Kellogg Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2017. While most top MBA programs have mostly been making nips and tucks to their admissions essays this year, Kellogg has made a lot of changes. And, like other business schools, Kellogg has dropped a required essay, going from three to two required essays for applicants to its traditional MBA program. The video response, which Kellogg introduced last year, remains.

Without further ado, here are the Kellogg essays and deadlines for the 2014-2015 admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:

Kellogg Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 24, 2014
Round 2: January 7, 2015
Round 3: April 1, 2015

Kellogg has moved its Round 1 application WAY up, by more than three weeks. If you plan on applying to Kellogg in Round 1, this means you should get started no later than early August. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by mid-December, which should give you enough time to complete your Round 2 applications for other programs, if you don’t get good news from Kellogg. The school’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines are virtually unchanged since last year.

Kellogg Admissions Essays

Note that we don’t include Kellogg’s essays for dual-degree applicants or re-applicants here. You can find those essay prompts on the Kellogg admissions website.

  1. Resilience. Perseverance. Grit. Call it what you will… Challenges can build character. Describe a challenging experience you’ve had. How were you tested? What did you learn? (450 words)

    This question is new this year, although it actually replaces a fairly similar question that Kellogg used in last year’s application. This year’s version actually gives you 100 more words to work with, and puts a bit more emphasis on the “What did you learn?” aspect, although, at its heart, this question is still trying to get at the same thing: The admissions committee wants to see how you have grown in your relatively short professional career. The phrase “challenging experience” gives you the opportunity to talk about situations you faced that weren’t necessarily of your own doing. For example, getting laid off when your company goes out of business represents an obstacle, but not a mistake on your part.

    Your mission will be to show introspection (What did you learn?) and a motivation for self-improvement (How did you use what you learned to better yourself and avoid that mistake again?). Also, note that your story can be a personal or a professional one. Ideally you will have a terrific work-related story to at least consider using there, but remember to look for experiences in all aspects of your life. Your most powerful “obstacle” story may come from outside your job, and that’s perfectly fine.

  2. Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others. Describe a professional experience that required you to influence people. What did this experience teach you about working with others, and how will it make you a better leader? (450 words)

    This question is also new this year. Again, though, it mostly covers the same topic (leadership) that last year’s second question covered. In some ways, this new question represents at least a small move by Kellogg back towards the school’s roots in teamwork and collaboration. More than any other top MBA program, Kellogg has staked its reputation on its ability to produce great team players and collaborative leaders, and this question reflects that philosophy. Note both parts of that term (“collaborative leaders”)… Kellogg doesn’t want just friendly team players, bur instead wants people who can take charge and get things done. At the same time, the admissions committee isn’t looking for sharp-elbowed people who lead by edict; Kellogg wants to find applicants who inspire people to work harder and achieve great things through teamwork and empowerment.

    This particular essay prompt is a classic candidate for the SAR (Situation – Action – Result) outline that we recommend applicants use. The situation will likely be an opportunity or challenge where you needed to rely on someone in order to get something done. The action will be how you managed to influence them in order to see things your way and to convince them to take up your cause. Perhaps it was an employee or peer who wasn’t motivated, or didn’t agree with what you wanted to do. How did you win them over? Finally, the result will be the outcome — not just of that particular situation, but also the positive impact that it had on you as a young leader.

  3. If needed, use this section to briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (no word count)

    As we always tell applicants with these optional essays: Only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay. Don’t let yourself get too tempted by that lack of a word limit… Less is more!

Finally, Kellogg’s video response returns for its second year. The recorded video answer was crafted to mimic an interview in that you will be given a question and will have to record your response right away (after a couple of minutes to gather your thoughts). Note that, while last year Kellogg would let you try again (with a new question) if you didn’t like your attempt, this year you will NOT be able to try again. (You will be able to warm up on some practice questions first.) And, you won’t know the questions ahead of time. For your official response, you will have just 20 seconds to think up your answer, and one minute to deliver it… No pressure! This is just one more example of how top MBA programs are trying to break away from the essay and get to know applicants better using other formats.

If you hope to get into Kellogg, download our Essential Guide to Kellogg, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Kellogg and other top-ranked MBA programs, fill out a free profile evaluation and get an in-depth evaluation from an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum