Kellogg Essay Samples

Kellogg’s MBA essays reflect a holistic approach. Kellogg is looking for both strong academic potential as well as leadership and a track record of involvement. Depth or breadth are valued. The Kellogg essays are essential to showcasing fit.

SBC has four former Kellogg Admissions Officers and multiple Kellogg MBA graduates who deeply know the nuances of applying to Kellogg successfully. If you’d like to speak with one of our Principals about your candidacy, please request a free analysis here.

Successful Examples of Kellogg Essays

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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 ?

Pizza should be a delicious comfort food. But following our acquisition of ABC Bakes, a manufacturer of pizza crusts, it had become nothing but a source of stress. I had the challenging responsibility of leading the new management team in developing a budget and operating plan for the following year.

The successful development of a budget and operating plan requires a truly cross-functional effort, with contributions from accounting, finance, sales, marketing and operations. However, this management team was new to the company and had never worked together. These individuals were all several decades my senior, and while all of them were talented, accomplished operators, few had been exposed to the rigor of private equity ownership. My key challenge would be the successful cohesion of this cross-functional team to execute against an eight-week timeline, culminating in a budget presentation to my CEO.

First, I organized a kick-off meeting to bring the team together. This meeting was a forum to discuss each team’s responsibilities – and how each function would both depend on and be accountable to others. Informed by the learnings from this meeting, I followed up with a detailed timeline listing deadlines for each group, including when they owed others certain information. I also scheduled a weekly check-in meeting to discuss each group’s progress towards completing the budget.

A challenge I did not anticipate were the clashing incentives inherent in the project. As the investor, I wanted to push the team to commit to an aspirational budget that maximized financial performance. Management understandably preferred a less risky approach given their compensation was tied to meeting the budget. While meeting with the CEO of ABC I expressed that if we didn’t push ourselves, we wouldn’t reach the levels of performance we all desired. The CEO countered that if we set unattainable goals, management would become dejected and unmotivated when they inevitably didn’t meet those goals. Coming out of this meeting, we both better appreciated the other’s perspective, and settled on a budget where we both felt a bit uncomfortable – a good compromise.

In the end, I created a collaborative project dynamic that relied on frequent communication and interdependent teamwork. This successfully led to a measured, but ambitious budget, that was developed in both a timely and effective manner. Significant value was created both operationally and financially, as the company, guided by this budget and operating plan, achieved a 17% increase in revenue and a 49% increase in earnings the following fiscal year. As a leader, I learned the value of open communication and necessary compromise – tools that I continue to apply with my other portfolio companies. These strategies have consistently driven improved teamwork and performance among our teams.

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

Compassion and empathy are guiding values both personally and professionally. I learned the value of these traits as a child, watching my father handle my uncle’s drug addiction and its impact on our family. Through all the pain he brought, my father cared for and loved him. This demonstrated to me that to understand and help my uncle, you had to approach him with a level of compassion that allowed him to show his best self. I also learned this didn’t just apply to friends and family – you had to show the same respect and understanding to the check-out clerk at the grocery store as you did your boss in the corner office.

I applied this lesson when I got to college and started working at the Bulk Mail Center. I worked alongside a blue-collar workforce, printing pamphlets and newsletters the university distributed. My colleagues had experienced extremely different circumstances than me – most had no more than a high school degree and many had criminal backgrounds. As I worked with them longer, taking time to better understand them as people, barriers broke down, and I was able to see them as caring and intelligent individuals. By approaching them with compassion, I was able to see their best selves and learn from them as a result.

As a PE Associate, I am exposed to many levels of a company’s organization and interact with diverse executives. I utilize an empathetic and compassionate perspective in this position, aiming to identify with employees at all levels and functions of an organization – whether I’m meeting with the COO or walking the factory floor with a production worker. By doing so, I’ve been able to gain a broader perspective on how value is created by every member within an organization. Recently a shift leader at a portfolio company, an immigrant from (Country) with limited English, demonstrated a newly implemented quality-control process to me– a learning I was able to suggest to another portfolio company with great success.

In my personal life, I have demonstrated these values through my work with (group), an education non-profit benefiting underprivileged children. I worked with (group) by fundraising at quarterly events supporting the organization’s mission and helping with an annual Christmas party and gift drive. Through a better education, we hope these children won’t be defined by their current circumstances, but will grow, thrive, and be empowered to become their best selves.

Compassion and empathy allow people to be respected and heard – this makes for better businesses, better communities and ultimately a better world. These will continue to be vital values both as I lead investments in companies and as I contribute to the community around me.

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?

During my third year at TTT, Sam, the Senior on my government audit, was detained by a prior client, and I was left to lead the government audit. This audit was unique as our firm was required to hire two subcontractors—a Staff, Alicia, and a Senior, María—from a minority-owned firm to perform most of the testing, but TTT was responsible for directing the work. Both subcontractors reported to me and I was responsible for managing workflow and reviewing work.

