Kellogg Deadlines, Essays & Analysis (Class of 2012, Starting Fall 2010

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Overview: Kellogg has made things a bit easier on applicants and themselves this year. They reduced last year's five essays to four, and they finally instituted hard word limits instead of ambiguous page targets. (No more "creative margins" and lilliputian point sizes!) At the same time, they've also replaced their long-standing and straightforward personal essay with something more challenging. There are several places where the essay topics might overlap (e.g., leadership (#2) and making an unpopular decision (#4a), and application weaknesses (#3, #4c)). I think some repetition is fine as long as it provides new information or different facets of the same experience.

2010 Application Essay Questions

Essay #1 –

a) MBA Program applicants - Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg. (600 word limit)

Analysis: About as straightforward as it gets. Please see: The MBA Goals Essay

b) MMM Program applicants - Briefly assess your career progress to date. How does the MMM Program meet your educational needs and career goals? (600 word limit)

Analysis: Same. Please see: The MBA Goals Essay

Essay #2 – Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experiences (600 word limit)

Analysis: Please see The MBA Leadership Essay for background on answering typical leadership/accomplishment questions. Note that Kellogg is asking not just for a single example but for "experienceS" (plural). Given the word limit and the need to say something significant about each, I would say two to three examples is about right. Anything less is not enough. Anything more and your answers might become too thin. Both personal and professional topics are appropriate, and the more recent the better. As with other MBA programs that ask for multiple accomplishments in a limited space, like HBS and INSEAD, focus on your actions and decisions that led to success. Detail them as much as possible, while providing just enough background and results to understand the importance and impact. Analyzing how and why you succeeded is key to elaborating on the leadership areas you still need to develop.

Essay #3 – Assume you are evaluating your application from the perspective of a student member of the Kellogg Admissions Committee. Why would your peers select you to become a member of the Kellogg community? (600 word limit)

Analysis: Until a few years ago, Kellogg asked applicants to evaluate their applications from the perspective of an adcom member. They've revived that question, but changed the perspective you have to adopt. (Makes sense, given that Kellogg students often conduct their on-campus interviews.) There are myriad approaches to this question, but key to all of them is self-awareness, which in this case is the ability to see yourself from someone else's viewpoint. More specifically, can you match your unique combination of strengths, personality and potential contributions to what a current student/potential classmate at Kellogg would most highly value? Teamwork has to be at the top of the list, as would experiences and accomplishments that would make you a fun, involved, interesting, insightful and collaborative person both inside and outside the classroom. Assume that you are "on the bubble" (i.e., the decision could go either way) and concentrate on your most distinctive qualities. I have to imagine that, since work backgrounds are often similar, your professional experience and hard skills are a lower priority when compared to your personal experience. You will almost certainly have to repeat or refer to examples from your other essays. That's fine. Just be sure to provide a third-person analysis that adds valuable new perspectives. I think it is also fine to introduce new topics here that could be considered as coming from your interview. A good advocate, as this imaginary adcom rep should be, would also address any weaknesses in your application, and reassure other adcom members that they are surmountable.

Essay #4 - Complete one of the following three questions or statements. (400 word limit)
Re-applicants have the option to answer a question from this grouping, but this is not required.

a) Describe a time when you had to make an unpopular decision.

Analysis: If you haven't used up all of your leadership experiences in Essay #2, you could add another one here, as long as it shows the independence, critical thinking and will power necessary to make and stick with an unpopular decision, ideally one that led to a positive outcome. Ethical or moral decisions you've faced would also work here (Please see: The MBA Ethics Essay), as would personal decisions that others opposed but which turned out for the best.

b) People may be surprised to learn that I….

Analysis: How do you think other people view you, and what aspect (hobby, belief, experience, etc.) of yourself might change that image or balance that perspective? Again, self-awareness is crucial to this essay, which could be answered whimsically or seriously or in between, depending on what would be the most unexpected. One way to approach this topic is to assume that the adcom will read all your other materials first. What kind of impression would they have of you? And how can you surprise them with something they might have never suspected? Ask your friends or family. You might get a surprise yourself.

c) I wish the admissions committee had asked me……

Analysis: In addition to Essay #3, this is a good place to address any glaring weaknesses in your application (low test scores, gaps in employment, poor grades, etc.) If you don't have any weaknesses then this can be used for almost anything, but make sure your topic is adding something new to your overall application profile.

Required essay for re-applicants only - Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 word limit)