Go to a better blog!

You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

October 31, 2012

To my clients, former clients, and readers effected by Hurricane Sandy

My best wishes to all of those who were effected by Hurricane Sandy. Having been in NYC for 9/11 and in Tokyo last year for the earthquake, I know times like this can be tough.   I hope the best for everyone. Take care.

If you are interested in supporting relief efforts, see the list here.  I personally gave to Team Rubicon, which focuses on immediate response to those most directly effected.


-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

October 29, 2012

Haas MBA Class of 2015 Admissions Essays: The Song Remains the Same

Haas always asks weird questions. Years ago, they asked who the applicant would invite to dinner and why. Last year, it was “What brings you the greatest joy? How does this make you distinctive? “ Each year brings some new weirdness. Hence their song remains the same.

I had a dream. Crazy dream.
Anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go
Hear my song. People won’t you listen now? Sing along.
You don’t know what you’re missing now.
Any little song that you know
Everything that’s small has to grow.
And it has to grow!
California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain
Honolulu Starbright – the song remains the same.
Sing out Hare Hare, dance the Hoochie Koo.
City lights are oh so bright, as we go sliding… sliding… sliding through.
-Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same

Well, since Berkeley Haas has decided to ask applicants about their favorite song, so this blog post will be infused with music.   Set back, relax, I will keep it musical and hopefully valuable.  I have  taken the questions from the Haas website.

BILD: Are you Berkeley enough?
Before discussing BILD (Learn more about Berkeley-Haas’ Defining Principles), I could not ask for a better start to our musical journey than DJDAVE and LeaCharles’ Berkeley Enough (Fog and Smog), which will give those not familiar with town of Berkeley some possible insight.

I have visited Berkeley since I was a child and lived there at various times in the 1990s, so the following remarks reflect that.  If you do not know, Berkeley, also known as the Peoples Republic of Berkeley, is one of my America’s most liberal, alternative, progressive, freaky, eccentric, left-wing, drug infested,  intellectual, health food conscious, and gourmet cities. It is thus a place with very different sides to it. North Berkeley towards the hills is very affluent, while southern Berkeley merges into Oakland, a city with a long and troubled history of poverty and violence. If you are looking to go to school in one of America’s safest cities, Berkeley is not it. Students are regularly victims of crime. This could be true of any urban campus in America, so understand that Berkeley is a highly urban environment and not just a relaxed college town filled with happy old hippies drinking gourmet coffee and smoking medical marijuana, Bay Area entrepreneurs working on the next big thing, and hardworking students.

My Interactions with the Haas Community: You can read testimonials and  results from clients admitted to Haas here. I experienced the energy of Haas students when I attended the end of the Japan Trek (I was a sponsor) parties  in April 2009 and  March 2012. I saw great diversity and real sense of enthusiasm amongst the participants.  You can find my Q&As with Haas students,  MBA 2010 and MBA/MPH 2009. I also visited Haas in the summer of 2011 when no students were there. It was a really useless visit as part of a conference I attended. Visiting schools when they are not in session is not particularly effective unless you have great face time with the admissions staff. I had face time, but that wasn’t so usefu l either. My student sources are much more useful to me.
At Berkeley-Haas, our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles — Question the status quo; Confidence without attitude; Students always; and Beyond yourself. We seek candidates from a broad range of cultures, backgrounds, and industries who demonstrate a strong cultural fit with our program and defining principles.
I think it is worth considering these four values when thinking about your fit for Berkeley.
Question the status quo: Haas values change agents and non-conformists. This fits both within the larger prevailing worldview of UC Berkeley, the Bay Area, and the Silicon Valley. This value also directly relates to Essay 3 below.
Confidence without attitude: Haas values humility. It is important that you don't come across as an arrogant person or egotistical leader type person in your essays. That might fly for HBS, but not Haas. Stanford Professor Bob Sutton’s No Asshole Rule surely applies at Haas. It should be reflected in the way you present yourself in your entire essay set.
Students always: Haas like UC Berkeley itself is place that values both a sense of curiosity and a passion for learning. Your intellectual capability matters at Berkeley. This directly relates to Essay 4 below.
Beyond yourself: Haas values people who are engaged with the world and want to make a difference. Those who have demonstrated a commitment to some issue or activity beyond their own personal concerns will be looked upon favorably. This should be reflected in your goals (Essay 5),  a personal perspective you have,  and/or your  extracurricular activities.

Essay 1: If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)
“Pick a song that is meaningful to you — it doesn't have to be popular, in English, or even have lyrics.”
Anytime you are given a question where you are asked to give something symbolic meaning, the first thing to do is think about what you want to express through the song. For example, if your objective was demonstrate your commitment to peace and social justice, you might pick Bob Dylan's Blowin’ In The Wind:
How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

In this case, you might explain when Dylan's first caught your attention. What it means to you and how it relates to actions you have taken in your own life.  This is just one possible way of answering this question.
Your musical selection does not need to have lyrics and does not need to have lyrics in English. Even if the song has lyrics, my suggestion would be only briefly explain the meaning of those lyrics because  you should really using most of your word count to explain what the song means to you.
I think the advantage of a song without lyrics, say a jazz instrumental or a classical composition (Western, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, whatever), is that it allows for easily focusing on what the song means to you. For example, I might use a song by India’s master violinist L. Subramaniam to discuss how the way the music effects me to express who I am. I might discuss 2-3 qualities about myself that are reflected in his music.

Clearly with compositional works, you have great freedom to attach any meaning you want it to it.

For songs with lyrics that are not English, there is no real difference between them and songs that are. You need to provide a brief explanation of what the song means.

I see two very different, but equally viable ways to actually think about this question within the greater context of the overall essay set:
For those who want to use Essay 1 to be the core operating logic for their entire essay set I would picking song whose theme relates to a dominant idea that connects to your professional goals and past actions. This is not easy to do, but if you were, for example, also applying to Stanford, it  might very well be that the answer to what matters most you in Essay 1, could become the theme for this essay.  This requires some real planning and having the time to really make the connections between at least Essay 1 and Essay 5.
For those who simply want to answer this totally twisted question and get on with the rest of their essay set,  I would suggest that unless something occurs to you immediately, work through the rest of the essay set and then figure out what value(s) or quality(ities) about yourself that you have been unable to communicate elsewhere in the essay set.  Assuming you have a list of few such qualities, I would then start to think about music and come up with some options.
Again, I think both ways are equally viable.  The point is to give Haas admissions insight into what kind of person you are. Whatever kind of person that is, I suggest it be someone who fits at Haas.  On that basis, I can’t recommend picking any music from GWAR:

But hey, maybe someone can make that work.  If you get into Haas using a song by GWAR, let me know. Drinks are on me.

Essay 2: What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 word maximum)

With all your power
What would you do?
-Flaming Lips, Yeah Yeah Yeah Song

This is actually a totally standard issue essay topic.   What have you done (with your power) so far?  Where have you had the biggest impact and/or what accomplishment is most meaningful to you?
Some key things to keep in mind when answering this question:
-An Accomplishment can reveal your potential to succeed at Haas and afterwords.
-An Accomplishment can reveal your potential for contributing to your classmates.
-Everyone has had accomplishments, so the more unique the accomplishment, the harder it will be for you to compared to others.
-What you consider to be your greatest accomplishment is a real test of your self-awareness and judgment.
Brainstorm possible answers
The first thing you need to do is think of the accomplishments. These will eventually take the form of stories, so that is what I call them.  Your accomplishments maybe personal, professional, or academic. While it is very important that your accomplishments be distinct so as to reveal different things about you, there is no single formula for what their content must be.
Here are my criteria for thinking about whether an accomplishment is a good topic for this essay:
Ask yourself  what skill, value, or unique experience is being showcased by your accomplishment: Your accomplishment needs to reveal valuable things about you. Some will call these selling points, but more specifically they consist of skills, values, or unique experiences. One might use a specific accomplishment to emphasize one’s leadership skills, another to show one’s ethical values, and another to explain a significant barrier that was overcome. The point is that each accomplishment must at its core reveal something key to understanding who you are. Pick the one not covered by other essays and  that you think will have the most impact.
Ask yourself what potential for success in the MBA program or afterwords is being demonstrated: You may or may not be directly stating this in the essay, but you should think about what the accomplishment reveals in terms of your potential. Haas Adcom will most certainly be considering how your accomplishment demonstrates your potential to succeed in the MBA program  and afterwords, so you should as well. One key way of thinking about the MBA application process is to see it as a test of potential. Potential itself can mean different things at different schools and so you must keep in mind differences between schools and in particular must pay close attention to what schools say really matters when they assess applicants.  Please keep in mind that a core part of your own application strategy should be determining which parts of you to emphasize both overall and for a particular school. In the case of Haas, consider BILD  above as well as Haas&#8217 ;s general admissions criteria.
Just as with potential, think about whether your accomplishment demonstrates your ability to add value to other students at Haas: It is not likely or necessary that you will be explaining how your accomplishment will be contribution, but rather this is a strategic consideration. Think about whether your accomplishment demonstrates how you will likely add value to other students Haas experience. Not all accomplishments will have this quality, but many will.
If your accomplishment meets at least the first two of the above criteria, you likely have a good topic. That said, I have two simple tests for determining whether an accomplishment really belongs in this essay. The first is whether Haas really needs to know about this accomplishment. After all, you might consider getting the love of your life to marry you to be one of your most substantial accomplishments, but will Adcom care?  The second and final simple test I have for determining whether an accomplishment really belongs in this essay is based on the idea that something that is totally obvious about you to anyone looking at your resume and transcript is probably not worth mentioning. If you were a CPA, having an accomplishment that merely demonstrated you passed the CPA exam would be rather dull. Instead it would be important to show something more specific that reveals something that is not obvious by a mere examination of the basic facts of your a pplication.
Finally, as I mentioned above what you include here is a real test of your judgment, so think deeply and come up a unique accomplishment that reveals something something about you that will compel admissions to want to interview you.

