Tuesday Tips: Kelley School of Business Essays, Tips for 2023-2024

Kelley School of Business Essays

The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University is a top-tier business school with an innovative program that cultivates strong recruiting relationships with companies. These Kelley School of Business essays focus on understanding you. From the moment you decide to attend Kelley, you will be focusing on your career and leadership development.

For example, even before you start classes, you will be part of an orientation program called Me Inc. to help you refine your career goals. After you start school, you will continue to receive personalized coaching, leadership training, and real-world industry projects.

This will help you focus on the right career path and job openings for your internship and full-time job search. Consider these factors as you prepare your answers to these Kelley School of Business essays.

Kelley’s program is unique and close-knit, so your fit with the program and your desire to participate fully will be vital to the admissions committee. Kelley has an academically strong class of students, a large number (45% of the Class of 2024) of whom hail from outside the United States.

Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant. 

Required Kelley School of Business Essays

Essay One: Discuss your immediate post-MBA professional goals. How will your professional experience, when combined with a Kelley MBA degree, allow you to achieve these goals? Should the short-term goals you have identified not materialize, what alternate career paths might you consider? (500 words)

The Kelley School has tailored its curriculum to help you reach your career goals. Therefore, entering Kelley with a career vision will help you take full advantage of the program.

For example, students can immediately specialize by choosing one of the first-year Academies in your industry area of focus. Think about these opportunities at Kelley when you answer this career goals question. Make sure to specify how you see yourself using the tools available.

When you discuss your career experience in this essay, focus on the most critical moments in your career. Avoid reciting your jobs like a resume.

Consider the times when you had to stretch to accomplish the goals set out for you. Maybe that happened when you stepped up to lead or became introspective about your career aspirations. These are the stories that will explain how your professional experience will help you achieve your goals.

Kelley School of Business essays

The second half of this question deals with your flexibility around your career goal and ability to handle change. Change is constant in most industries, and your ability to recognize opportunity, even outside your anticipated career goals, will be critical to your success. Therefore, think about the core elements essential to you in forming your career goals and how you could achieve them in different career opportunities.

For example, perhaps you are passionate about the food industry and want to update the world of packaged goods. However, you could imagine pursuing either a strategy role or a finance role within consumer packaged goods.

Or, you love marketing but could see yourself either marketing a film or a jewelry line. In this case, the most crucial factor is practicing the craft of marketing. Showing that you can pivot while staying true to your core values and interests will position you well in this set of Kelley School of Business essays.

Essay Two: Please respond to one of the following short essay prompts. (300 words)

My greatest memory is…
I’m most afraid of…
My greatest challenge has been…
I’m most proud of…

While the prior essay focuses on your career path and goals, this essay is about your core personal motivations. Consider what are the formative moments in your life. In this essay, the story you choose to tell will reveal your personality and values to the admissions committee.

Therefore, think about the moments in your life when you have changed or matured. Was there an experience that led you to learn more about yourself? Or, perhaps, you interacted with someone who challenged or inspired you. Another experience might have been traveling outside your comfort zone—either literally outside your home country or in a transition like leaving home for college.

Option 2, “I’m most afraid of…” is the one prompt that does not explicitly call on a past experience. However, your fear likely has its roots in a formative moment in your life.

Once you have a story to tell, make sure you explain why this moment is important to you. To clarify, you can narrate your thoughts, reactions, and opinions as you retell the story. Another idea is to take time at the end of the essay to reflect upon what you learned and why it was important.

Essay Three: Share a brief fact about yourself that your classmates would find interesting, surprising, or noteworthy. (25 words)

The admissions committee has read your career goals, read about a pivotal experience, and likely has reviewed your resume and application fact sheet. Make sure what you describe in this Kelley School of Business essay didn’t come up in any of those demographic or background data sheets in your application. Also, choose something short and easy to explain in 25 words.

Perhaps you were a competitive swimmer in high school but didn’t pursue it in college. Or, your grandmother was from Sweden and taught you traditional cooking techniques that no one else in your life knows. Maybe you are heavily involved in a hobby that has impacted your life.

Are you struggling to come up with an unusual or surprising fact? This is a great question to poll friends and family about. Because your friends and family likely know the elements of your background and personality, this can be an effective way to develop a unique story. Those elements are more profound than your resume or application fact sheet.

Optional Essay: Is there anything else you think we should know as we evaluate your application? If you believe your essays and credentials represent you fairly, you shouldn’t feel obligated to answer this question. (300 words)

The last of the Kelley School of Business essays is open-ended. Such a question allows you to add almost any story or additional background data you would like. However, before you take full advantage of the extra space, make sure you are truly adding to your application. If you have done the work on a comprehensive resume, excellent recommendations, and finely-honed essays, you likely don’t need this space.

Finally, if there is anything to explain in your Kelley School of Business essays, use this space to do it. It could be a poor grade in a quantitative course in college, academic probation, or the lack of a recommendation from a current supervisor. In any case, make sure you are focused on explanations rather than excuses. Provide solid, recent evidence that you have done better since the event.


To talk to Stacy Blackman Consulting about how to approach the Kelley Business School essays, don’t hesitate to contact us!  We offer multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help reviewing your MBA resume.  Contact SBC today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team

Image credit: Flickr user StevenW. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With deadlines around the corner, you may be interested in the world-famous SBC Flight Test. Once a full set of application materials for your initial school have been drafted, but not finalized, the application will be sent to a former admissions committee member for a one-time review, adcomm style. You’ll have the benefit of a true admissions committee review while still having the ability to tinker and change.  You will receive written feedback within two business days after submitting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


(323) 934-3936

Latest Blog Post

Compelling Stories for MBA Interviews

Embarking on the MBA admissions journey is a transformative experience, and one of the crucial stages is the interview process. Beyond your GMAT scores and academic achievements, admissions interviews provide a unique opportunity to ...