This created a unique dynamic in that María had more years of experience than I did; moreover, she had two years of previous experience with our client. As I began the scoping, I quickly realized that not only would there be significantly more work “in scope” this year, but also the internal control testing needed to be completely redesigned.

The first thing I did was schedule a call with my TTT Senior Manager and Sam to discuss my concerns, both of whom agreed that I would need to redesign the testing. María, however, was indignant at the insinuation that she had executed prior year audits incorrectly. She also expressed concerns about the additional time that might be required to correct the identified issues.

To address her concerns and frustration, I met with María right away. I assured her that the audit in prior years had been flawless but the scoping provided by my firm was incorrect. I also walked her through the new control testing methodology. Ultimately, the redesign would require only a slight increase in billable hours in the current year but would significantly decrease the hours in future years, creating value to both the audit team and the client. I further explained to María that the previous internal control testing regimen did not provide sufficient audit evidence to verify compliance with government regulations, so making these updates early would save us all the inconvenience of having to perform additional testing later on.

This discussion was a turning point in my relationship with María. I acknowledged her strong operational understanding of the client and the audit procedures and she recognized my organizational and strategic abilities. Communication and camaraderie within the team improved ten-fold and the audit operated with great efficiency and speed.

My experience leading María taught me how important it is to maintain open communication and obtain buy-in from the team regarding new changes. I also learned to better leverage the strengths of different team members. Having María’s support made a world of difference as she used her strong relationship with the client to help troubleshoot the implementation of the new audit plan, identifying alternate ways to test the internal controls and contribute to our success.

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

Many of the values that are important to me today were instilled by my parents throughout my childhood. As entrepreneurs, my parents taught me the need for ingenuity and hard work to get a job done. They also taught me the importance of showing gratitude for the things that I have and empathy towards others.

My parents worked hard to succeed as entrepreneurs, my mom as a healthcare consultant and my dad as a farmer. I found that same self-starter spirit at an early age, always seeking ways to get creative and satisfy an unmet need. From selling candy on the playground in elementary school to starting a business in high school unlocking iPhones, my resourcefulness carried into college where I majored in entrepreneurial management. Throughout college, I started several new ventures that leveraged my skills and interests. For example, after learning from a family friend how expensive swimming lessons were at the local golf club, I earned my instructor’s license and taught private lessons at a much more affordable rate.

While I was fortunate to live comfortably from my parents’ hard work, I learned the meaning of gratitude when my childhood home burned down during a thunderstorm in the summer of 2005. Although the house was a complete loss, I only felt gratitude that none of my family members were hurt. Since then, I’ve known that material things are not important to me. The things that are most important to me are intangible, including my family’s health, time with loved ones, and the sense of security that comes with stable income and housing. To this day, I consider myself incredibly privileged to have the things that I do and try to express that gratitude every day.

Growing up, my parents ensured that I understood my privilege by involving me in numerous charitable causes, such as volunteering at local group homes and at food drives. I continue to seek ways to help those going through challenging times, including my work with the Animal Humane Society. Beyond these volunteer efforts, I take great care to incorporate empathy and compassion into my personal life. Someone once told me that “People won’t always remember exactly what you said, but what they will remember is how you made them feel,” and for that reason I try to show kindness and respect to everyone that I meet.

I want to continue championing these values in my career, and earning my MBA from Kellogg will equip me with the tools I need to lead and empower teams with empathy, compassion, and gratitude. As an active leader and team member, I hope to inspire my classmates to bring empathy, gratitude and compassion into their work.

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

I began to learn about the power of integrity when I first flipped through Davidson College admissions materials. While immersed in these pamphlets, it was challenging to go two pages without seeing a reference to the honor code and its impact on campus. This emphasis on integrity continued as my class came together for our honor code signing ceremony, as I took self-scheduled finals, and as I left my laptop unattended in the student union. It never ceased to amaze me that this focus on integrity could permeate every aspect of the Davidson experience. From my time at Davidson, the first thing I notice about new communities is whether they place this same emphasis on integrity. In the workplace, this idea comes to life through working under different project leadership. When leaders emphasize the importance of doing the right thing, even if it’s not easy and may not maximize our annual revenue, it trickles down to the daily behaviors of the team. As I ultimately want to lead a portfolio of team-based projects grounded in integrity, a Kellogg MBA would give me the necessary leadership skills to achieve this goal as well as a strong community supportive of this ideal.

