I Intro & Kellogg Deadlines
I’ve got two great resources available for Kellogg applicants this year. Use this page for analysis of Kellogg’s written essays and then visit my special Kellogg Video Essay page where you’ll find questions from past years, a live video interface you can practice on, and advice on setting up your environment, lighting and what to wear.
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II How have Kellogg’s essays changed this year?
Looking to start writing your 2016-17 MBA essays before Kellogg’s official essay release date in early July? Based on fxMBAConsulting’s analysis there is a 10% PROBABILITY that Kellogg’s essays will remain the same from last year to this year. Therefore, it’s not suggested that you begin working on your 2016-17 essays using the essay questions from the previous application year prior to the official release date.
That said, I believe Kellogg will maintain it’s second essay (or a variation thereof) into the 2016-17 application year. If you’re ready to start in on Kellogg you could begin outlining a response to Essay 2: Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
Examining essays from past years gives a sense of what the Adcom at a particular school values and what they’re interested in hearing about from candidates. While Kellogg changes it’s essay questions every year, there are three topics that the Adcom has consistently axed its questions around.
Class of 2015: 1. Discuss moments or influences in your personal life that have defined who you are today. (500 words) 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 words) 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? (500 words)
Class of 2016: 1. What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome (personally or professionally)? How has overcoming this obstacle prepared you to achieve success now and in the future? (350 words) 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. (500 words) 3. What career/role are you looking to pursue and why? Why are Kellogg and the MBA essential to achieving these career goals? (500 words)
Class of 2017: 1. Resilience. Perseverance. Grit. Call it what you will…. Challenges can build character. Describe a challenging experience you’ve had. How were you tested? What did you learn? (450 words) 2. Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others. Describe a professional experience that required you to influence people. What did this experience teach you about working with others, and how will it make you a better leader? (450 words) 3. Two Video Essay Questions: one about the candidate’s interest in Kellogg and the other will be a “getting to know you” type of question.
Class of 2018: 1. Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words); 2. Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
Common MBA essay themes that emerge over the years at Kellogg include:
- Overcoming/Persevering in the face of challenges and obstacles (which is paramount to an interest in the drivers and influences that have shaped you as a person and in how you affront obstacles in your professional life)
- Significant leadership experiences
- Personal Growth & Why MBA? Why Kellogg?
Thinking Bravely @Kellogg
While Kellogg has dropped the term Think Bravely from this year’s essay prompts, it is definitely a concept to bear in mind as you begin drafting your application. Thinking Bravely is a concept that Kellogg came up with and in many ways it’s an extension of the school’s team-orientated culture. At the heart of the concept is the idea that candidates will have the courage to challenge the status quo, not alone, but by rallying others and collaborating with them.
- People who think bravely demonstrate a willingness to act (not just the ability to act).
- They think outside the box and challenge the status quo (in practice, not just by paying lip service to it).
- They don’t do it alone…They rally others to their vision and believe that collaboration is the grease in the engine of every achievement.
- People who think bravely want to leave every team, organization, etc. stronger as a result of then having been there. This desire is both self-gratifying and self-effacing.
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III 2015 – 2016 Kellogg MBA Essay Analysis
Essay 1) Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
By ‘recent’ most Adcoms expect you to reference something that happened in the last 2-3 years (the more recent the better).
Leadership and teamwork are at the heart of what Kellogg calls ‘Thinking Bravely’ (see my notes on that in section II). If you can think back on a time when you put or found yourself in a leadership position in which you had to a) challenge the status quo and you had to b) work hard to build support and consensus within a team of people who were helping you achieve your vision/goal – then you would have a great essay. That said, most candidates won’t have a story that brings together both of those elements into such a neat package – so I’d encourage you to think about the word ‘meaningful’ that Kellogg uses in the prompt. When we think about the word meaningful within the context of a leadership and teamwork story, the word impact springs to mind.
You’re knee jerk instinct might be to choose a leadership story in which the impact can be found in the outcome. Example: I might talk about the time I lead the development of a new practice within my organization which resulted in X new hires and $Y in additional revenue. While it’s great if your efforts resulted in an objectively impressive outcome, it’s not necessary. The best essays will focus on stories where the impact can be found in the process, in the journey towards an outcome (be it successful or not). That’s why Kellogg specifically wants to hear about the challenges you faced, overcame and learned from! Example: My team ultimately failed to deliver X but my story focuses on how I came up with an idea, built my team, overcame naysayers…etc.