ESSAY 3: Describe a time when you questioned an established practice or thought within an organization. How did your actions create positive change? (250 word maximum)

To make change, you can’t let anything stop you. I have to say that I love this question. Berkeley  is a place for those who are not traditional and are flexible in their thinking. If you are a maverick, a risk-taker, or simply unconventional in your approach to adding value, this essay option is for you. Show how you alter the very rules of something that you have been a part of and had a positive impact as a result. Leadership is often tested most profoundly in situations where one has to go against "common sense," organizational tradition, and/or the interests of others. In one way or another show how you possess the courage to act in the face of opposition.
As I mentioned above, this essay question directly relates to BILD in terms of questioning the status quo.  Given the limited word count here, I would suggest the following kind of structure:
1. Identify the specific situation and exact nature of the established practice or thought you questioned. Keep in mind that while you questioned something within in an organization, it might very well be the case that what you questioned impacted a third party. For example you might question a best consulting practice of your consulting firm in relationship to a specific client.  So the impact you had might have been on that third party.
2.  Explain what actions you took. Think of this in terms of what you said and did.  You may find it useful to discuss how your organization reacted, but I suspect there will be limited word count available for doing this.
3. Explain the positive  impact of  your actions. This question assumes you succeeded because your actions created positive change.  This can’t be a failure story. As I noted in 1 above, the impact might not necessarily be primarily on your organization, but could also be on a third party. For example, an M&A banker might question a valuation method within his own team and then get that valuation changed to positively impact a client.
For those also applying Stanford, it is highly likely that Stanford Essay 3 and Haas Essay 3 will be on the same topic. The Haas version will just likely be shorter.  Even if you don’t apply to Stanford, you might find my extended discussion of  Stanford Essay 3 helpful.

ESSAY 4: Describe a time when you were a student of your own failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 word maximum)
You might very well succeed from the perspective of others, but fail from your own perspective.
It is critical that you learned something meaningful about yourself. And your learning about yourself should be important, otherwise you role as a student would be what? Therefore the key constraint of this question is that whatever the failure is, you have learned something important from it.
You should discuss how you applied your lesson because they are specifically asking for you to discuss the impact of the failure on your own development.
I would, in fact, argue that the heart of any sort of “failure question,” whether it is an essay question or an interview is what you learned. Also depending on what your role was, how you reacted is also very important.
The basic components of an answer:
1. Clearly state what the situation was.
2. Clearly state your role.
3. Clearly state your failure.
4. Explain what you learned.
5. Explain how your failure impacted your subsequent development.
This quite a bit to do in limited word count so obviously you need to effectively summarize and analyze here. Keep descriptions brief and to the point.  Make sure you are giving as much attention to your failure as how reflecting on it impacted you subsequently.
Finally, cliches are boring, so don’t write stuff like “Rome was not built in a day and neither was I.” Here is a song about that:

ESSAY 5: a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (750 word maximum for 5a. and 5b.)

