Having applied to IMD, INSEAD and COLUMBIA Business School, I got accepted at the last two schools. My choice was INSEAD.

The question you might want to ask is what YOU need to do to get in the world’s best business schools that receive millions of applications. How do YOU stand out from the rest?

There are a lot of components in the application process. But, to me, it comes down to the below 3 main strategies:

1. GMAT.

Begin with this first before even starting to think about the essays. To successfully apply to THESE schools, you have to score the top percentile and leave no chances to luck. Once you get the score above 700, focus on the rest. You simply cannot combine your preparation for the test and soul searching, which is the key when writing the essays. Try to focus on one challenge at a time.

Don’t spend your energy of hitting the best score possible. This is not what will set you apart!


This is the most important part of the application process and where you can truly demonstrate your unique personality and stand out. It is a soul searching process, where you speak your heart out. Take your time to identify what makes you unique and how did you get to where you are now.

I don’t really know your story, but I believe that every person is UNIQUE BY DEFAULT. It is simply up to YOU to bring it out and tell your story to the admission committee.

What do you want them to know when they read your essays for the first time? What is this 1 or 2 things you want them to remember?

Talk about your past, the challenges you overcame to get to where you are today. And most importantly why you decided to take such a big step in your life: quitting your job and stable income, for example, leaving your loved ones (for at least 1-2 years) and embarking on a new journey. The unknown.

Think about what INSEAD or CBS will give you to achieve your dream. What do you aspire to do in the future?


It is very important to demonstrate that the school X is the right fit. Surely, a lot of people think that Harvard Business School, for example, is the best. But its not for everyone. Certainly it was not for me (no offense to HBS folks J).

My advice will be to reach out to those who did MBA in the schools that are in your radar. Try to understand how one school is different from the other. What is it that makes these schools unique?

If you have an opportunity, go visit INSEAD and CBS! Both schools offer prospective students to attend classes, see the campus, talk to students and admin.


Having done MBA in INSEAD in France and Singapore, I can say that one thing that unites all student is an INTERNATIONAL/ GLOBAL mindset. INSEAD is the most diverse school in terms of nationalities of the students represented without one being significantly more dominant than the other.

This global mindset can be seen in two ways:

Whether it is something you lived and breathed all your life (in my case, I was born and raised in Russia, but lived in South Korea for 12 years before INSEAD), OR this is something that you aspire to learn from the most global school in the world (for example, you lived and worked in country X all your life, yet you felt that you didn’t fit into conventional rules or thinking of the company Y and you always felt that you were different).


Throughout my experience getting into COLUMBIA Business School, I felt that the admin faculty was much more practical. Their objective was to be confident that you CAN get a job after graduation. It was less about your potential but more about whether your dream job after graduation is feasible. This made me choose INSEAD.

I hope nobody gets angry here as I am talking about 100% MY experience here. J

So, I want to wish the best of luck to you in your future journey to challenge yourselves to learn from the best, to meet like-minded people, to inspire and get inspired. Just that one thought already takes a lot of courage.




Alex Varova, MBA ‘11D

At the dawn of the Soviet Union, inspired by her mother, Alex fell in love with Korea at the age of 10. Ever since she was chasing her “Korean dream”, mastering the language, living there for 12 years and building career in Samsung. INSEAD was a way for her to get inspired and challenge herself in the international arena. Following graduation, Alex got in a challenging leadership program in Nissan with assignments in Japan, Switzerland and now France. Although, her career undergoes yet another turn, as she launches her jewelry line and writes a book, she knows that thanks to INSEAD she can do anything she puts her mind into.