Northwestern Kellogg Fall 2019 MBA Essay Tips
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is a close-knit community that values a diverse community and philanthropy. As Melissa Rapp, Kellogg’s Director of MBA Admissions, explains with a blog post on Kellogg’s Inside Perspective “Kellogg believes deeply in diversity and inclusion and we want to build classes that reflect a wide variety of backgrounds, industries, functions, geographies, and beliefs.
The more variety we can put in a class the better the experience is for you. The diversity of perspectives and opinions allow you to broaden your viewpoint and practice the essential skill of learning to collaborate with others who don’t think like you do. You, your experiences and your passions all make you unique and we want to learn about it all. Have the confidence and bravery to tell your story.”
To make sure you are perfect for Kellogg and can explain that in this set of essays, do your research on the programs, activities, clubs, classes and professors you are most excited about. While you are reading and conversing with students and alumni, keep looking for ways in which you will contribute to the community.
Kellogg now has a video essay as part of the application process, something that Director Rapp is extremely excited about. As she explains, the video essay allows the admissions committee to see the full three-dimensional view of the candidate. Relax and be yourself. You can always practice with the SBC video interview prep to make sure you are absolutely ready for the video essay.
This essay focuses on leadership using a behavioral essay framework (the clue is “tell us about a time…”). The details about exactly what you did, said and learned in your leadership story communicate valuable information about how you approach issues and learn from experience. Director Rapp also says that “creating lasting value” is a key to this essay and you should think about what you have done that endures.
As you structure the essay, spend some limited time to set up the background of the story, and then use the majority of the space to describe specifically what you did, thought, felt and how you behaved. Use details to entice the reader and set yourself apart. A few well-placed specifics will add color without adding length to the essay.
You have wide latitude in your topic selection, as long as you demonstrated leadership and enduring value. It might be a time that everything went perfectly smoothly and you learned how to work with a group or inspire people to action. On the other hand, it could be a challenging situation where you learned what not to do! Don’t be nervous about showing weakness here, as long as the outcome demonstrates that you have left your mark on the organization.
If you choose a challenging situation the learning part of the essay will be crucial. Show you can and do learn from experience. Every leader has to learn and develop, and willingness to be open to feedback and improve will be an asset to your application.
Do not neglect mentioning teamwork, which is a core value of Kellogg’s culture. Your leadership experience is likely part of a team at work or in an extracurricular activity, and sensitivity to teamwork and collaboration in any leadership story demonstrates maturity and social skills.
Essay Two: Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
This essay question is a hybrid of a classic career goals essay and a personal essay. Kellogg is interested in candidates who are able to integrate their personal and professional goals and show how a Kellogg MBA will serve both sides of life.
When you describe professional and personal growth in the past, make sure it is relevant to your plans to pursue an MBA at Kellogg. The story you tell in this essay should provide insight into your decision to pursue an MBA and allude to your future goals. Because this isn’t a question about your entire career and personal life thus far, you should choose only one or two main experiences to share.
The topic of this essay should also be an experience that demonstrated growth over time. Perhaps you started in an entry-level position at work and progressed into a management role. Or maybe you learned more about yourself by switching jobs and careers, showing progression in your understanding of your goals and aspirations.
For the personal angle of the essay you could focus on a passion outside of work that has developed over time and led to personal growth. It’s also possible to have both personal and professional growth in your career. Many people mature significantly in the time period between college and graduate school and typically work and life both contribute to that growth.
One question will be a “get to know you” icebreaker type of question. The second question will be ““What path are you interested in pursuing? How will you get there? Why is this program right for you?”
The other question will be a randomly generated question that will be similar to interview questions. Overall the video essay is an opportunity for the admissions committee to get a sense of who you are and your personality beyond your skill with the written word.
After you submit your application you will receive your actual video essay questions. Prepare as if you would for an interview, drafting the topics you want to cover and practicing your presentation. Writing some bullet points down in advance will help you remember and focus as you answer the questions.
The video should accurately portray your personality and demeanor. Extensive preparation will help you be comfortable and be yourself when you are recording the video, but should not create a feeling that you scripted and are “acting.”
Dual-degree applicants: For applicants to the MMM or JD-MBA dual degree programs, please explain why that program is right for you. (250 words)
Doing your research on Kellogg MBA’s academics and resources will help you answer the question about why you need a dual degree to achieve your goals. If you are applying to the MMM program, you’ll have to show how the degree will prepare you more effectively for your career goals than the MBA alone.
Be able to articulate what is different about the Kellogg MMM program as compared to the MBA and other joint degrees. Know the classes you want to take, the professors you hope to work for, and how the MMM experience will be an asset in your future career.
Similarly, the JD-MBA at Kellogg is a highly competitive admissions process and will require a very clear explanation of what you will do with both degrees after school. Consider the unique attributes of the Kellogg JD-MBA program as compared to others, and also why you specifically need both a JD and an MBA to achieve your career goals.
Re-applicants: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 word limit)
In answering this question make sure you provide tangible evidence that you have improved the overall package you are submitting this year. Some of the most tangible improvements are a stronger GMAT score or grades from new quantitative classes you attended since the last time you applied.
Other steps that you can describe include a promotion at work, new volunteer activities, or increased responsibility at work or in your activities. If you don’t have something tangible and external to report, it’s reasonable to discuss how your career goals have changed or your personal aspirations have been refined as you revamped your applications.
Additional Information (Optional)
If there are any areas of concern, this is the correct place to address them. Strike an upbeat tone here and avoid excuses. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue. For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the essay demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since.
Low GPA issues should be explained here, and if there is a grade of C or below on your transcript the admissions committee will want to know why and feel comfortable it is an outlier in your overall academic record. For academic questions make sure you emphasize your improved performance either later in your college career or in subsequent work or classes since college.
Image credit: Mike Willis (CC BY-ND 2.0)
If you are looking for guidance on your MBA application, Stacy Blackman Consulting can help with hourly and comprehensive consulting services. Contact us to learn more. Visit the website for Stacy Blackman Reviews, and check out the company’s e-publications for more in depth school-by-school guidance.