Doing it your way is what any goals essay should be about.  With the exception for the need to discuss your past experience and Berkeley specific content, please refer to my analysis of Stanford Essay 2 for formulating a goals essay.
Regarding 5a., Berkeley asks for you to explain how your professional experiences can be leveraged to support your goals.  Therefore you need to specifically discuss particular aspects of your past professional experience.  For those looking to make a career change, think of this in terms of transferable skills.  For those who will be continuing with their present careers, think of this in terms of showing how what you have done so far will help you reach the next level of your career track.
Regarding 5b., keep your Berkeley specific content focused on explaining how Haas will help you with your goals. Haas provides online resources to help you, but in addition, if possible I suggest you visit, meet alums, and/or communicate with current students to become informed about the program. While it is important to show what steps you have taken, it is equally important to make a clear case for why Haas is the right school for you. See the Berkeley MBA Student Blogs.  Also take a look at the various institutes and centers connected to Haas. Those who read Japanese should most certainly visit the Haas Japanese website and Haas Japanese students/alumni blogs.
Warning: One problem with a question like this is that some applicants will write too much about their past experience at the expense of fully explaining their goals or why they want to go to Haas to achieve those goals.
You have 750 words to answer this question, so make the most of them and convince admissions that Berkeley is really your first choice. Those who have visited Haas and/or networked with students and/or alumni will have a distinct advantage in making that case over anyone who simply cuts and pastes some class names into their essay.

Reapplicant Essay: We strongly recommend that you submit a statement outlining how you have improved your candidacy since your last application, as the Admissions Committee will be looking for substantive change in your qualifications. You can use the optional essay question to provide this information.

The whole point of reapplication is to give Haas another chance to love you. Reapplicants should see my reapplication guide. Use this space to specifically explain what has improved about you since you last applied. You can certainly mention improved test scores, but I would not use very much of your word count for that. Typical topics include: development of a new skill, promotions that demonstrate your potential for future success, involvement in an extracurricular activity, learning significantly more about Haas, and why your goals discussed in Essay 5 now are better than the ones you presented last time. They want to see career growth or at least personal growth. Help them want to give you a chance.

Optional Essays

1. (Optional) Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you haven’t addressed elsewhere. (500 word maximum)
Sorry, no song with this one.
While this question is optional, most of my clients write about something here.  Beyond any explanation for any negative issues,  feel free to write about any extracurricular activities, professional experiences, personal experiences, and/or other matters that you can add here to provide another positive perspective about you. This is a completely open question. While you might very well need to tell the admissions something negative, such as an explanation for a low GPA, I would suggest using at least part of it to tell them something positive about you. Feel free to write on any topic that will add another dimension to Admissions’ perception of who you are. I would not treat it as optional unless you truly feel that the rest of your essays have fully expressed everything you want Haas to know about you. I don’t suggest writing about something that would be obvious from reviewing your application, instead tell Haas that one or two additional key points that will give them another reason to admit you.
You need not use all 500 words here.
Warning: Using another school’s essay here would be a bad idea if it is at all obvious.  Think of this as the place to discuss anything about you that you really want admissions to know, but could not discuss elsewhere.  Don’t be boring and don’t repeat stuff they already know about you.

2. (Optional) If not clearly evident, please discuss ways in which you have demonstrated strong quantitative abilities, or plan to strengthen quantitative abilities. You do not need to list courses that appear on your transcript. (250 word maximum)
Sorry, no song with this one either .  If you need to write this, beyond mentioning ways you obtained quantitative skills in your work or in school (when it is not obvious),  I would provide a plan for addressing your weakness in this area.  If you GMAT Quant score is in the 80% range or higher, I don’t think you really need to write anything. If you do need a plan for fixing your problem, I would highly recommend looking at MBA Math.

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

October 25, 2012

A new .com site, new Key Posts page, and new way to see my blog

After a year of planning and work, my adammarkus.com site has been completely redesigned.  A number of people, both on and off the net, had long pointed out the ugliness of my old .com site and also of the Blogger version of my blog. I have now attempted to provide something a bit more state of the art in both respects.

