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Northwestern University (Kellogg) Essay Analysis, 2011-2012

Essay 1:
a) MBA Program applicants – Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing an MBA. (600-word limit)

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

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide,  which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. 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, important statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Kellogg School of Management.


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

In your essay response to this question, you might offer two simple vignettes that showcase your leadership experience via narratives, and then evaluate yourself and denote certain areas in which you believe you can improve. Although you are expected to be critical in discussing these areas for development, take care not to deride your strengths. Rather than examining the ways in which you are lacking as a leader, focus on the ways you could become a more complete and capable one. In this essay question (much as in essay question three), specific reference is made to your future experience as an MBA student at the school. So, you should seize this opportunity to illustrate a connection between you and Kellogg by showing that you understand how certain resources at the school will directly 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 you and your peers select you for admission, and what impact would you make as 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 (I, me, my) or third person (he/she, him/her, his/hers). We would guess that most applicants will choose to respond in third person, but neither choice is definitively right or wrong. What is really important is that your content is compelling.

At mbaMission, we always recommend that before you begin writing an essay, you outline your thoughts, but we especially encourage you to take this approach with this essay, because it is so open-ended. Similarly, take care to avoid simply reviewing every single element of your candidacy. Many applicants will fail to write a compelling essay here because they will instead focus on discussing their transcript, GMAT score(s), professional history, GPA, community activities, personal life, etc. You have only 600 words with which to craft your message in this case, so give careful thought to what an objective outsider might think about you, and play to your strengths rather than offering a survey of everything in your profile. 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 effectively bring color to certain events and attributes and link them to elements of the Kellogg MBA community and experience. By doing so, you will not only present your strengths in a compelling manner and a unique light, but also clearly illustrate your fit with the school and prove to the admissions committee that you profoundly understand how you will contribute.

Note: A misperception exists that candidates cannot add any new material in their answers to this question, other than what they have already provided via their resumes and other essays. Logic would dictate that AdCom members would not want to spend their precious time reading about experiences that applicants have already described.  If Kellogg wanted applicants to summarize the rest of their applications into this one essay, they would have provided that direction. We offer the exact opposite advice –  make sure that the reader continues to learn about you in this essay so that you continue to maintain his/her attention.

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 inspire a reluctant individual or group.

Inspiring the uninspired—isn’t that what every successful Hollywood sports movie is about: a coach or player finds a way to unleash the talents of a group of misfits who ultimately win the big championship? Indeed, a leader who can somehow rouse others to action is unquestionably likeable and compelling. So, to write an effective essay for this question option, you will need to explain exactly how you connected with your hesitant team or individual and what steps you took to creatively motivate them (him/her) to succeed. Your motivational techniques, not your results, should be the primary focus of this essay, though the results should be validating.

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

We suggest that before writing your essay for this question option, you give a significant amount of deep thought to the image of yourself that you have presented thus far in your application, and especially in your other essays. Often, applicants believe that they are offering a unique perspective on their experiences and personality when they are really just presenting 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 will not work.)

For this to be a successful essay, your reader needs to be truly surprised—and pleasantly so—by what he/she learns about you. For example, the former college shot putter now performs in an ethnic dance troupe, or a former drama star now competes regularly in crossword puzzle championships. Of course, your story need not be as over the top as these, but you should certainly present a new, interesting and ideally courageous side of you that your reader may not have otherwise expected or assumed.

c) The riskiest personal or professional decision I ever made was….

To successfully discuss a risk you have taken, you will need to show that a great deal was at stake for you; this means you will likely also have to reveal that consequences were impending should your actions (or inactions) go awry. You need not have started a business to discuss a risk you have taken, nor does your risk need to be financial in nature. Switching careers (or even leaving a career to pursue a personal interest), giving less-than-glowing feedback to a supervisor, changing a marketing message, intervening during a time of perceived crisis and other similar actions could all fit the bill for this essay. The bottom line is to make sure you show the reader just how bold you were—albeit in a humble way—through a detailed narrative that illustrates this fact without your having to state it directly.




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