A Midwestern Dream! Kellogg Essay Analysis: 2013 – 2014

Kellogg-School-of-ManagementKellogg is probably best known for its marketing program, but nearly equally publicized is its focus on teamwork and leadership.  The Kellogg MBA essays reflect this focus as the topics inquire about your leadership experiences, how others perceive you, and your differentiating factors.  Map out a plan for what you want to focus on and make sure to think about Kellogg’s focus as you’re writing.  They are looking to get to know you as a person – what your character, resolve, career and personal direction, and leadership potential.  Give them what they ask for!


Essay 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 word limit)

Choice of experience is very important here.  For some people, the choice of obstacle will be clear, for others, less so.  Either way, you should think about a story that provides not only an obstacle, but one that you were able to overcome and learn from.

Admit Advantage: Think about this in the context of essay 2 as great obstacles may coincide with demonstrated leadership.  Also make sure that you don’t have two personal stories for essays 1 and 2.  Either 1 or 2 should be personal/community focused, but not both, in our opinion.  Feel free to write essays 1 and 2 about two work-related experiences, but don’t hesitate to show your personal side if you have something to talk about here.


Admit Advantage: The second part of the question is probably the most important part.  Being a business leader is about making adjustments and overcoming challenges.  Demonstrating your ability to persevere through personal or professional challenges and learning from those situations is a good indication of your leadership potential.  350 words are not a lot, so make it count.


Essay 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 word limit)

We suggest you brainstorm your leadership traits before starting this essay.  What 4-6 leadership traits do you possess (i.e. creativity, innovation, ability to motivate others, etc.) that you plan to convey to the Kellogg MBA admissions committee?  Once you have those, think about how you can support those specific leadership traits with stories from your professional experiences and community involvement.   From that list, you will have a nice baseline from which to start.


Admit Advantage: Lots of questions here, so make sure you answer them all and fully develop each thought.  A common tendency here is to want to list lots of leadership traits, but not fully develop each example.  Don’t fall victim to that trap.  Make sure you give complete context of each leadership situation including the role you played, challenges you faced, impact you had, and any takeaways/learnings.


Admit Advantage: Don’t forget to weed out the more common leadership experiences from those that show your ability to take bold actions.  Situations where you weren’t the boss, but led your team in a unique way or even “led up” are definitely fair game and, frankly, good opportunities to show how you Think Bravely.


Admit Advantage: When choosing the key leadership experiences, think about a balance across personal/professional/community and what leadership experiences are most important to you.   Given the word limit here, 2-3 is probably the appropriate number, but use your best judgment, as always.


Essay 3

Part 1: What career/role are you looking to pursue and why?  (250 word limit)

Part 2: Why are Kellogg and the MBA essential to achieving these career goals?  (250 word limit)

(Please answer Part 2 in terms of your program choice: One-Year, Two-Year, MMM, JD-MBA).


This is a question about differentiation, fit and impact.  For differentiation, you need to outline what you bring to the table that is different from other applicants, specifically, other applicants like you.  You must do an effective job of convincing the Kellogg MBA admissions committee that you are a good fit with Kellogg and would make a good teammate to the student member of the Kellogg admissions committee.  Finally, for impact, think about what impact you are planning to make in the Kellogg community.  This involves doing your research and thinking about how you are going to get involved once you make it to campus.


Admit Advantage: Think about this from a student member of the Kellogg admissions committee perspective.  What

would make that person want to choose you?  Certainly personality is important, but what kind of teammate are you?  Are you the center of the party or the one that no one invites to the party?  Would that person want to work with you through the long hours of digesting cases and developing presentations?  Will you contribute a unique perspective and enhance the learning experience?  What kind of alumnus are you going to be?  Do you have the aspirations, focus and drive to be a real business leader?


Re-Applicants Only

Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 word limit) Please note: re-applicants are required to answer this question in addition to #1-3.

You must be self-aware to craft a successful essay here.   What were your weaknesses during the last application? (Admit Advantage has a ding analysis that can help you with this)  What have you done to mitigate those weaknesses?  Common points here include improving GMAT, taking classes, renewed focus and a promotion.  If you don’t have much to say, that says volumes; you may want to get to work and apply again next year.


Admit Advantage: Go back to your previously submitted Kellogg MBA application and read it—I mean really read it.  You may think you conveyed one thing, but reading your MBA application after months off may indicate something totally different.  This will help ground you for writing this essay.  Once you’re done addressing what step you’ve taken to strengthen your candidacy, stop writing (400 words is not required, it’s a limit).


Additional Information (Optional)

If needed, briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (No word limit)

The most common use of this essay is some sort of weakness, but if you have a gaping hole (i.e. GPA, GMAT, long layoff, etc.), couldn’t use your boss as a recommender or have some sort of other extenuating circumstance, here is your opportunity to address it.


Admit Advantage: Use your best judgment.  If you are a 710 GMAT at a 720 mean school and have good credentials otherwise, we don’t recommend writing about a low GMAT score.  Don’t feel compelled to write an essay here if you don’t need to; if you decide to write here, make sure not to exceed the word limit.


Admit Advantage: Watch the tone of this essay.  Don’t apologize and rant about how life is hard (frankly, MBA admissions committee members have heard it all and don’t care too much).  Address the issue, talk about your mitigants and feel free to stop writing.

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