In addition to a great new design produced by Martin Celis, the .com site now includes my blog. Writing on WordPress is much better than Blogger.  Also since Blogger is blocked in China, I wanted something my clients in China could actually easily see.  The new version of the blog contains an enhanced set of search functions and hopefully a better overall look and feel.  I will continue maintaing the Blogger blog, but I think you will find using the .com version a better reading experience.  Changing my .com  site also made it easier to change the Blogger version, which has been greatly simplified.

One new feature is a Key Posts Page. I hope this will make accessing my important posts easier.

Finally, like with all websites this new probably has something wrong with it that I have not found. If you discover any issues, please let me know.

Happy reading!


-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

October 09, 2012

More details about Wharton MBA Interviews for 2013 entry

For my most recent post on Wharton interviews, please see Preparing for Wharton Interviews for the Class of 2015.

I should consolidate my prior Wharton interview post, what is below, and the actual group interview questions, but will do so after Round 1.  This information is being sent to first round applicants and is now up on GMAT Club as well:

"As many of you know, the Admissions office has partnered with the Wharton Innovation group to launch a new evaluation method, the team-based discussion, for the 2012-2013 application cycle. In anticipation of the interview portion of the process, we have prepared the following to provide further insight into this new format. Please Note: you must be invited to interview in order to take part in the next phase of the process.


If you are invited to interview, you will participate in a team-based discussion with 5-6 other applicants during your scheduled session. The team-based discussion will allow you the opportunity to interact with your fellow applicants through discourse, which will highlight how you approach and analyze specific situations.

Our hope is that this will give applicants a glimpse into Wharton's group learning dynamic - which is central to our program. We believe that this type of assessment also serves as a tool to take prospective students 'off the page' and allows us to see firsthand the ways in which they can contribute to our community of diverse learners and leaders.


Interviews will be conducted both on campus and in select international locations. On campus interviews are conducted by Admissions Fellows, a select group of trained second-year students, while off-campus are facilitated by Admissions staff members. The off-campus interviews will be held in Dubai, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, New Delhi, San Francisco,  Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo.
You will be able to schedule your interview through your Wharton account once you are invited to do so via email. All applicants will have the option of interviewing on Wharton's campus or in one of our select major cities around the world. While there are two options and no one way is preferred over another, we do encourage invited candidates to interview on campus to get a sense of our community and culture. While on campus, candidates will have the opportunity to take part in our campus visit program by attending a class, having lunch with students and experiencing the MBA community in action. We will not be able to accomodate all requests for a specific location, so we encourage all invited candidates to register for a slot as soon as possible.

Once you have successfully registered for your interview, you will then receive a series of follow-up emails, detailing logistics and next steps regarding the session.


Your discussion will have a prompt and a purpose and you will work towards a tangible outcome with your group. The team-based discussion is additive and does not replace the opportunity for an individual exchange. There will be time allotted for a short one-on-one conversation regarding your candidacy with a member of the Admissions staff or Admission Fellow during the interview. This will also provide an opportunity to ask any questions that you may have.

Below are examples of the type of prompts that may be used during a session (Please note that we will provide you further information on the prompt for your team based discussion after you are invited to interview and sign up):

· What one talent or strength should a leader rely on most in daily life?
· If you could teach one thing about innovation to a group of new employees, what would it be?
· Come prepared to share your individual thoughts.

· You should plan to spend no more that one hour in preparation.

· Do not expect the interviewer to give you feedback - literally or figuratively. Be careful to avoid any interpretation of verbal or non-verbal communication, as both may mislead you.
· Interviews are not a popularity contest. The interviewer is there to assess your fit for the Wharton MBA program.
The key is to relax, be genuine, and enjoy the opportunity for us to get to know you and you to get to know each other!"

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

October 07, 2012

Kellogg MBA Essays for the Class of 2015

In the post, I analyze Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business 2013 Application Essay Questions for the MBA and MMM programs. I have taken the questions from Kellogg's website.

I had four clients admitted to Kellogg's MBA Class of 2014.  On my admissions consulting service website there are also testimonials as well as results from clients admitted to Kellogg in prior years.

Kellogg's 2013 Essay Questions for the Class of 2015 are specifically designed to help admissions determine whether you demonstrate the appropriate "scholastic ability, personal character, motivation, leadership ability, interpersonal skills, career performance and management potential." In addition to this post, I suggest reviewing my post on Chicago Booth versus Kellogg.

