Kellogg MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines [2020 – 2021]

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Kellogg MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines [2020 - 2021]

If there is one theme I heard over and over during my interactions with Kellogg representatives, whether at AIGAC or on an Accepted podcast interview with Admissions Dean Kate Smith, it’s “intentionality.” They want to see it in you.

They really want to understand why you’re making the choices that you are making. Keep that theme in mind as you respond to Kellogg’s questions. What has motivated you in the past and what is motivating you today? What are your intentions and goals for the future? I believe those questions form the underlying foundation of the Kellogg MBA application and should be front of mind as you answer the questions posed.

Kellogg MBA application

This is your chance to tell us why you think Kellogg is the right place for you. As you get started, remind yourself of the experiences that led you here and how they have shaped where you want to go.

Kellogg MBA Essay #1

Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

First things first: Kellogg is asking for ONE recent experience. Not more. Unlike many similar essay questions, Kellogg is not limiting you to professional settings. You do have the option to use a non-professional leadership experience.

I’d try to keep your example within the last two years. Presumably, you are going to choose something you’re proud of. If it’s from longer ago in the past, a reader may wonder what you’ve been doing lately.

You can use a CAR (Challenge – Action – Results) framework for this response. Start with the challenge or challenges that you faced by simply describing the situation and obstacles. Then relate your actions. How did you motivate others to move in one direction? How did you influence and persuade? 

Keep in mind the word “brave.” It implies there were risks (without risk, bravery just isn’t necessary).

Finally, what were the results? How did you create value, not just for yourself but for your team, group, department, company, club, or whatever entity you were contributing to? And what did you learn about leadership, collaboration, and influence?

While it isn’t a requirement, and I can imagine instances where this may not be true, are examples where you led by virtue of your stature and others’ respect for you will be more compelling than those where you led by virtue of station and title.

Kellogg MBA Essay #2

Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)

This is a real stop-and-think question. (Actually, aren’t they all? Yes, but this one probably will require a little more thought.)

What values are important to you and how have they influenced your behavior, your life, and your dreams for the future?

The value(s) you focus on could be a particular religious or philosophical approach to life. It could be something political or something more personal like mindfulness, healthy living, service to others, helping the less fortunate, or any number of values. There really are a lot of possibilities.

However, the tough part of the question isn’t listing values; it is discussing how these values have influenced you. How are you a different person because of them? How do these values guide your behavior? Are you intentional about living up to your values?

Since Kellogg provides a 450-word limit, you don’t have a lot of room to discuss many values. I’d focus on one or two and discuss their impact on your daily or weekly life. If the impact of your value has led you to have an impact on others, include the ripple effect too.

Kellogg MBA Optional Essay

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.).

This is a true optional question. If necessary, use it to provide context for possible negatives. Take responsibility for mistakes when you have to and discuss what you have changed so that you don’t err in the same way again.

Keep this section short and to-the-point. 

Kellogg MBA Video Essay

We’ve read your essays, we’ve read your resume — now we want you to bring all that to life in a video. Show us the person behind all those carefully crafted words. The video will be comprised of three questions, each designed to help you showcase your personality and share some of the experiences that brought you here today.


Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare to complete this section:

  • Video Essays are due 48 hours after the application deadline.

  • A video essay link will appear on your application status page after you submit your application and payment (starting in September 2020). Please be advised that it may take several minutes for the application submission and payment to process in our system.

  • You will need an internet-connected computer with a webcam, a microphone and an updated version of Adobe Flash.

  • The video should take about 20-25 minutes to complete, which includes time for setup.


You will be asked three questions. Here are some insights:

  • One question will be an opportunity to introduce yourself to the Kellogg team.

  • The second question will ask about your plans for the future and how Kellogg will help you on that journey.

  • The third question will focus on a challenging moment in your life and what you learned from it.

  • You will have 20 seconds to think about the question and up to one minute to answer.

  • To help you get comfortable with the format and technology, we offer a set of practice questions. We highly encourage you take advantage of these because the official essay questions cannot be re-recorded.

To prepare for your video session, you need to practice for the experience of talking to a camera with no responses from another human being. For tips on how to prepare and behave during the video session, see Kellogg’s “Video Essay” on its Application Process page as well as my Tips for Video MBA Essay Questions.

Also, since at least the first essay question is going to be fairly open-ended and give you the opportunity to introduce whatever aspect of your life you want, prepare what you want them to know that isn’t discussed elsewhere in your application. It could be a challenge you’ve overcome. It could be a hobby or non-professional interest. It could be an experience or achievement not mentioned elsewhere. Remember they are viewing this video with a desire to understand what you’re going to add to the Kellogg community.

For the second and third questions, again think of experiences that will help you respond to those questions and that also aren’t discussed in any depth in the other parts of the application. These videos should complement each other and also add to the schools knowledge of you by presenting insight not found in the written portion of your application. 

What is Kellogg looking for?

Watch this short clip where Kate Smith, Assistant Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid at the Kellogg School of Management, talks about the type of applicants that Kellogg is looking for and the common thread that unites the Kellogg community.

For expert guidance with your Kellogg MBA application, check out Accepted’s MBA Application Packages, which include comprehensive guidance from an experienced admissions consultant. We’ve helped hundreds of applicants get accepted to Kellogg’s MBA program and look forward to helping you too!

Kellogg 2020-21 MBA application deadlines

RoundApplication Deadline
1September 16, 2020
2January 6, 2021
3April 7, 2021

***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify Kellogg’s essay questions, instructions, and deadlines.***

Source: Northwestern Kellogg website

Stay on top of MBA deadlines with the MBA Admissions Calendar!

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Top MBA Essay Questions: How to Answer them Right!
by Linda Abraham, Accepted Founder

By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted. Linda earned her bachelors and MBA at UCLA, and has been advising applicants since 1994 when she founded Accepted. Linda is the co-founder and first president of AIGAC. She has written or co-authored 13 e-books on the admissions process, and has been quoted by The Wall Street JournalU.S. NewsPoets & QuantsBloomberg BusinessweekCBS News, and others. Linda is the host of Admissions Straight Talk, a podcast for graduate school applicants. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

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