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Kellogg MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines: 2021-22

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Located in the Northwestern University's main campus in Evanston, Illinois, the Kellogg School of Management's MBA program emphasizes teamwork. It develops "leaders who are empathetic, innovative and who harness the power of diverse teams to meet complex challenges."

Kellogg has released its application deadlines and essays for the 2021-22 application season. The essay questions remain unchanged from last year and focus on leadership and values. The first question asks about your leadership experience and the impact made, and the second question asks about your values and motivation in life and work and their influence on you.

Application Deadlines:

  Application Deadline Decision Released
Round 1 September 15, 2021 December 8, 2021
Round 2 January 5, 2022 March 23, 2022
Round 3 April 6, 2022 May 11, 2022


Kate Smith, Assistant Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Kellogg, advises in her blog post:

"From our conversations with students, we know that the most challenging trait to demonstrate and evaluate continues to be leadership. We're looking specifically for examples of spearheading change, striving for excellence, or creating a lasting impact. We want our students to be the kind of people who aim to leave an innovative mark on their companies before and after Kellogg."

Here is MER's analysis of the essay questions:

Written Essay #1: Kellogg's purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

This question asks the applicants to recount a leadership experience in which they made a significant impact while overcoming challenges and learning something that helped them in similar situations in the future. Please note the word "brave leaders" and choose a leadership example in which you stepped outside your comfort zone to guide people around you towards a goal.

Regarding examples of leadership, you may choose stories from your personal or professional experiences. Make sure that the impact you have made and the value you have created is not only about dollar amounts or percentages but also about the challenges faced. The examples can be handling an uncooperative team member or a supervisor, taking a decision with insufficient information, convincing someone of your innovative ideas, handling a new project, meeting stringent deadlines, managing a client's expectations, or resolving the conflict between two team members, etc.

In these exceptional times, when the whole world is dealing with a global health crisis, what actions you took to do your part in helping people that made a difference in their lives? Did you take the initiative to make masks or PPE for the hospitals,  or did you private tutor kids, or got involved with a local NGO to contribute in any way you could, or connected with your alma mater in their virtual efforts to help the underprivileged.  Maybe you stepped up to volunteer in your community and helped old and physically disabled people in your neighborhood with groceries or medicines or took the responsibility of your family as your parents have immunity issues. During this ongoing crisis, you can show leadership in many different ways. The key is you stepped out of your comfort zone at this challenging time, took the reins, and made a difference.

As always, we recommend you follow the 4-part STAR framework below:

  1. Situation: what was the situation/ challenge? Who were the people involved in this situation- players, stakeholders?
  2. Task: what you needed to accomplish? What conflict/ challenges did you encounter?
  3. Action: What were the actions you took? Describe this in detail as it will become a crucial part of your essay.
  4. Result/ Impact: What was the outcome of your leadership efforts? Were you able to address the situation? What "lasting value" you created? What lessons did you learn?

Since the second part of the essay question asks you to share what the experience taught you, you must explain at length why that experience is meaningful to you in terms of what you achieved and what you learned about yourself. The experience may have revealed to you your vital attributes, which you might not have been aware of earlier. For example, you might have never known that you could rise to the occasion to contribute to the ongoing crisis. Still, this complicated situation offered you an opportunity to lead people that yielded great results. You may wrap up the essay with a final note about how you are now applying or trying to apply those lessons in similar situations.

You may also use this essay as an opportunity to comment on a leadership position you are interested in holding as a student at Kellogg and add value to the Kellogg community.

Written 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 essay requires applicants to do a significant self-reflection to understand what values and beliefs are meaningful. Simply discussing values that you think will impress the admission committee members will not work here as it is crucial to explain how you have demonstrated those values/ beliefs in your life.

Also, please don't be tempted to provide a laundry list of values. You may discuss only 2-3 values and back up your statements with concrete examples from your life (personal or professional). Also, explain how these values have shaped your personality and have influenced your decisions and actions.

You may wrap up your essay by stating how you see yourself enriching the Kellogg community through these values.

Kate Smith's Advice: Our goal is to uncover what motivates and inspires you. What drives you? How will this make you a meaningful member of the Kellogg community?

Reapplicant Essay: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 words)

This is a straightforward re-applicant essay. Through this question, the Ad Com would like to know if your need for the Kellogg MBA is as strong as last time. Hence you should demonstrate your continued interest in Kellogg by explaining how you have enhanced your old application. Focus on the areas you have improved upon since you applied last. For example, you may have taken extra classes, boosted your GMAT score, received a promotion, led a new exciting project, increased your community involvement, taken on a personal challenge, or articulated your goals. The key here is to demonstrate that you are now a stronger candidate. Your conscious efforts to strengthen your profile and to work on your weak areas will prove how determined you are about your Kellogg MBA.