The importance of trust became apparent much earlier; I realized that running the soccer ball down the entire length of the field by myself was not an effective strategy. I couldn’t score, and my teammates were understandably frustrated. However, if I passed, my strengths and the skills of my teammates could complement one another, and the team would be much more successful. While trust looks different amongst a team of consultants, the lesson is the same. If one team member tries to own a deliverable individually or independently present every time there’s a client meeting, the team eventually suffers due to a lack of trust. The team also fails to leverage its full range of skills and strengths. At Kellogg I will be working in multiple teams concurrently, each comprised of unique individuals with diverse backgrounds working towards different goals. The opportunity to contribute to and lead this range of teams will further hone my ability to build and facilitate groups that successfully operate in an environment of trust.

My conversations with (student) and (student 2) demonstrated that Kellogg fosters these same values. (Student) highlighted the trust between the administration and students that enables most aspects of Kellogg to be student-led. (Student 2), a Davidson and Kellogg alumna, spoke of her initial concern that a larger community couldn’t replicate Davidson’s focus on integrity. She grew to understand this concern was unfounded as peers treated academics and extracurriculars with focus on doing the right thing and supporting their classmates.

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. Tell us how you have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg?

Trusting a 24-year-old engineer to manage a sales territory is a big risk, especially when the customers are demanding surgeons and the competition is far more experienced. Despite these considerations, I was promoted early to a territory manager and tasked with growing a new medical device business.

After finding initial success, I learned that a key product was being divested due to product consolidation. This threatened my business with Dr. Smith, but I was confident that I could leverage our relationship to retain the business. I assured leadership not to worry and even projected sales growth for that product in my annual business plan. Dr. Smith tried a comparable product I offered, but ultimately went to a competitor who inherited the divested product because it was the best decision for his patients and practice.

I learned from this experience to never assume that past success is an indicator for future success. I began to expect adversity and use feedback to constantly improve my customer service. Overcoming this challenge caused me to become introspective with my relationships and career goals. The professional growth and maturity I developed early in my career allowed me to establish myself as a credible and reliable vendor, which led to retaining other at-risk customers and winning new business.

Now, I crave an opportunity to grow as a leader and become a product manager in the medical device industry. A Kellogg MBA will empower me to follow my passion of creating value for healthcare providers by delivering innovative products and solutions. Kellogg offers experiential and design-centric learning opportunities through the MMM program and a collaborative environment, which I enjoyed when I visited campus in the spring. From our tour guides to the participants in the Marketing Strategy class I audited, the students and staff were engaging and helpful.

The Healthcare Enterprise Management pathway feels tailor-made to my career aspirations. Classes such as Healthcare Strategy and Biomedical Marketing will provide me with industry-specific foundational knowledge and electives such as Medical Product Early Stage Commercialization will teach me the technical skills necessary for my career track. I will utilize the broader Northwestern network by partnering with an interdisciplinary team in NuVention: Medical Innovation and gain entrepreneurial experience taking a medical device concept to market.

Kellogg’s vast extracurricular offerings will help me grow personally and as a leader. I look forward to competing in case competitions with the Marketing Club and coordinating events with industry sponsors as a leader in the Healthcare Club. As an avid skier, I am excited about bonding with classmates at the annual ski trip. Kellogg is the best MBA program for me and I look forward to sharing my passion with the Kellogg community.

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?

“What does he even do every day? Why do you and I subsidize his income while we do all the work?” These were the questions that JJJ asked me about another teammate, ABC, seemingly on a daily basis. Last year, the sales territory I led merged with another territory and I was tasked to lead a team of five sales reps producing $10 million in sales. The celebration from the promotion was short-lived when I realized the challenges of managing a team of senior sales reps across an expansive geography.

Our medical device business is very entrepreneurial; we are paid a commission on every sale plus a bonus on growth. JJJ supported our largest account while ABC supported a few smaller accounts but spent a considerable amount of time cultivating those relationships and performing sales calls. As the team leader, I had an obligation to grow our territory each month while keeping our customers satisfied and I knew we couldn’t do that if the internal strife on our team continued.

To address the conflict, my strategy was to speak with both individuals and then host a team meeting to collaborate on creative, growth-centric adjustments to the compensation plan. JJJ and I had constructive conversations reminding each other that we are tasked with growing every account in our territory, not only the largest ones. ABC and I discussed the importance of communication and transparency; we talked about his role in supporting our largest accounts and communicating with the whole team on sales activities and ongoing deals. At our team meeting, I introduced a compensation plan where a portion of bonus commission would be awarded, based on merit, to the teammate who closed the most new business that quarter.

