Applying to Kellogg School of Management

Kellogg has made its mark in the management education world by emphasizing teamwork in the classroom and in the workplace. Although it has been a few years since Donald Jacobs—who led Kellogg for 26 years and oversaw its rise to prominence—has stepped down, the culture of teamwork that he helped create is still very apparent. Most homework assignments and projects are done in teams, and the school employs a peer-review system in which students can rate each other’s strengths and weaknesses as teammates.

Marketing is the school’s other best-known strength, and much of the credit for that goes to Philip Kotler, who has written some of the best-known marketing textbooks in the world. The rest of the marketing faculty includes many other heavy-hitters who have distinguished themselves in their own right. All of this leads to heavy recruiting from companies looking for marketing experts and brand managers.

Although Kellogg is best known for marketing, the school’s curriculum is considered to be more general management in nature, with students typically concentrating in two or three subject areas through electives. The most popular subject isn’t even marketing, with more Kellogg students studying finance than any other major. And like at many other top schools, consulting and banking are the most popular fields that Kellogg grads go into, with McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Goldman Sachs, etc., doing more hiring at Kellogg than the biggest marketing-related firms.

As you would expect, Kellogg’s admissions office looks for teamwork-oriented people. “Sharks” or hot shots need not apply. This doesn’t mean that Kellogg only looks for touchy-feely people, but rather, it looks for people who know how to get things done when working with others. However, the school isn’t only looking for team players. A few years ago Kellogg started to subtly shift its position in the MBA marketplace from a school that turns out team players to one that turns out team leaders, and this trend continues today. The school has even made its Leadership in Organizations class part of the pre-term course that all first-year students complete in September. With this in mind, think of personal examples of how you’ve led teams toward a goal in the past. Most applicants will just think about teamwork in terms of how they helped others accomplish a goal, but show the admissions committee how you led a team to success and you’ll be in great shape.

Kellogg also looks for people who will get involved at the school. A distinguishing characteristic of Kellogg is that pretty much everything is student-run, from clubs to international study trips (“Global Initiatives in Management”) to an almost endless series of professional conferences that the school hosts. A current student will probably even review your application. It’s not uncommon for a student to be involved in five or six different activities or clubs outside of the classroom. What this means for you is that you need to demonstrate that you will get involved. The best way to do this is by showing what you’ve done in the past to get involved in your profession, school and community. And less can be more: Instead of listing seven clubs or organizations that you have marginally participated in, focus on the one or two things that you’re really passionate about and show exactly how you got involved in those things and made a difference. The grid from Chapter 2 of Your MBA Game Plan should help strengthen this important part of your application story.

Insider Information

As part of its increasing emphasis on leadership, Kellogg has put a lot more focus on ethics in its curriculum. The school’s pre-term CIM (Complete Immersion in Management) program for first-year students presents students with business challenges dealing with issues of leadership and ethics. Going even further, the school has implemented a required pre-term course for all second-year students (and one-year students) called Values, Ethics, and Strategic Crisis Management, in which students tackle ethics case studies and crisis simulations. Accordingly, the admissions office looks for applicants with strong principles and past examples of when they did the right thing in a tough or murky situation. Keep this in mind as you craft your overall application strategy for Kellogg.

What Makes Kellogg Different?

Kellogg is one the most innovative and student-friendly business schools in the nation. While “teamwork” and “leadership” are themes at any top school, Kellogg puts teamwork first in everything they do.

One word: Teamwork. The emphasis on teamwork inside and outside of the classroom is the hallmark of the Kellogg experience, and is the foundation for the rest of the school’s approach – and has been for years. For two decades, Kellogg has structured its learning around working together, and recruiters appreciate the different mentality and attitude that its graduates exhibit. Kellogg is truly the pioneer here – business schools did not used to focus on teamwork, but now they all do. None to the degree that Kellogg does however. Student collaboration is the common attribute that ties everything together at Northwestern. This starts during orientation with the Complete Immersion in Management week, which focuses on team-building and bonding among the new students, and continues on through the very end of the Kellogg experience – and well beyond. Kellogg alumni are known to be helpful and resourceful, and the connections formed at this school are strong.

