If you are getting ready to apply to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management this year, these Kellogg MBA essay tips will help you prepare to knock it out of the park.
Is Kellogg the right fit for you? The Kellogg School is a close-knit community. It values a diverse community and philanthropy. Our insiders tell us that candidates who show the right combination of high-impact leadership and humility demonstrate “Kellogg DNA.”
For these Kellogg MBA essay tips, do your research. For example, what are the programs, activities, clubs, and classes you are most excited about? While you are talking to students and alumni, look for ways you will contribute to the Kellogg MBA community.
Advice from One of SBC’s Resident Kellogg Experts
Caryn Altman previously served as an admissions officer at Kellogg and also holds an MBA from the school. She is a tenured consultant on our SBC team. For these Kellogg MBA essay tips, Caryn describes the importance of “unique points of difference” throughout your entire application—essays, resume, interview, etc. It can be challenging to distinguish yourself from other applicants of similar backgrounds.
“This is especially the case for those coming from oversubscribed professional backgrounds such as consulting and banking, along with oversubscribed populations from particular areas of the world,” Caryn notes.
See Stacy Blackman Consulting’s Kellogg MBA essay tips below for each Full-Time MBA option Kellogg offers.
Kellogg MBA essays required of all applicants:
Essay One: Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and 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)
This essay focuses on leadership using a behavioral essay framework (the clue is “provide a recent example…”). Details about exactly what you did, said, and learned show how you learn from experience. “Creating lasting value” is another key to this essay. Think about what you have done that endures.
As you structure the essay, spend some time setting up the background of the story. Then use most of the space to describe what you did, thought, felt, and how you behaved. Also, use details to entice the reader and set yourself apart. A few well-placed specifics will add color without adding length to these Kellogg MBA essays.
These Kellogg MBA essay tips give you options, as long as you demonstrated leadership. For example, it might be a time that everything went smoothly. Maybe 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. As long as your story demonstrates that you have left your mark on the organization.
If you choose a challenging situation, learning is important. In addition, show you do learn from experience. Every leader has to learn and develop. Therefore, a willingness to be open to feedback and improve will be an asset.
Do not neglect 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, collaboration demonstrates maturity and social skills.
Essay Two: 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 question is a hybrid of a classic career goals essay and a personal essay. Kellogg is interested in candidates who can integrate their values into their personal and professional goals. How have your values directed your actions in work and life?
Consider your values related to your desire to attend Kellogg. Therefore, the story you tell provides insight into your decision to pursue an MBA. Because this isn’t a question about your entire work and life, choose only one or two main experiences to share.
As you discuss how your values have guided you, specific examples are key. For example, if you have a value of driving excellence, and that has led you to a consulting career where you help organizations become more efficient and achieve their goals. Or, your core value may be helping others, and you have chosen a career that provides the ability for you to give back to your community or lead a group of people.
The Video Essay
The Kellogg admissions team advises the following in regards to the 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.
Video essay 1: Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee.
Read specific advice on how best to prepare for the video essay here.
Watching a video essay gives the admissions committee a sense of who you are. Therefore, the Kellogg admissions committee advises: “Be yourself. We don’t want scripted answers — we want to get to know you and learn something new. Please do not try to reuse an example from an essay that might, in some roundabout way, answer the video essay question asked. We already read that essay, so why tell us that story again?”
First, prepare as if you would for an interview. Draft the topics you want to cover and practice your presentation. Then, writing some bullet points down in advance will help you focus as you answer the questions.
Kellogg’s video essays should reveal your personality. Preparation will help you be comfortable and be yourself when you are recording the video. That said, it’s essential not to sound as if you are “acting.”
Kellogg allows you to practice the video format a few times with practice questions before your official video. Also, it would be useful to do a few rounds of practice in front of the camera to get comfortable.
The first video essay question asks you to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. Therefore, use this question to tell them something new. Do you have an interesting background? A quirky hobby? Or an important relationship? Think about something memorable and unique you can describe here.
Video essay 2: What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there, and why is this program right for you?
