Tuesday Tips: Kellogg MBA Essay Tips

Kellogg MBA’s set of three required questions and the choice of two short answers are slightly different from last year, and are clearly focused on understanding how you work with and lead others.

The tight knit Kellogg MBA community has resulted in a culture that values leadership and teamwork.  In evaluating candidates for the MBA program, fit is crucial.  You will want to research the program thoroughly and network with students and applicants to understand how you uniquely fit with the Kellogg MBA model.

In choosing topics for this set of Kellogg MBA essays, choose a range of experiences in your professional and community life.  If you work in a career that is more individualistic, choose examples that demonstrate your behavior in a group environment.  When approaching any MBA application essay, be as specific as possible in every example to authentically communicate your unique leadership and teamwork style.

For questions 1-3, please limit responses to 2 pages.

Essay One (required): Briefly assess your career progress to date.  Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at the Kellogg MBA program.

This is a standard career goal essay for the Kellogg MBA program. Note that the question implies a fairly brief discussion of your past, and to focus most of your response on your goals and why the Kellogg MBA program is the right place to pursue your MBA. Clarifying your goals and why an MBA is necessary for them will be crucial to beginning your communication with adcom about your candidacy. Another important aspect to notice about this question is the word “assess” which suggests a desire to see your self awareness about your own career progress to date.

Approach this essay in the same way you would approach other career goals essays (Columbia Business School and Wharton Business School’s essays are very similar, for instance). Clearly articulate where you have been and explain any confusing twists and turns in your background. Discuss your goals and why your goals are meaningful to you. Demonstrate self awareness about where you have been, where you are going, and what you have learned along the way.

Essay Two (required):  Describe how your background, values, academics, activities and/or leadership skills will enhance the experience of other Kellogg MBA students.

This question is a gift for all of those applicants who need to differentiate themselves from the rest of the application pool. To accomplish your goal of standing out, highlight your unique qualities with a few well chosen and specific examples. At the same time, the Kellogg MBA values community and teamwork, and you will need to answer the second part of the question about enhancing the experience of other Kellogg MBA students. Think about what your unique skills, background and values can contribute to the Kellogg MBA community, and communicate these benefits through specific knowledge of the Kellogg program and culture.

In researching this question and the career goals essay, student and applicant blogs are a great informal resource.

Essay Three (required): Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experience.

This classic “leadership essay” asks you to look back on a few key experiences in your leadership development, and to further discuss what areas you plan to work on while at the Kellogg MBA program. Though the question is open ended, it will be most effective to limit your key leadership experiences to two or three, and show a range of personal qualities and settings for the experiences. Two professional and one community service example would be a great way to highlight your leadership outside of work. Leadership can demonstrate itself in many ways, and this is also an opportunity for you to reflect on your own individual leadership style and communicate it to the adcom.

Question Four: Applicants must answer 2 of the below essays.  (Re-applicants must answer question 4D and 1 other essay).  Please keep responses to two paragraphs.

The focus of these questions indicates that the Kellogg MBA program is interested in knowing more about your interpersonal skills. Both 4A and 4C focus on how you interact with others, and 4B is completely open ended, leaving you the opportunity to cover any aspects of your background, experiences and personal qualities you still need to demonstrate.

4A – Describe a time when you had to motivate a reluctant individual or group.

This is a great essay to communicate your maturity and self awareness, as well as how you interact with others and solve problems. If you do not directly manage an individual or team, you have likely encountered a team based example that would be great for this question. The essay length is very short, which will require a concise example that leaves plenty of space to be extremely specific about what you did to motivate the individual or group, and the outcome of your efforts.

4B – I wish the Admissions Committee had asked me”¦..

You can have fun with this question, use it to address any areas of concern in your application (low undergraduate GPA, etc.) or simply express another aspect of your candidacy. Be careful if you are applying to multiple MBA programs and are tempted to “recycle” an essay from another school’s application ”“ such attempts are usually incredibly transparent!

4C – What do others admire about you?

The trick with this essay is to talk about what others admire in you without demonstrating arrogance. One way to be convincing is to be as specific as possible with examples to back up your assertions.

4D – For re-applicants only:
Since your previous application, what are the steps you’ve taken to strengthen your candidacy?

If you are a re-applicant to the Kellogg MBA program this year, you will be required to answer this question. Focus on very concrete steps you have taken to address any weaknesses in your application profile (GPA, GMAT or work experience) as well as any self improvement activities that can demonstrate your teamwork and leadership skills. Think about any aspects of your improved candidacy that will make you a contributing member of the Kellogg MBA community.

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