The modified compensation plan was a success and created value both internally and externally. Team morale was noticeably better; with the new growth-based incentive, we spent less time focusing on each other and more time focusing on our targets and driving new business. I knew the compensation model would have a lasting impact when two other territory leads contacted me about implementing it for their teams. As an added benefit, senior management was impressed that we worked through these problems without their intervention. Through this experience, I learned that in times of conflict, leadership is more about listening than prescribing. I continue to apply this philosophy when I coach my junior reps on overcoming objections and closing new business. We encounter unique business challenges daily that require empathy to navigate. As a growth-minded leader, I will bring my style of empathetic and creative problem-solving to Kellogg.

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past and how do you intend to grow at Kellogg?

Feeling the weight of every eye in the room, I took a calming breath and began my presentation. I was outlining my team’s next initiative to a group of product managers, directors, and VPs from across the company, and it was the first high-stakes test of the public speaking strategies I’d been working on for several months. Public speaking had never been my specialty, but as I progressed in my career I had to present more frequently in front of larger, more senior audiences. I could tell I wasn’t projecting the same gravitas as my colleagues, and my manager agreed this was something I should address in order to advance.

I took a two-pronged approach to improving as a public speaker: I looked for outside help to learn new techniques, and I turned to introspection to understand what triggered my anxiety. I joined Toastmasters, attended improv classes and seminars, and started a journal to reflect on my development. I also volunteered to be a teacher with my director and the senior VP for our department. This allowed me to practice speaking in front of senior managers in a low-stakes, non-work environment.

My efforts created a positive feedback loop: I could tell I was improving, which made me more confident, and helped me improve faster. I built stronger relationships throughout the organization, which allowed me to feel more confident speaking in front of colleagues whose opinions I valued. As a result of my preparation, my big presentation was a success, and my manager commended me on my improvement. I’m proud of the headway I’ve made, and there will be many opportunities for me to continue gaining confidence and growing as a public speaker through Kellogg’s student-driven culture and focus on empowering students to lead.

I want to grow at Kellogg in new areas, too, and approach them with the same resourcefulness and tenacity. Discussing Global Lab with an alumna got me excited to learn about solving business problems in a real-world, international context. Speaking with students during my campus visit inspired me to build relationships through the Women’s Business Association’s peer mentorship program and cultivate community at Kellogg by organizing events like Ski Trip and the Charity Auction Ball. As an officer in the Tech Club, I’ll develop my leadership skills, and joining Net Impact will help me contribute off-campus by sharing what I’ve learned through the Inner City Mentoring Club, which has a similar mission to .

I’m excited to take advantage of all these opportunities during the 1Y program. While a year goes by quickly, 1Y alumni have told me that it’s just enough time to focus on personal growth while still maintaining my career trajectory.

Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of your Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn?

Errors in economic consulting are sometimes worth millions; in antitrust litigation, defense attorneys entrust my team with finding these expensive errors. Often these cases are thousands of pages of industry reports, data methodologies, and client strategy documents—our job is to find where something was wrong. On one such case, I was tasked with managing a team of unfamiliar faces from outside my LA office. Motivating this new group throughout the routine of casework was a new challenge for me.

Initially I stressed the importance of the details, since minor errors in analysis could change the trajectory of the case; our diligent review was essential to success. Initially, the project hummed along, but a challenge soon emerged. One of my team members, “Bill,” was several years my senior with a higher title, and didn’t appreciate his reduced role on this project. Although the chain of command had been established, he subtlety attempted to circumvent me and seek tasks from my boss. Sensing his frustration, I decided to delicately confront Bill without turning the situation toxic. I didn’t reprimand him, but instead thanked him for his willingness to take a role beneath his normal responsibilities; I even confided to him that this was an important opportunity for me and asked if he had any managerial advice. After our conversation, he recommitted to the team and even became my second in command.

Our commitment eventually paid off: we found a costly blunder. The opposing economist had innocently confused “the San Francisco metropolitan area” with the city of limits of San Francisco and correcting this seemingly minor error in his model decreased the predicted damages by almost $30 million. With our successful outcome, the partner on the project called me into his office to thank me for my effort on this project. Although my team members had already dispersed back to their respective offices, I asked if he could call and thank Bill and the rest of the team as well. As someone who hasn’t always held the manager role, I appreciate the satisfaction that comes from simple acknowledgement of work done well.

This experience taught me that there is no single prescription for leadership. My style for managing self-motivated consultants shouldn’t mirror my style as captain of my co-ed soccer team. In this situation, my team didn’t need someone to tyrannize, but someone to galvanize them as the case progressed. I also learned that success sometimes comes at the expense of my own ego; I built the team’s trust by my willingness to take on even the simplest task to inch us toward completion. While my leadership style will evolve as my responsibilities grow, a key tenant of my leadership style will always be adaptability.

Stacy Blackman

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Kellogg, Booth and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Beth who held the position of Director of Admissions for Kellogg’s Full Time MBA program selecting candidates for the 2-year, 1-year, MMM and JD MBA programs.

Meet Kim, who was an Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


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