Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the 2013-2104 admissions season. To no one’s surprise, Kellogg dropped a required essay from its application this year — the school now requires just three essays of first-time applicants. Kellogg has also reduced word limits in some cases.
Round 1: October 16, 2013
Round 2: January 7, 2014
Round 3: April 2, 2014
Kellogg has moved up its Round 3 deadline by about a week, but that is really the only notable change to its admissions deadlines since last year. More significant is that Kellogg has done away with its confusing (in our opinion) two-part deadlines and gone back to a more traditional three-round system. Note that applying to Kellogg in Round 1 means that you will receive a decision by December 18, giving you at least a couple of weeks before most other business schools’ Round 2 deadlines.
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)
This question is new this year, and it replaces a more open-ended question that asked about “moments or influences in your personal life” that defined who you are today. This type of question can come in different forms — sometimes you will see it posed as a “failure” or “setback” question — but all of these flavors all get at the same basic thing: The admissions committee wants to see how you have grown in your relatively short professional career. The word “obstacles” gives you the opportunity to talk about challenges you faced that were not necessarily of your own doing.
Your mission will be to show introspection and a motivation for self-improvement. Also, note that Kellogg specifically calls out that your story can be a personal or a professional one. Ideally you will have a terrific work-related story to at least consider using there, but remember to look for experiences in all aspects of your life. Your most powerful “obstacle” story may come from outside your job.
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)
This question carries over almost completely unchanged from last year. The only change is that last year’s version said, “This is your opportunity to explain how you Think Bravely (personally and/or professionally),” while this year Kellogg has dropped that “personally and/or professionally” part. While we make a point of really paying attention to the changes that admissions officers make to essay prompts from one year to the next, in this case we expect that Kellogg dropped that part since it simply was not necessary.
Since you only have 500 words to work with here, we advise that you focus on no more than a couple of short stories. The fewer, the better, since including too many examples means that no one story will have very much impact. Be as specific as possible here, rather than discussing leadership in broad terms or with vague generalities. This is a great essay prompt for using the “SAR” (Situation – Action – Result) response outline, and notice that Kellogg explicitly asks for at least two of those. Also, pay attention to that “Think Bravely” part at the end… The school looks for applicants who are willing to go outside their comfort zone, go beyond their job descriptions, and challenge established thinking.
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 question is new this year, and it replaces a question that asked about post-MBA career goals, but in a more unique way. Note that Kellogg makes an effort to explicitly call out Part 1 and Part 2 separately, which suggests that past applicants haven’t sufficiently answered both parts — especially the “Why Kellogg?” part. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need an MBA from Kellogg to get there? Why not another top-ranked MBA program? Really force yourself to answer that question, even if not all of your answer makes its way into your final essay response!
4. (Re-applicants only) Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 words)
This last question pretty much sums up what every top MBA program looks for in any re-applicant. Ideally you will have at least one or two significant achievements or experiences that will bolster a weakness that may have kept you out of Kellogg last year. The most obvious examples are a big promotion at work, a higher GMAT score, or strong grades in some post-college coursework, but anything that demonstrates leadership, teamwork, maturity, or innovation — if one of these was a weakness in admissions officers’ eyes last year — can help your candidacy.
5. 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)
This is what we always tell applicants when it comes to optional essays: Only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay.
For more advice on getting into The Kellogg School of Management, download our Essential Guide to kellogg, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Kellogg and other top-ranked MBA programs, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert.