Face Off: Kellogg vs. Ross

Kellogg MBA application

The school selection process for MBA applicants can seem daunting. With so many highly ranked business schools, how can you decide which one is right for you? Today, SBC introduces a new blog series called Face Off. Here, we’ll tease out the strengths and differences between two similarly ranked b-schools and explore their admissions processes. First up: the Kellogg MBA application versus the Ross MBA application.

We have former Admissions Officers from Kellogg and Ross on our team. Thanks to them for the thoughtful advice below.

How do the admissions requirements and selectivity compare between the pair? 

“Kellogg wants sparkly, dynamic people,” says a former Kellogg Admissions Officer at SBC. “In the Kellogg MBA application process, there’s also a significant focus on academic rigor and GMAT average in the two year full-time program.” For the class entering in 2018, Kellogg’s GMAT average of 732 was number 2 behind Stanford.

The Kellogg MBA application entails video essays that show how a candidate can think on their feet. Icebreaker questions in the past have included “What would you do with an extra hour every day?” or “What celebrity would you most want to go to Starbucks with?”

These nuances allow the Kellogg MBA application to screen for personality through an “elevator pitch” ability. Kellogg wants candidates to show strong interview skills and authentic excitement about Kellogg program specifics via its novel application format.

In its application, Ross’s essay prompts are traditional (not video-based) but entail more flexibility than Kellogg.

“One of the things we heard from applicants was that they loved having the option to choose which essay prompt to respond to. So we’re keeping that feature but providing two options per short answer group rather than three,” Admissions Director Soojin Kwon explained last season on her blog.  “We kept the ones that seemed to provide the best platform for sharing something meaningful and unique about yourselves.”

Ultimately, both schools want to know what you’ll contribute to the learning environment

Like Kellogg, Ross also looks for candidates who truly understand the program values. They hope to meet applicants who want to be there, and who demonstrate how they intend to contribute to the learning and extracurricular environment.

The Kellogg MBA application process includes an interview for the vast majority applicants, and it is a traditional 1:1 interview. However, Ross is more selective about interview invitations than Kellogg.  Ross offers a group interview process with its Michigan Team Based Exercise “Interview.” This exercise is designed to assess team dynamics and communication styles.

Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and the Michigan Ross School of Business have similar program strengths. Plus, they attract similar recruiters and are both highly ranked. What key differences between the two schools should an MBA applicant consider? 

Both programs seek well-rounded candidates with strong academic attributes and depth of character. Likewise, both programs boast a very team-focused culture and environment.  A former Ross Admissions Officer on the SBC team says that Ross focuses on “leadership, teamwork, intellectual aptitude, and creativity,” in its admissions process.

Kellogg’s focus is similar. “Kellogg is looking for leadership, strong academic record and a track record of involvement,” explains a former Kellogg Admissions Officer on our consulting team.  Still, within these general categories, Kellogg is more selective on most application criteria—GMAT/GRE, GPA, work experience, community leadership, etc—relative to Ross.

The key difference between the programs  is reputation. Kellogg consistently ranks in the top 5 of MBA programs in the US. Most rankings place Ross between 10 and 20 range. Higher brand value for Kellogg typically correlates with more robust alumni networks and student peer groups.

“Given the choice between two disparate ranked programs, the majority of our past clients turn down the lower ranked program for a better brand,” Stacy Blackman says.

A tough decision to make 

“In one instance this past season, a client took several weeks to decide between a full ride scholarship to Ross versus a no scholarship offer to Kellogg. The client was initially quite torn. She felt that both programs would open the same doors upon graduation, given that employment reports show nearly identical data points.

Not being $200k in debt, through the Ross scholarship, was very tempting for this client. After attending the admit events for both programs and extensive diligence, this client decided on Kellogg. She felt that Kellogg, with its stronger reputation, would afford an edge throughout short and long-term career changes in her future.”

Next up: How do the two schools’ locations compare?  What impact will this have on the student experience and/or job opportunities? 

Both locations, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Evanston, Ill., are appealing and vibrant college towns. Evanston is adjacent to Chicago, which is a U.S. mecca of urban life and cultural experiences. That urban proximity gives the advantage to Kellogg, even with its cold winters.  Ann Arbor’s proximate city of Detroit isn’t the finest urban experience the US has to offer.

Now then, how do the two schools’ MBA cohorts compare in terms of quality and culture? 

Michigan Ross’s full time MBA program class of 2020 is slightly smaller at 423, versus Kellogg’s 478. Kellogg has a higher percentage of both woman (46%) and internationals (34%), relative to Ross which is at woman (43%) and international (32%) representation. Kellogg has an advantage with respect to diverse perspectives, although both programs are known for their collaborative culture.

How do the two curriculums and teaching methods compare?

Historically, Kellogg has been stereotyped as a marketing program. In reality, by function and industry, Kellogg’s outplacement into marketing is almost identical to that of Ross. Marketing has become less of a hot area for Kellogg in recent years, overshadowed by other specialty areas.

Noteworthy for Kellogg is that it has diverse tracks and specialized programs. Data Analytics, Tech, Entrepreneurship are all hot at Kellogg. With a smaller cohort of 60 students, Kellogg’s MMM curriculum is a dual-degree combination of MBA and Master of Design Innovation. It has attracted strong appeal to consultants and people oriented towards design-thinking.

The 1 year (1Y) program at Kellogg class is growing in enrollment. This could be an excellent option for applicants with a softer GMAT who have already completed a few undergrad business classes.

“If an applicant wants to stay in same field, and doesn’t need an internship, Kellogg 1Y could be a good option for a top tier program,” says a former Kellogg Admissions Officer at SBC.  Additional specialized tracks at Kellogg include:

  • Real Estate
  • Healthcare
  • Energy
  • Traditional Marketing/CPG – less popular in recent seasons
  • Data analysis – very popular as is entrepreneurship/tech

Ross offers a personalized experience through its specialized electives for second year students. Social enterprise, emerging markets, entrepreneurial management,  environmentally sustainable business are among the courses offered.

Aside from range of specialized programs, the teaching methods at both programs are a mix of experiential learning, case studies, lectures, etc. But, teamwork goes deeper at Kellogg.

“Part of what makes Kellogg different,” says former dean Sally Blount, “is what is underneath the words ‘team’ and ‘collaborative.’ It’s about making everyone in the room more productive. We get ahead in the world by having everyone win, not by eating someone’s lunch.”

How do the career outcomes between the schools stack up? 

The breakdown is almost identical in industries including consulting, tech, and financial services. Consumer products had a slight advantage at Kellogg, with 12% placement relative to 9% at Ross, in the 2017 employment reports (see graphics).

Ross by Industry

Kellogg by Industry

Kellogg MBA application

Placement is also almost identical by function, with Ross varying by function only with a higher finance placement rate—18% relative to Kellogg’s 14%. Similarly, the geographical placement is remarkably comparable, with slight differences only for the international placement for Kellogg (11%) varying from that of Ross (7.5%).

Ross by Function

Kellogg by Function

Kellogg MBA application



We hope this deep-dive comparison between the Kellogg MBA application and Ross MBA application has given you helpful intel as you make your school selection decisions this season. Finally, please leave any questions you may still have in the comment section below. Stay tuned for more Face Off posts to come!

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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