Other areas where Kellogg is unique?
  • All professors are scholars. While this may change in the future with Dean Blount’s interest to get more real-world practitioners on board as adjunct faculty, for now, all of Kellogg’s classes are taught by tenured professors who are doing research when not in the classroom.
  • A balanced focus on markets and on management. Dean Blount has frequently observed that Kellogg does more than just study markets – buying, selling, profit-making. Kellogg has always been a school of management (it’s even in their name). The study of business is about people and organizations, and students at Kellogg will devote as much of their time to learning these dimensions as they will those other aspects.
  • Kellogg is exceptional in marketing. Lest we forget, Kellogg truly is the powerhouse in the domain of marketing education among all the world’s business schools. Kellogg has two separate marketing majors – Marketing, and Marketing Management – and two separate research centers – the Center for Global Marketing Practice, and the Center for Market Leadership. Kellogg has literally written the book on marketing: its faculty have published leading textbooks in various marketing disciplines, and Kellogg has led the way among all of its peers both nationally and internationally in its marketing expertise for over 15 years. Kellogg devotes substantial resources for marketing research and its faculty are often published in academic journals and quoted in the press. Even if you end up attending another business school, it’s likely that the professors you take for marketing were trained at Kellogg.
Finally, Kellogg handles admissions quite differently, including these unusual policies and processes:
  • Kellogg has a rather confusing application process consisting of two “parts” – first, the candidate submits the resume and basic biographical information (Part I), and requests an interview be scheduled, then a month later, the essays, recommendations, and test scores are due (Part II). This is definitely unique and is cause for confusion by many who are used to the much more straightforward process at other top schools.
  • As just stated, interviews occur at Kellogg before the full application is submitted. And, Kellogg interviews all applicants.
  • Kellogg is one of the very few top MBA programs that will only accept the GMAT. Most others will now allow a GRE score; Kellogg will not.

Kellogg Campuses

Northwestern’s full-time MBA program is located in Evanston, on the edge of the undergraduate campus on the shore of Lake Michigan, 12 miles north of downtown Chicago. The part-time programs are housed in Wieboldt Hall in the downtown Chicago neighborhood of Streeterville, nestled between the School of Law and the Feinberg School of Medicine. Full- and part-time students are welcome to attend courses at either the Evanston campus or the Chicago center, although nearly all full-time students live in Evanston, and they rarely make the trip down to the city to attend a course at Wieboldt Hall. More common is for part-time students to head up to Evanston for a weeknight course alongside their full-time counterparts. If you are considering applying to Kellogg’s full-time program, don’t plan on taking any courses down in Chicago; most any course or professor that you’ll want will likely be available in Evanston.

The full-time MBA program is hosted in Evanston in the Donald P. Jacobs Center, a six-story complex with 17 classrooms and over 50 study group spaces, conference rooms, and a student lounge. The building also contains the Kellogg administration as well as the faculty offices. Although the Jacobs Center has been extensively renovated over the past few years, it doesn’t quite measure up to the brand new facilities that many business schools now offer. Still, it offers enough amenities that many Kellogg students spend most of their days on campus, making use of the school’s atrium, Quiet Study Room, lounges, and group meeting rooms. Since Kellogg relies so heavily on team-based learning assignments, it’s no surprise that group meeting rooms can be difficult to come by in the busiest times of the year. The school does allow students to book rooms in advance, and doing so can be the difference between having a productive meeting in a well-appointed group room (including a whiteboard and large LCD monitor) and trying to get things done in a noisy public space.

Three blocks from the Jacobs center is the McManus Living-Learning Center (affectionately referred to as “McMansion”), which is an apartment complex specifically for Kellogg students, especially students coming from overseas. Jacobs Center sits right on Northwestern’s Evanston campus and Kellogg students enjoy many of the perks that come with living in a quintessential college town. However, business school students and the university’s undergrads rarely mingle. While Northwestern offers up many of its on-campus services and activities to Kellogg students, they rarely partake, and instead tend to spend most of their social time doing Kellogg-oriented activities.

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