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Northwestern University (Kellogg) Essay Analysis

Note: The following essay questions pertain to the previous academic year. This section will be updated when the new question are released in early to mid-July of 2008. 

Kellogg has just released its 2007-2008 essay questions, and changes are afoot. At last, the school has eliminated its (now former) essay three, a request for applicants to evaluate themselves. Our guess is that the Admissions Committee was tired of reading one essay after another exclaiming “admit!” Further, Kellogg has reduced the demands of its short essay section, now only requiring that you answer two of three choices (not including the fourth, which is required for reapplicants), instead of three of five, as in past years.

Note: Because Kellogg’s essay questions are so broad and flexible, it is important that you map your ideas before you attack these essays. By doing so, you will avoid repetition and ensure that you will be able to play to your strengths.

All applicants are required to answer questions 1, 2 and 3 in addition to 2 of the optional essays in question 4.

1.) All applicants must complete A OR B as appropriate:

A – Master of Business Administration applicants only: Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg (one to two pages double spaced).

B – Master of Management and Manufacturing applicants only: Briefly assess your career progress to date. How does the MMM program meet your educational needs and career goals? (one to two pages double spaced)

Because of significant overlap from one MBA application to the next, we have produced the “MBA Mission Personal Statement Guide.” We offer our guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store.  Please feel free to download your copy today.

2.) Each of our applicants is unique. Describe how your background, values, academics, activities and/or leadership skills will enhance the experience of other Kellogg students. (one to two pages double spaced)

This essay is broad and sweeping in nature so it allows you to strategically showcase a mix of your greatest strengths – professional, community, academic and personal. You should attempt to select a diversity of experiences and present them in such a way that you will be able to relate them back to your ability to contribute in a variety of areas – for example, the classroom, your study group and the community at large. A successful essay will be one that not only details unique personal strengths, but also clearly illustrates how these strengths will be put into action at Kellogg, meaning that you will have an opportunity to show your intimate understanding of and connection to Kellogg.

Please see our Monday Morning Essay Tip: Your Contribution.

3.) How have your past and current leadership experiences prepared you for Kellogg? What leadership areas are you hoping to develop through your MBA experience?

In essay two, you needed to consider how your experiences enabled you to contribute to Kellogg. Similarly, in essay three, you are not just to consider how your experiences have made you a better, more capable person, but how they have prepared you for Kellogg itself. Further, this essay has a critical component in terms of how you intend to develop going forward. This does not mean that you should deride your existing skills, but it does mean that you should be open and honest in discussing areas that you need to bolster in order to become a more complete leader (which can and should be entirely positive and constructive). Because this question asks how you will develop at Kellogg, it is important that you show an intimate understanding of the Kellogg experience in order to write a successful essay.

4.) Applicants must answer 2 of the below essays. (Reapplicants must answer question 4D and 1 other essay).

4A – Outside of work I…

4B – I wish the Admissions Committee had asked me…

Essays 4A and B are essentially free opportunities for you to discuss anything vital — compelling stories or differentiators — that you have not yet showcased. Basically, you could not ask for a better opportunity to show the Admissions Committee how you are unique. Many candidates use these essays to discuss a hobby or interest. It is important that, if you make this choice, you express an inordinate passion — otherwise you are offering a boring window into your life. Ask yourself, “How can I show that I take this passion further than others?” If you are going to answer both of these questions, it is a bad idea to answer them in a similar way – two passions, for example. If you can offer dramatically different experiences, then proceed with both essays. This should not be a default option, but an opportunity to offer something new and different in each essay.

4C – Describe the most challenging professional relationship you have faced and how you handled it.

In only a few short paragraphs, you need to capture the imagination of the Admissions Committee with a story of the difficulties that you encountered. Because of the space limitations, you will need to start the essay in a detailed and descriptive way to help convey the intensity of the experience. Then, you will need to transition quickly and analyze the actions that you took to diplomatically navigate this situation. As the reader completes this essay, he/she should understand that you exercised discretion and judgment. Implicitly, the reader should understand that if you are in a study group at Kellogg, you will be sensitive to others, even if they are out of line.

4D – (Required essay for reapplicants only)—Since your previous application, what are the steps you’ve taken to strengthen your candidacy?

Whether you have improved your academic record, gotten a promotion/taken on a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement or taken on a personal challenge of sorts, the key to this essay is that you convey a very deliberate path of achievement. Kellogg wants to know that you actively strived to improve and that you seized the opportunity during the past year, because your Kellogg MBA is vital to you. This essay question will be vastly different from candidate to candidate. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one-guidance to ensure that the above agenda is met.




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