It’s important to keep in mind that no one leadership style is best. Some people are very vocal leaders who are prone to inspirational speeches but most people exert their leadership in much more subtle ways. You can influence and lead though an understanding comment or by using humor to engage others. You can create a team dynamic through mutual goal-setting and shared rewards. What is important is that you show how you influenced others and achieved your objectives, and how you’ve learned and grown from that experience.
Essay 2) Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
Past Growth: Growth is always the result of an experience that we learned from (my Dad call this: learning the hard way) or a guiding force in our lives and the advice we were offered and heeded (my Dad calls this: listening). For the most part, people tend to ‘learn the hard way’ through an iterative process of trial and error, rather than ‘listen’ and act on the advice of others. Whatever the case, you’re going to want to start out by thinking about some defining moments (personal or professional) and how they have helped you mature and hone your future vision for yourself. Next relate your future vision and short-term goals to the resources available as a Kellogg student and alumnus and you’ll have a basic outline ready to go for this essay. Rather than thinking about ways in which you are lacking as a leader, focus on ways you could become a more complete and capable one.
Resist the urge to try to “say it all” by writing a 450-word chronology of your life to date — this isn’t a biographical statement! Instead, pick and choose one or more significant events and influences that tie directly to who you are as a person. Most likely, these will be specific situations, but keep in mind that such influential factors can also be unexpected or somewhat negative occurrences (a death, a financial loss, a missed opportunity). You should be trying to paint a picture of yourself and your values, not brag about how well (or how much) you have done. Do not shy away from discussing a mistake you may have experienced along the way, if it played a role in developing your character, and especially if you’re now able to look back on it with humor and wisdom. Acknowledging a tough path always reveals a certain level of humility and an openness to learn. These will be appealing traits to the Kellogg Adcom.
Essay 3) All applicants have the opportunity to provide explanations or clarification in Additional Information
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 count)
No word count? Oh boy.
Guys and Gals – don’t go overboard here and use this space to write a book or include an additional essay! The Adcom allots a certain amount of time to reading each application (I’ll make up a number: 20 minutes). You don’t want to detract time from your essays, resume and recommendations by submitting unnecessary additional information, right? An unexplained gap in work experience is usually defined as 3 months or more. You don’t need to explain away a month or two gap between jobs – people assume that not every transition can be timed down to the minute because of organizational issues from your or the employer’s end. If one of your recommenders is not your current supervisor, you need to explain why.
Unfortunately if you didn’t get the GMAT or GPA you had hoped for at university, the best thing to do is accept it and put your best foot forward in every other way (with great essays, recommendations and short answers). If, and only if, there was an extenuating circumstance that impacted your undergrad GPA or if you simply want to point out that there was an upward trend in GPA from your Freshman to Senior year – you can do that. Example: ‘I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that my GPA consistently increased over the course of my undergraduate years: from a 3.2 my Freshman year to a 3.9 my Senior year’. What constitutes an extenuating circumstance would be something out of the ordinary and serious (like being hospitalized or suffering a prolonged illness) – Grandpa or Grandma passing away, while sad, does not count.
Essay 4) Certain applicants will respond to additional questions
Dual-degree applicants: For applicants to the MMM or JD-MBA dual degree programs, please explain why that program is right for you. (250 words)
Re-applicants: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 word limit)
Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement or taken on a personal challenge of sorts, the key to this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Kellogg wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Kellogg MBA is vital to you. This essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, as each person’s needs and experiences will differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that the above requirements are met.
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IV Kellogg’s Video Essays
Kellogg (like every other school) cares about personality, communication style, and the likeability of applicants. Kellogg isn’t looking for the best orators – students will have time to hone their communication and presentation skills in Kellogg’s courses and clubs. Likewise, they are not looking for any particular opinion or response. They just want to see what the unpolished candidate looks like in a spontaneous situation. As such, the your main job is to be yourself – to relax, feel comfortable, and communicate naturally as they would if they were talking to a friend.
I have a special page dedicated to understanding and practicing for Kellogg’s Video Essays. There you’ll find:
- analysis for Video Esssay Question 1
- a free video interface where you can practice recording and viewing yourself answering 30 Kellogg video essay questions from past years
- tips on how to choose where you’ll film, set-up lighting and pick out what to wear