional goals? Note: It is not necessary for you to write this essay. Please use this space only if there is something really significant that you would like us to know. (250 words)

The "Why ISB" essay is now optional, with a much stricter word count of just 250 words! It is a very standard goals question for MBA programs. While it is an optional essay, our suggestion would be to answer it as it is the only way for ISB to identify how clear are you with your plans and why you want to leverage the ISB platform to achieve those.

The first thing to understand about this essay is that ISB really wants to see if you have thought through your decision to apply for an MBA. Are you certain that an MBA at this stage of your career will add value to you? Why do you believe so? Do you have clarity about the goals that you have?

When working on this essay, you need to also answer multiple hidden sub-questions. We usually suggest our candidates to clearly highlight the below aspects in their answers:

  • Present a clear analysis of what you have done and learnt so far, connecting your experiences with what you want to do in the future and why?

  • Clearly highlight your short-term goals, without any ambiguity, and present a direction of how you see your career evolving.

  • Illustrate how the different and specific facets of ISB PGP fit in with your requirements to achieve your goals. What do you hope to learn at ISB, and how?

To answer this question we suggest candidates extensively research about ISB, their offerings, resources, aspects of curriculum, societies, and events they host, and form a detailed understanding of what they will be exposed to at ISB.

As you build this understanding and knowledge of what ISB has to offer, you will be in a much better position to specifically point out areas where you see yourself learning through ISB.

Join us for a Live Webinar on ISB 2024 Applications on 1st Jul'23 at 1:00 pm IST.

Letter of Recommendation for ISB

The final aspect of the ISB application is the letter of recommendation. The Indian School of Business asks only for 1 LOR, which can be submitted by your superiors, manager, or senior colleagues.

One of the biggest mistakes that candidates make when thinking about LORs is that they assume that the position of the person who provides the recommendation matters a lot. It does not.

LORs are simply another way for ISB to gauge from a third person's viewpoint, the kind of person that you are.

So the best-suited referees are those who have known you personally for a sufficient period of time and can attest to your strengths and weaknesses, irrespective of their position.

Here are some best practices:

  • Don’t worry about the position of your referee. It does not matter.

  • Take it from someone who has been in a senior position to you, and knows what you have done.

  • Should strongly endorse you as a potential MBA candidate at ISB and highlight your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Also, is able to provide clear examples to support their claims.

If you are looking for help with the ISB application, check out our comprehensive ISB Application Package.

Have questions? Reach out to us here.

Join us for a Live Webinar on ISB 2024 Applications on 1st Jul'23 at 1:00 pm IST.

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