Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management recently released its admissions essays and application deadlines for the Class of 2014. We dig into them below.
Note that Kellogg has an unusual two-part application process: Part I includes your data sheets, resume, self-reported GMAT and TOEFL scores, and stated preference for whether you would like an on-campus or off-campus interview. (They also ask for your $250 application fee in Part I!) Part II includes your letters of recommendation, your essays, and your official GMAT and TOEFL scores. For each admissions round, be sure that you hit both deadlines!
Here are Kellogg’s admissions essays and application deadlines, followed by our comments in italics:
Kellogg Application Deadlines for Part 1: Off-Campus Interview Requests
Round 1: September 22, 2011 (Oct. 18 for on-campus interviews)
Round 2: December 14, 2011 (Jan. 10 for on-campus interviews)
Round 3: March 22, 2012 (Apr. 5 for on-campus interviews)
Kellogg Application Deadlines for Part 2
Round 1: October 18, 2011
Round 2: January 10, 2012
Round 3: April 5, 2012
These dates are virtually unchanged since last year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you’ll get a decision from Kellogg by December 19, giving you plenty of time to pull together additional Round 2 applications in January, if needed.
Kellogg School of Management Admissions 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 do the unique characteristics of the MMM Program meet your educational needs and career goals? (600 words)
These questions are almost the same as last year’s, with the only difference being the addition of the “unique characteristics” phrase in the question for MMM (which is a Kellogg MBA plus a Master of Engineering Management from the McCormick School of Engineering). That addition suggests that, if you apply to that program, Kellogg wants you to go beyond platitudes and information easily found in brochures, and demonstrate that you really understand how the program is unique among joint degree programs. Beyond that, these are the same “Why and MBA? Why now?” questions that you will see on nearly every top business school’s application. One challenge that you will face is BRIEFLY describing your career progress until now, and then devoting enough space to why an MBA is right for you, why now is the right time, and why specifically Kellogg is the ideal MBA program for you. While there is no hard rule, ideally the backward-looking part of this essay will take up no more than 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 several years now, and so our advice remains the same. 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 polished leader. Discuss what you want to learn at Kellogg, but also tie it back to the “real world” and your post-MBA career goals.
- 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? (600 words)
This question also carries over unchanged since last year. It is actually quite similar to an even older Kellogg essay question, 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… This is your chance!
- 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 a time you had to inspire a reluctant individual or group.
b) People may be surprised to learn that I…
c) The riskiest personal or professional decision I ever made was…
Questions A and C are new this year, although each is essentially a rephrasing of a past question. Question A, which used to ask you to describe a time when you “encountered resistance in a professional team setting,” has now shifted a bit to place the emphasis on “inspiring” someone, which we think is an interesting choice. This is a great place for you to share a story that shows off your leadership abilities, empathy, or teamwork skills. If the word “inspire” is too intimidating (it shouldn’t be!), think of a time when you had to convince someone to go along with a plan or come around to your way of thinking.
Question C used to ask, “The best mistake I ever made was…” The change here suggests to us that the Kellogg admissions team wants to move the emphasis away from “mistake” (which many applicants assume is synonymous with “failure”) and get to know your decision-making process for any big decision, regardless of whether it turned out well. This question gives you a chance to show off some serious introspection, making a potentially very valuable one to use in your Kellogg application. And don’t automatically assume that your decision MUST be one that turned out well. Mistakes and “I wish I had done this a bit differently”-type stories can still work well for you here.
Question B, which has been around for a long time, 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.” Ask yourself this: After an admissions officer has read more than 25 applications in one long evening, what about your application will make her specifically remember you?
- 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 any re-applicant. 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.)
Are you applying to Kellogg this year? Take a look at our Kellogg Annual Report, one of 15 guides to the world’s best business schools, available for purchase on our site. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Kellogg or other top MBA programs, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!