Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management recently released its admissions essays for the coming year. While Kellogg’s application won’t be live until early August, now is a great time to start mapping out your essays for a Round 1 application to Kellogg.
Here are the new essays, followed by our comments in italics:
Kellogg Application Essays
- a) MBA Program applicants — Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing an MBA. (600 words)
b) MMM Program applicants — Briefly assess your career progress to date. How does the MMM Program meet your educational needs and career goals? (600 words)
These questions have changed only very, very slightly from last year. For the most part, they are the standard “Why and MBA? Why now?” questions that you will see on nearly every top business school’s application. One challenge that applicants face is BRIEFLY describing their career progress until now, and then devoting enough space to why an MBA is right for them, why now is the right time, and why specifically Kellogg is the right MBA program for them. While there is no hard rule, ideally the backward-looking part of your essay will take up no more than about half of the total word count. Admissions officers will learn enough about your professional background from the rest of your application (your CV, your data sheets, your letters of recommendation, etc.), so no need to completely rehash it here.
- Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experiences. (600 words)
This question has been the same for a couple of years now. The best examples of responses to this question are ones in which the applicant focuses on no more than two or three mini stories. The fewer, the better, since including too many examples means that no one story will have very much impact. Be as specific as possible here, rather than discussing leadership in broad terms or with vague generalities. When discussing what areas you want to develop, be realistic about what you will learn in the classroom — Kellogg knows that you won’t emerge from a classroom lecture as a completely finished leader. Discuss what you want to learn at Kellogg, but also tie it back to the “real world” and your post-MBA career.
- Assume you are evaluating your application from the perspective of a student member of the Kellogg Admissions Committee. Why would you and your peers select you for admission, and what impact would you make as a member of the Kellogg community?
Kellogg introduced this question last year, although it’s similar to a question that Kellogg used to use, which encouraged applicants to evaluate their applications as if they were admissions officers. Note that the emphasis is now on how a STUDENT member of the admissions committee would look at your application, driving home the emphasis that Kellogg places on fit with its culture. This is a terrific opportunity to highlight the two or three core themes that you want to make sure jump out from your application. While Kellogg looks for some humility in every one of its students, don’t be a afraid to toot your own horn a bit here!
- Complete one of the following three questions or statements. Re-applicants have the option to answer a question from this grouping, but this is not required. (400 words)
a) Describe an instance where you encountered resistance in a professional team setting. How did you address the situation?
b) People may be surprised to learn that I…
c) The best mistake I ever made was…
Questions A is new this year, although it’s closely related to last year’s Question 4A, which asked about a time when an applicant had to make an unpopular decision. This is your chance to discuss an experience that shows off leadership abilities, teamwork, and/or ethics. Question B lets you have some fun and discuss some less obviously MBA-related traits. Don’t underestimate how important these traits are to admissions officers; they truly do want to get to know you “beyond the numbers.”
Question C is new this year, which is sort of too bad, because it replaces the school’s old “I wish the admissions committee had asked me…” question, which we always liked. However, this new question gives you a chance to show off some serious introspection: You had the humility to admit you made a mistake, you learned from it and grew as a person, and then (ideally) you were able to put what you learned to use in another setting. If that structure reminds you of a story in your background, this new question could be a great one for you to choose.
- Required essay for re-applicants only — Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 words)
(This last question says it all when it comes to describing what every top MBA program looks for in reapplicants. Ideally you will have at least one or two significant achievements or experiences that will bolster a weakness that may have kept you out of Kellogg last year. The most obvious examples are a big promotion at work, a higher GMAT score, or strong grades in some post-college coursework, but anything that demonstrates leadership, teamwork, maturity, or innovation — if one of these was a weakness in admissions officers’ eyes last year — can help your candidacy.)
If you haven’t already, this is a good time to check out our Kellogg Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!