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, classes, and professors 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,” said Caryn.
According to Kellogg: “We develop leaders who are empathetic, innovative and who harness the power of diverse teams to meet complex challenges.” Therefore, Kellogg has changed the third video essay this year to specifically explore how you have learned and grown this year.
Also new this year, Kellogg is allowing candidates to choose an alternate program. For example, if you decide to apply for the JD-MBA, you can also choose to be considered for the MMM program, or the Evening and Weekend Program.
Kellogg further explains: “This selection will need to be made within 96 hours of the application deadline and will include a short, 250-word essay for the applicant to explain interest in the alternate program(s). You may need to provide additional information based on program requirements.”
The short essay question is: “Please explain your interest in the program(s) selected.”
See Stacy Blackman Consulting’s Kellogg MBA essay tips below for each Full-Time MBA option Kellogg offers.
Kellogg MBA Essay Tips for 2021-2022
The following two Kellogg MBA essays are 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 in your leadership story tell the reader how you approach issues and learn from experience. “Creating lasting value” is another key to this essay, and you should 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 precisely 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 discretion in your topic selection, as long as you demonstrated leadership. For example, it might be a time that everything went smoothly, and 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 here, as long as your story demonstrates that you have left your mark on the organization.
If you choose a challenging situation, then the learning part of the essay will be vital. In addition, show you can and do learn from experience. Every leader has to learn and develop, and willingness to be open to feedback and improve will be an asset.
Do not neglect to mention 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 sensitivity to teamwork and collaboration in any leadership story 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?
When you describe how your values have influenced you in past decisions, make sure it is relevant to your plans to pursue an MBA at Kellogg. Therefore, the story you tell should provide insight into your decision to pursue an MBA and allude to your future goals. Because this isn’t a question about your entire work and life thus far, you should choose only one or two main experiences to share.
As you discuss how your values have guided you, specific examples will communicate concisely. 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 for how best to prepare for the video essay here.
Watching a video essay gives the admissions committee a sense of who you are and your personality. 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, drafting the topics you want to cover and practicing your presentation. Then, writing some bullet points down in advance will help you remember and focus as you answer the questions.
Kellogg’s video essays should accurately portray your personality and demeanor. Extensive preparation will help you be comfortable and be yourself when you are recording the video. That said, it’s essential not to sound overly scripted, as if you are “acting.”
Kellogg allows you to practice with the video format a few times with practice questions before you submit 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 to figure out how to engage the audience without reciting your resume. And, if you can tell a personal story about what you have learned about Kellogg, that can help with the “why Kellogg” part of this essay.
Video essay question #3: Share your resilience with us.
This new video essay question was added specifically to address the events of the past year. Kellogg provides more guidance in this blog post. Therefore, think about your feelings about the pandemic, social justice, and unrest. Then, describe how you channeled those feelings in a positive direction.
For example, Director Bennett explains how he focused on the role he has at Kellogg to impact diversity. Our Kellogg MBA essay tip is to be sincere and introspective. For this essay question, deal with your difficult feelings. As Bennett described, he felt angry and frustrated over the past year and he took those feelings and turned them into action. Finally, how did the past year impact your life, and what have you done with your feelings? The ability to manage yourself is what Kellogg is looking for.
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 is the place to describe how your business background will prepare you to 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 and 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 that illustrates the need for this experience. For instance, you may have worked on a technical innovation that had no revenue-generating potential. Or, you led the technical implementation of a promising product that had a poor user interface or technical performance. 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 highly competitive admissions process and will require a clear explanation of what you will do with both degrees after school. Consider the unique attributes of the Kellogg JD-MBA program as compared to others, and also 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, you will need to demonstrate how you have shown curiosity, empathy, open-mindedness, and a learning mindset. Those characteristics indicate you are ready to contribute to the MMM program.
This is a behavioral essay question (“Describe a situation…”) and you will need to 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)
While answering this question, make sure you provide tangible evidence that you have improved your candidacy. Some of the most visible improvements could be a higher GMAT score or 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
If there are any areas of concern, this is the correct place to address them. Strike an upbeat tone here and avoid excuses. Also, explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the problem. For example, for a disciplinary matter, demonstrate that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen since.
You should explain any low GPA issues here. If there is a grade of C or below on your transcript, the admissions committee will want to know why and feel comfortable it is an outlier. For academic questions, emphasize your improved performance later in your college career or in work or classes since college.
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.