Kellogg Culture Matters
If you go to Kellogg, chances are extremely high that you will live in Evanston. Social life in Evanston is not limited to campus. The place simply is filled with people who are great communicators, friendly, outgoing, and able to thrive in a socially intense environment. If you are not that kind of person, don't apply there. If you are, it will be heaven. At Kellogg, they call it the "Kellogg Culture": Student culture at Kellogg is rich and multi-faceted, but a single principle ties it all together: teamwork. Our students collaborate in the classroom (and outside it) to meet professors’ exacting standards. They organize conferences, chair student groups and invite distinguished leaders to speak on campus. They travel to nations around the world to complete coursework of their own design.At Kellogg, you’ll form lasting social, intellectual and professional bonds with your classmates. It should come as no surprise that Kellogg's essay questions reflect its focus on community.

Peer Application Review at Kellogg
One of the chief functions of an MBA admissions committee is to select people who will be good classmates. The director and the rest of the committee have done their job properly if they have selected students who can work well together, learn from each other, and if these students become alum who value the relationships they initially formed at business school. Students members of the committee bring a peer's perspective to the process. They are also are likely to be the first to read your file: "Files are typically reviewed first by a student member of the admissions committee, then forwarded for additional review by staff members, including the Director of Admissions."

1. Discuss moments or influences in your personal life that have defined who you are today. (500 word limit)
Let us assume that you were not born yesterday.  Let us further posit that somewhere between now and your birth, you had life experiences that have had significant impacts on making you the person you are today. If not a specific situation, what people have influenced you? Keep in mind that you are engaged in an after the fact rationalization of linkages between some specific moments in the past or the impact of some person(s) in the past and who you are now.  In other words, you are telling a story about yourself, which may, in fact, be almost completely arbitrary.  Writer's block will develop if you begin worrying too much about all of the life experiences and people that have made you who you are.

If I were counseling a client on this topic,  I would start by asking, "What do you really want Kellogg to know about you?"  After that has been established, the key issue is finding a way to connect that to this question.  Knowing where you end up, that is to say reverse engineering the topic, is likely to yield an effective answer in a fairly efficient manner. Let’s say you identify three themes about yourself that you want to discuss:
Theme 1: Innovative
Theme 2: Funny
Theme 3: Social
Since you will focus on leadership in the next essay, don’t focus on that theme here.

Now that you have identified your themes, figure out how to connect them to moments or people who influenced you. Think of them as stories:
Theme 1: Innovative Story: Building my first robot as a kid.
Theme 2: Funny  Story: Crazy Uncle Sal who told me jokes.
Theme 3: Bilingual Story: Mom made me learn Spanish.
These stories should come from your personal life and not your professional life.

Next, each theme must have significance beyond the story itself, that is to say, it must relate to something really important to know about you.
Theme 1: Innovative Story: Building my first robot as a kid. Significance: Becoming an entrepreneur really started with this experience.
Theme 2: Funny Story: Crazy Uncle Sal who told me jokes. Significance: Doing stand-up comedy is what I am most passionate about outside of work.
Theme 3: Bilingual Story: Mom made me learn Spanish. Significance: I have become a highly international person.  
Defining who you are today means understanding what really motivates and what is really important to know about you as a person. It may very well have professional implications.  For example, building robots was surely in the above hypothetical applicant’s personal life, but it is something that helped define his/her professional passion.

The structure for each moment/person might look as follows:
1.  Discussion of the moment (situation/life experience) or person who influenced you.
2.  An explanation of how this impacted you. What was its significance?  It is here where you could discuss a recent accomplishment or some other important tangible demonstration of the manner in which the event or life experience continues to impact you.  It is also quite possible that this event or life experience relates to your goals or non-work interests.

I think in 500 words, most applicants write on 2-4 such topics.  You should write on at least 2 topics, since the question is specifically asking for moments or people.

2. What have been your most significant leadership experiences? What challenges did you face, and what impact did you have? This is your opportunity to explain how you Think Bravely (personally and/or professionally). (500 word limit)

Think Bravely: The movie!

Now that you have enjoyed that lovely bit of total fluff. Let’s see what Dean Sally Blount has to say:

"Thinking Bravely = Willingness to Think Outside the Box"

I suggest focusing on two to three key experiences where you go beyond a simply defined leadership role and add specific value.  You might question a plan, build something new, intervene in a situation where you didn’t have to, take charge, or otherwise do what others didn’t do. Show you have courage, an innovative spirit, a capacity for leading others beyond the previous limits of the organization, or otherwise going beyond the status quo.

most significant : Since the leadership experience you write about should be he the one that you consider most significant, you should clearly explain that.  Applicants frequently assume the significance of a story without interpreting it sufficiently.  Make sure you have clearly explained why the particular leadership experiences you write about are significant  to you.  

For my general suggestions on writing leadership focused essays, please see my analysis of  Stanford Essay 3.  And yes, it is highly likely that you will using this same topic for Stanford 3, Wharton 3, and HBS 1(It is possible that it could be HBS 2). Depending on what you write about, you may have room to discuss 2-4 leadership experiences here. You may connect them together or you may not.  The important thing is that you provide Kellogg with a set of stories that convey your potential to be a leader both at Kellogg and in your future career.

3. Imagine yourself at your Kellogg graduation. What career will you be preparing to enter, and how have the MBA and Kellogg helped you get there? (Please answer in terms of your program choice: One-Year, Two-Year, MMM, JD-MBA) (500 word limit)
“Recovering from my massive hangover after drinking way too much at our last party of the year, I could barely stop from vomiting when I rose to the podium to speak to the Class of 2015. Fortunately one of my classmates had given me some mints, which was both a perfect example of Kellogg’s collaborative spirit and the solution to my poisonous breath.”
I figured no one would write that, so I did. Anyway, the point of doing so, is to explain this question by way of example, which requires you to imagine being yourself in 2015. And not just any self, but one that has been transformed by your Kellogg experience and is reflecting back on that experience. Reflect on that imagined experience, but don’t do any of the following:
1.  Just take a standard goals essay for Chicago Booth, Wharton, Stanford, or Columbia and just add a couple of sentences about being at your graduation and only alter the verb tense.
2. Focus so much on a lavish description of your graduation ceremony that you don’t focus on the core part of the question.

Here is what you should do:

The admissions committee needs to see "Big Kellogg Love" here, so make them understand your particular form of it. They need to know why Kellogg helped you develop the capabilities you will require for your intended career. Reflect enough on what they have to offer you so that your essay content related to Kellogg does not sound like a bad version of their website or brochure content. The better informed you are about the school and the more you think about how it will help you grow professionally and personally, the more likely you are to make Kellogg love you back. In addition to the MBA website, see Kellogg Insight. Japanese applicants to Kellogg, should most certainly make full use of http://www.kelloggalumni.jp/kellogg_life/. In order to determine what aspects of Kellogg really relate to your professional objectives. You need not mention the names of numerous courses as long as it would be clear to your reader that your learning needs align well with Kellogg's offerings. For example, it is really a waste of word count to mention the names many marketing courses if the main point you are simply trying to make is that you want to enhance your marketing skills. Every admissions member at Kellogg is well aware of the program’s major offerings.  If you have a particular interest in a more specialized course or studying with a particular professor, it is worth mentioning it as long as it is an explanation of why you want to study the subject and not based on circular reasoning.
An example of circular (tautological) reasoning:  "I took Advanced Corporate Finance to develop advanced corporate finance skills."
This kind of bad circular reasoning is so common in early drafts I see from my clients and in the failed essays of reapplicants that I am asked to review. Usually it takes place within a paragraph consisting of many such sentences. These sentences actually convey nothing about the applicant. The admissions reader wants to learn about you, not about their own program. If you don't explain what you need and why, you are not actually answering the question, you are just writing something dull, surface level, and without positive impact.
An example of an actual explanation:  "While I had been exposed to finance through my work at MegaBank, at Kellogg I obtained the comprehensive understanding of corporate finance that I will need to succeed as a future leader of cross-border M&A."
By focusing on very specific learning needs and explaining those needs in relationship to one's goals and/or past experience, admissions will be learning about you and really be able to understand what you need from Kellogg. Mentioning a course name is not important if the learning need is already something obviously obtainable at Kellogg. A more complete explanation would include additional details about the kind of issues that the applicant is interested in learning about and/or specific ways the applicant intended to apply what he or she would learn at Kellogg.

Provide a specific answer to the career part of this question. You should be able to be very specific about what you are going to be doing after your Kellogg MBA because it would be very strange for someone at their graduation from Kellogg to not know what they were going to do.  Clearly Kellogg is emphasizing the immediate post-MBA position here. Fine to discuss your wider long-term vision, but make sure you are really clear about what you want to do in the short-term.  If you are having difficulty formulating your goals, please see my Stanford Essay 2 analysis.

Discuss what you contributed to and/or gained from Kellogg in ways that are not necessarily directly connected to your career plans. The question does not specifically ask that you do that, but I would highly recommend explaining how the Kellogg experience was personally transformative. Also, it would be reasonable to include something about what you contributed during your time at Kellogg. In regards to contributions, mentioning specific clubs, classes, or activities would be a very natural thing to do.

4. What one interesting or fun fact would you want your future Kellogg classmates to know about you? (25 words or less)
FUN FACT ABOUT ME: "My most popular YouTube video involves me eating wanko soba." ( I would provide the hyperlink if I were actually using this)

I actually like this question quite a bit because it is a great way for applicants to highlight something really unique about themselves. The point is that it should be something that would not be obvious about you. The focus may be on something very specific that you did or something about your character. Whatever it is, it should not simply be surprising, but also relevant in some way.  It might be something that will add value to you as student at Kellogg and/or to your future career. If it is highly personal, it should reveal a quality or aspect to you that is not merely interesting, but also something really worth knowing.  A good answer here might involve an unusual hobby or experience, but the possibilities are endless.

In the case of my video above, it is (1) an unusual and highly international eating experience, (2) I mention that it is most popular YouTube video, so there must be others, and (3) It is a bit unusual and funny. You therefore learn something entertaining about me. Clearly I would be taking a risk with this, but like with my example in Essay 3, I try to avoid providing one that someone would actually use.

Re-Applicants Only: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 word limit)
Reapplicants should read my previous post on reapplication. Use this space to specifically explain what has improved about you since you last applied. You can certainly mention improved test scores, but I would not use very much of your word count for that. Typical topics include: development of a new skill, promotions that demonstrate your potential for future success, involvement in an extracurricular activity, learning significantly more about Kellogg, and why your goals discussed in Essay 1 now are better than the ones you presented last time.

Additional Information (Optional)
If needed, use this section to briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (No word limit)
As with other school's optional questions, do not put an obvious essay for another school here. If you read the above, it should be clear enough that this is the place to explain anything negative or potentially negative in your background. If you have no explanation for something negative, don't bother writing about it. For example if your GPA is 2.9 and you have no good explanation for why it is 2.9, don't bother writing something that looks like a lame excuse. This is more likely to hurt than help you. In the same vein, don't waste the committee's time telling them that your GMAT is a much better indicator than your GPA (the opposite is also true). They have heard it before and they will look at both scores and can draw their own conclusions without you stating the obvious. That said, if you have a good explanation for a bad GPA, you should most certainly write about it.
In addition to GMAT/GRE, TOEFL, and GPA problems, other possible topics include issues related to recommendations, serious gaps in your resume, concerns related to a near total lack of extracurricular activities, and  major issues in your personal/professional life that you really think the admissions office needs to know about.You can certainly write on something positive here if you think its omission will be negative for you, but before you do, ask yourself these questions:
1. If they did not ask it, do they really need to know it?
2. Will the topic I want to discuss significantly improve my overall essay set?
3. Is the topic one that would not be covered from looking at other parts of my application?
4. Is the essay likely to be read as being a specific answer for Kellogg and not an obvious essay for another school?
If you can answer "Yes!" to all four questions, it might be a good topic to write about.

MMM Applicants Only How have you redefined yourself, your business environment and your community through the pursuit of design and innovation? (400 word limit). For MMM applicants only: This is an optional essay that will be evaluated for the Rasmussen scholarship.
This question is specific to MMM applicants and is a further opportunity to show why you really fit the MMM program. Clearly, there is a real possibility that the content here might overlap with Essays 1 or 2, but try to keep it really focused on the idea of design and innovation as the drivers for one or more topics that relate to yourself, your business, or your community.

For my post on Kellogg interviews, see here.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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