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August 09, 2019

Kellogg MBA Essays for the Class of 2022

In the post, I analyze Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business Application Essay Questions for the MBA program for the Class of 2022. I have taken the questions from Kellogg’s website.
My clients have been admitted to Kellogg every year since 2002. Since I started my own counseling service in 2007, I have had 46 clients admitted to Kellogg. My clients’ results and testimonials can be found here. In addition to providing comprehensive application consulting on Kellogg, I regularly help additional candidates with Kellogg interview preparation.
Kellogg’s Teamwork Culture and its Campus Community
If you go to Kellogg, chances are extremely high that you will live in Evanston. Social life in Evanston is not limited to campus. Kellogg 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, We offer an environment that requires teamwork and encourages risk-taking, among colleagues who are as supportive as they are ambitious.
Along With Chicago Booth, Kellogg is the US business school I have visited the most (I did an Executive Masters at INSEAD, so it is the business school I have attended). The reason is very simply, my family moved from Los Angeles to Chicago when I was 18, so I have had many opportunities to visit when go back to the US to see my family. Most recently I visited Kellogg in 2018 when the professional admissions consultants organization I am a part of, held our conference at their wonderful new campus.  Dean Sally Blount left a great impact on the school in many ways but surely the most lasting will be getting the new campus built. Kellogg went from having an overcrowded building that reminded me of a large US high school to one of the best campuses of any MBA program. At this point, Columbia Business School is the only M7 with a first class campus (it will have one but it will take a while.  Kellogg’s campus right on Lake Michigan is a real gem. Sure, it  is freezing walking on campus during the winter but the rest of the year makes up for it.
Sometimes when I talk to applicants they don’t quite understand that Evanston is really part of Chicago and not some distant cut-off college town.  The thing that is nice about Evanston is that it is both a college town and part of a major American city.  You can stay in a nice safe college town while simultaneously being able to enjoy one of America’s most diverse cities.   Unlike Booth students who mostly commute to Hyde Park from downtown Chicago,   Kellogg students typically reside in Evanston, which contributes to Kellogg’s intense community focus.  As I discuss below, the community aspect is something one should fully take into account when applying to Kellogg.
“The essays let you explain, in your own words, why you think Kellogg is right for you. Take some time to think through the experiences that led you here and how they have shaped where you want to go.”
I think it is important to keep these overall instructions about the essays in mind.  In particular, Kellogg’s application essays are designed, along with the rest of the application and interview, to help admissions determine whether you demonstrate that you meet the following criteria:
  • Can motivate a team to drive impact
  • Are not afraid to question the status quo and seek the non-obvious solutions
  • Approach business problems with a mix of intellect, energy, and creativity
  • Seek diversity in their networks and teams
  • Are eager to dive in and collaborate with an engaged, ambitious community of peers
I suggest you keep these criteria in mind when writing Essays 1 and 2. While it could be very challenging to provide comprehensive coverage on all five of these points when writing two 450-word essays, I would suggest making sure that each essay is at least fully addressing one of these topics and that you try make sure that your recommendations are covering the rest of the topics that you don’t have room to cover.

Peer Application Review at Kellogg
One of the chief functions of an MBA admissions committee is to select people who will be good classmates and having 2nd year students on that committee is one way for a school to make sure that happens. 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 and will be looking to determine whether they want you in their community.  When writing essays for Kellogg, keep these student readers in mind.

Essay 1: “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)”
Think Bravely: The movie!  Kellogg has been be on the brave  for quite a while now.  This gem is from 2011 when the whole Brave motto was introduced by former Dean Blount.

(They even have a Brave Leader Speaker Series.)
This brave leadership question as been going through various forms for the past several years but the main point is the same: SHOW HIGH IMPACT LEADERSHIP!
I suggest focusing on a recent example 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.  Show Kellogg you fit their criteria.
For extensive discussion of ways to approach leadership essays, please see http://www.adammarkus.com/stanford-gsb-mba-essay-3-for-class-of-2016-admission/.  In that post I provide very detailed approaches to variety of core leadership topics that align well with Kellogg Essay 1.

Essay 2: “Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)”

For anyone writing essays for Stanford, HBS, or HBS, it should be easy to repurpose some of your content for writing Kellogg Essay 2 because those schools essays (such as Stanford’s What Matters Most? ) necessarily relate to values. For Booth, one has to write about choices made in one’s life, which also requires some consideration of this issue.  And for HBS, if you are not writing about what your values in some way, there is probably a real problem with your essay. Unlike all three aforementioned schools, which give copious word count, Kellogg does not.  There is no place here for a life story in detail.  There is room here to identify 1-3 values about yourself that show how you stand out and how you align with Kellogg.
Given that there is no Why Kellogg essay in this essay set and given the previously quoted instructions above about explaining why Kellogg is right for you, this is the essay where I would recommend making that very clear. I don’t mean that you should write 450 word essay on the theme of why you fit at Kellogg, but I would surely work Kellogg into this essay.
The key thing about values for this essay is that be ones you have acted on.  In other words, a value maybe important to you but unless it reflects actions you have taken, it is not a good topic.  Strong answers here will help the reader understand how your ideas/beliefs/perspectives have effected both your personal and private choices.  Be sure to write about something that is outside of work here as well as writing about something professional.
For a discussion of values, see my post on Stanford GSB, where I discuss this issue in terms of the what matters most question.
“Reapplicants: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 words)”
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.

“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”
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.
For my most recent post on Kellogg interviews, see here.

Best of luck with your application to Kellogg!

-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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