Video essay two focuses on your professional path. To record the best video, you want to be excited. Think about the aspects of your career path that engage you, and express that excitement to the admissions committee.
It is worth practicing the story in front of a friend or family member. The goal is to engage the audience without reciting your resume. And, if you can tell a personal story about what you have learned about Kellogg that answers the “why Kellogg.”
Video essay question #3: This question will be based on a challenge you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from it.
Challenges are part of every person’s life, and Kellogg wants to know what you have personally faced. As a result, this video essay may be emotional for you. Be sincere in your communication and honest about the challenge. However, remain positive. Ideally, you were able to control your emotions and channel them into action. Kellogg is looking to see how you manage yourself.
Certain applicants will respond to additional questions:
1Y applicants: Please discuss your post-MBA career goal, the current experience you will leverage to support the transition, and the Kellogg 1Y opportunities that will help you reach this goal. (250 words)
The Kellogg One Year Full Time MBA is designed for applicants with a strong business background. For example, if you majored in business or economics and worked in finance and consulting, you may not need the core courses of the first year. Therefore, this essay should show you can accomplish your goals with only one year at Kellogg.
MBAi applicants: The Kellogg McCormick MBAi program is designed to train the next generation of leaders who can help businesses deliver successful outcomes through AI-driven technology. This requires leaders who have both strong technical and business skills; many firms struggle to find leaders with these skills. Tell us about your firsthand experience with this disconnect between business and technology and how MBAi will prepare you to successfully lead businesses at the intersection. (450 words)
This Kellogg Full-Time MBA program is a joint degree with McCormick. This program prepares MBA students for careers in tech operations, analytics, and innovation leadership roles. The ideal candidate has a technical degree or experience in a technical role like product management, software engineer, etc.
To answer this essay question, focus on an experience you have had at work or school. Examples show the need for this experience. For instance, you may have worked on an innovation with no revenue-generating potential. Or, you led the technical implementation of a product that had a poor user interface. As a leader with tech and business skills, you could bridge those gaps.
JD-MBA applicants: Please discuss your post-JD-MBA career goals and why the JD-MBA Program is the right program to help you reach those goals. (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.
The JD-MBA at Kellogg is a competitive admissions process. As a result, it requires a clear reason for both degrees. Consider the unique attributes of the Kellogg JD-MBA program as compared to other programs. Also, describe why you (specifically) need both a JD and an MBA to achieve your career goals.
MMM applicants: The five core values of the MMM Program are curiosity, creativity, empathy, open-mindedness, and a learning mindset. Describe a situation in which you demonstrated one of these values. Why is this value an important part of the MMM experience for you? (250 words)
Continuing the theme of “values” from the required essay, candidates for the MMM degree should reflect the intent of the program. Also, Kellogg is looking for design thinkers for this program. So, demonstrate you have curiosity, empathy, open-mindedness, and a learning mindset. Those characteristics show you are ready for the MMM program.
This is a behavioral essay question (“Describe a situation…”). Therefore, show the reader how you felt, acted, and made decisions.
Reapplicants: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 words)
Provide tangible evidence that you have improved your candidacy in this answer. Some visible improvements could be a higher GMAT score. Also, grades from any new quantitative classes you took.
In addition, you could describe a promotion at work or new volunteer activities. Another area could be increased responsibility at work or in your extracurriculars. Or, discuss how your career goals have changed. Finally, you could focus on how you have refined your personal goals.
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
This is the place to address any areas of concern. Strike an upbeat tone and avoid excuses. Also, explain your issue clearly and focus on the correction for the problem. For example, for a disciplinary matter, describe that you learned and improved.
You should explain any low GPA issues here. For example, explain a grade of C or below on your transcript. And, the admissions committee will want to know it is an outlier. For example, explain how you improved later in your college career. Or, how you have proved yourself at work. Another option is to take classes post-college with improved grades.
Need even more Kellogg MBA essay tips and advice? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting for a free analysis of your candidacy. For more details on the application process, visit the Kellogg MBA Admissions website.
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