Additional Information Essay: All applicants have the opportunity to provide explanations or clarification in Additional Information. Use this section if you think the person reviewing your application might have a few questions about one or more of your responses. This could include:

  • Unexplained gaps in work experience
  • Academic, GMAT or GRE performance
  • Extenuating circumstances that we should be aware of when reviewing your application

The purpose of this essay is to address a weakness in your profile. For example, if you have a lower-than-average GMAT score, any grades below a C on your transcript, academic probation, or a significant employment/education gap, you can explain that in this essay. Also, if you cannot get your recommendation letter from your current supervisor, you should explain that in the optional essay. Your response should be positive, straightforward, and fact-focused and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile. To provide a context for a weak area in your profile, make sure your reason is genuine to convince the Ad Com that your low grades or employment gap occurred due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. First, explain the facts, then show how you have addressed the issue, and finally, conclude by explaining why this will not impact your ability to handle the program's academic rigor.

This question is entirely optional. If you do not have any areas of concern, you may not write this essay.

Click here for essay tips from Jennifer Hayes, Director of Admissions for the one-year program.

Video Essays:

To see the person behind those 'carefully crafted words,' Kellogg continues to ask applicants to submit 3 video essays.  Video essays offer you a platform to showcase your personality and character. So reflect on new stories instead of repeating material from written essays.

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

  • Video Essays are due 96 hours after the application deadline
  • A video essay link will appear on your application status page after you submit your application and payment
  • You will need an internet-connected computer with a webcam and microphone
  • The video should take about 20-25 minutes to complete, which includes time for setup

After submitting your application and payment, you will be able to access the video essay through your application status page. You will be asked to answer three questions:"

Video Essay #1: Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee.

This question allows you to present your personality to Ad Com and your classmates. You can discuss your cultural background, motivation, personal and professional goals, hobbies/interests, and issues that pique your interest. The motive is to tell them who you are. Since you will be discussing your plans in your second video essay, you may just touch upon them in this video essay.

Kate Smith's advice: "Consider this your opportunity to share what you would want your future Kellogg classmates and our admissions committee to know about you. What makes you, you?"

Video Essay #2: What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there, and why is this program right for you?

The second question provides you an opportunity to describe your plans and how Kellogg will help you achieve them. Since the written essays do not offer you a chance to discuss your post-MBA goals and why you are applying to Kellogg, this is a great place to show how your goals align with the offerings and resources of Kellogg.

Kate Smith's advice: "This is an intentionally broad question so you can answer honestly and meaningfully. We want to know what set you en route to pursuing an MBA and why you're choosing a particular Kellogg Full-Time Program."

Video Essay #3: The third question will ask about a challenge you've faced and what you have learned from it.

2020 has been a year of seismic disruption— fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic, tragic deaths that have brought systemic racism and social justice issues to the forefront of long-overdue conversations, and economic and political divides that are growing deeper and deeper. How has this unprecedented year challenged you, and how have you faced that challenge?

The year 2020 was an exceptional year for everyone around the world for which no one was prepared. All of us faced different challenges and handled them in our own way. Through this question, each applicant will share how they navigated through challenges and grew from them.  As you reflect on possible responses to the new third question, consider what it says about you and who you are as a leader? 

Director of Diversity Admissions, Lance Bennet's Advice on Video Essay #3

"This moment is challenging for us all, but it is a moment that is challenging us in different ways. Personally, COVID-19 has challenged me to do my work very differently, especially when engaging with and growing the Kellogg community. … I urge you to speak about how you've been specifically challenged and how you're managing yourself through it. At Kellogg, so much of leadership is actually about how you lead yourself. And your answer will help us get a better understanding of who that leader is. For more details, click here.

The Kellogg application suggests some sample questions that you can use to prepare for video essays. You should practice as many times as you like until you get comfortable with the format and technology. You may prepare MBA-related questions and non-work questions about your interests/ passions and volunteer work. Add more items to the list and begin practicing. Also, it is a great idea to seek the help of family or friends and get their feedback on your topics and delivery style so you can improve yourself accordingly in your next recording. The applicants will have 20 seconds to think about the question and up to one minute to give their response. So timing is the crucial thing in this response. Please note that you will not get a second chance to record your answer to the official video essay questions. Make sure to practice getting a clear sense of how much time you need to think and record your response.

Click here for Kellogg's Tips on Video essays.

You may also check out this blog post for application advice from current students!

Free Resources:

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples

 MER Students Share their success Stories

Essay Analysis of Other Top Programs-2021-22

Case Studies

AIGAC Virtual Conference 2021: MER's Key Takeaways

You may also be interested in Kellogg alumnus Eduardo's advice:

Also, check out Kellogg admit Rohit's story:

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

You may email Poonam at with questions about your Kellogg application.

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This article was first published in myEssayReview blog.