Ds Scholarship

By The Glass At INSEAD: Finding The Right School For You

Every year, INSEAD hosts a large masquerade party called “The Dash”. This is a great opportunity for students to dress up… or disguise themselves! Source: Carlos Duque

If you are on this website, you are probably trying to figure out which business schools you should apply to and how to get into them. Chances are, you’ve been flocking to different labels – The EconomistAnd US newsAnd poets and how many. You may have listened to a podcast or contacted Linkedin to find out about second and third degree contacts who have recently graduated from target schools.

Some of you may only apply to two or three different programs; Others will aggregate the two-digit applications. As an applicant, it’s easy to feel like a kid in a candy store. However, there are some big criteria that can help you narrow things down: do you want an urban or suburban campus, a large or small group, or a one- or two-year program? At some point, you’ll work on making a definitive list of schools.

Chris Baldwin on his first day at INSEAD Chris Baldwin

A game of feelings

Here’s how to summarize the entire admission process: You will melt your mind inside the GMAT test preparation book; associate psychic with topics with emotional resonance for articles; make a few requests; go through a whole series of interviews; Then they prayed to different deities. In the end, we hope you will receive a phone call from adcom to congratulate you on your acceptance.

Congratulations: the easy part is over! Now comes the hard part: choosing the right MBA program for you. For some of you, the decision will be easy – either because you’ve been offered a full trip or you’ve entered the school of your dreams and the money doesn’t matter (must be nice!) If you’re like me, you don’t set your eyes on just one school. And maybe, just maybe, you are as indecisive as I am.

I have a lot of bad habits. I eat a lot of processed sugar, spend a lot of time on Instagram, and use filler words like “like” a lot. But my worst habit is hesitation. Perhaps it is a generation problem; After all, millennials like me have grown up with a lot of choices. We had plenty of snack options at the grocery store; Hundreds of different movies to choose from on Netflix; Thousands of potential partners thanks to apps like Hinge and Bumble; And millions of songs to choose from on Spotify. It can be confusing, how do we make real decisions about the right school when there are so many options?

Sure, you can talk to alumni and current students. Most schools offer pandemic-friendly virtual welcome weeks. It is possible that these resources will not be enough to help you make a decision. So what do you do?

INSEAD students gather after school

Request feedback

Well, I’ll tell you a little bit about how I finally made my decision on INSEAD. I was accepted into a few high-profile US programs, but I still felt stuck. I could envision myself in each of these schools, and it was difficult to choose my future life path over the others. Every day, I would anticipate a perfect career and see which one of these schools would help me achieve this ever-changing dream. I felt that choosing one school was like closing the door on a different version of myself. I would wake up one morning, thinking I might want to do MBB’s counseling on the East Coast; The next day, I pictured myself as a businessman from California. In addition, graduates talk about meeting their spouse or potential startup partner during the programme. What if I miss? So many divergent life paths… So much pressure! With my emotions and my inner logic intertwined, I struggled to allocate the headspace needed to make what I felt was the most important decision of my life.

To help decipher this uncertainty, I spoke to close friends and family members — people who have seen me at my best and at my worst and know my deepest desires and fears. It is necessary during this moment to be aware of the biases that these people may bring to the negotiating table. For example, my two college roommates had MBAs—one at Booth and one at Said—so they tended, respectively, to recommend local or European programs. I have searched for the wisdom of my parents, knowing full well that they want to keep me on the side of the state. I also spoke with two of those who recommended me, and they each had great insight into my professional strengths and weaknesses. A word to the wise: Do not neglect these recommenders. They have donated valuable time to introduce you to each school. They deserve to be in the loop.

See, getting feedback from others is great. The outside person’s perspective is helpful…to an extent. No matter where you are on your MBA journey, you need to know yourself. When I was asking other people for advice, what I was really doing was trying to check what I actually felt, deep in my gut.

Chris Baldwin in San Sebastian Credit: Chris Baldwin

Find the most accurate version of yourself

Prior to my MBA, I worked as a sommelier and wine consultant. I had the opportunity in the spring of 2021 to visit some of the lively wineries in the south of France. After a year of being influenced by the country side, I was reminded of how much I loved experiencing foreign cultures. With each passing day of the trip, my mind gathered around a very specific narrative. An MBA is more than just a stepping stone to a specific job. Obtaining an MBA is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. I wanted to see the world with new eyes and be intellectually challenged in and out of the classroom. I wanted a global perspective. I wanted diversity. I wanted an adventure. The only program that has offered this is INSEAD.

As you make this important decision, try to extract the most accurate version of yourself. Make a list of what really makes you happy, or what the “highlights” and “accomplishments” have been in your life up to this point, then ask yourself why you wrote those things and try to find a pattern. When I went through this process, everything I wrote related to the concept of travel and exploration. When I think back to my four years at university, the most memorable part was the year I spent abroad in Madrid. I had written an article on intercultural exchanges through wine tasting. In hindsight, it’s clear that INSEAD was the perfect school for me.

When I got to campus, INSEAD’s fitness became even more evident. On the first day of orientation, I found myself sitting next to students from Colombia, Cameroon, Lebanon, Morocco and Japan. I spent the day switching between Spanish and English. It took me hours to meet another American. In the months since our debut, I learned about German Christmas traditions from Ferdinand during lunches in the cafeteria. Hear Basil explaining the fiscal policy of Saudi Arabia during the session. He discussed the merits of Kendrick Lamar’s discography with Damien, my classmate from South Africa. It sounds annoying, but sharing these cross-border moments motivates me a lot more than just earning an MBA or MBB recruitment email. Every time I reach out to someone else in my class, I walk away from the interaction knowing I’m on the right track.

So for those trying to decide if INSEAD is right for you, I encourage you to think beyond the ratings. Certainly, it is good to know that INSEAD has consistently been ranked number one among international business schools. Deep down, a big decision like this shouldn’t be made based on a glossy ranking or brochure or the average salary of a graduate. It should depend on your emotional response to school. When you talk to accepted students, do you feel some kind of kinship? When you describe each business school to friends or family, which program do you talk about most enthusiastically? At the end of the day, you must choose the right school for you.

Everything else is just noise.

Chris Baldwin earned his undergraduate degree at Tufts University, majoring in economics and Spanish literature with a minor in creative writing. Passionate about food and wine, Chris worked as a restaurant manager and seller in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Houston before turning to independent beverage consulting during the pandemic. In his spare time, he enjoys running marathons all over the world and hosting a wine podcast called by glass.

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