Northwestern University (Kellogg) Essay Analysis, 2009-2010

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)

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the “mbaMission Personal Statement Guide.” We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.

For a thorough exploration of Kellogg’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to Kellogg.

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

In this essay, you might offer two simple vignettes that showcase your leadership via a narrative, then evaluate yourself and illustrate certain areas for development. Although you are expected to be critical in discussing these areas for development, you should not deride your existing skills. Rather than thinking about ways in which you are lacking as a leader, you should focus on true opportunities to become a more complete and capable one. In this essay, (much as in Essays 1 and 3), specific reference is made to your future MBA experience. So, in answering this question, you should seize the opportunity to create a connection between yourself and Kellogg by showing that you understand how the school’s resources will facilitate your development as a leader.

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)

No doubt, many candidates will wonder whether they should respond to this question in first person or third person. We would guess that most applicants will choose to respond in third person, but there really is no right answer. What is important is that your content is compelling.

Because this essay is so open-ended, we strongly recommend that you outline your thoughts and try to avoid reviewing every single element of your profile. Many candidates will fail to write a compelling essay and will instead give brief attention to their transcript, GMAT score(s), professional history, community activities, personal life, etc. You only have six 600 words, so give careful thought to what a dispassionate outsider might think about you, and play to your strengths rather than surveying everything. In short, we encourage candidates to think in terms of anecdotes for this essay and not default to simply “listing” qualities and accomplishments.

A strong self-assessment will prepare you to not merely reiterate experiences but to instead effectively bring color to certain experiences and attributes and then apply them to the Kellogg community. By doing so, you will not only reveal your strengths and place them in a unique light, but you will also show your fit with Kellogg and prove to the Admissions Committee that you profoundly understand how you will contribute.

(Note: We strongly advise that you not get bogged down in discussing your GMAT score and/or GPA.)

Essay 4 – Complete one of the following three questions or statements. (400-word limit)
Reapplicants 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.

It is oh-so-difficult to be unpopular, and writing about being unpopular is even more difficult. Candidates should not make the mistake of simply writing about a challenging decision, but should make sure to write about a decision that was met with significant opposition. Of course, the reader will be interested in how you made your decision, how it was received and how you resolved the issue of its unpopularity (or did not resolve it). It is important that the reader not learn only that you made a tough call, but also that you followed through or reconsidered your decision and what you learned as a result of doing so.

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

We suggest that candidates give profound thought to the image that they have presented thus far in their application and other essays before writing this essay. Many applicants believe that they are offering a unique window into their experiences and personality when they are really only offering a different side of the same coin: “You know that I am an engineer, but did you know that I also do training?” (This just won’t work.)

The reader needs to be truly surprised by what he/she learns about you and should be pleasantly shocked—the former college shot putter now performs in an ethnic dance troupe, for example. Of course, your story need not be as over the top as this, but the reader should certainly have the opportunity to get to know a new and ideally courageous side of you that he/she may not have otherwise expected or seen.

c) I wish the Admissions Committee had asked me……

This essay is essentially an open invitation to present anything vital about yourself—compelling stories or differentiators—that you have not otherwise been able to showcase. Basically, you could not ask for a better opportunity to explain to the Admissions Committee how you are unique. Many candidates use this essay to discuss a particular hobby or interest. If this is your choice, your inordinate passion for the activity in question must be fully and clearly expressed—otherwise, this window into your life will be boring and unconvincing. Ask yourself, “How can I show that I take this passion further than others?” This essay should not be a fallback option you choose because you have run out of creative ideas. Rather, it should allow you to offer your reader something exceptional about yourself and add depth of character to your application.

Required essay for reapplicants only – Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400-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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