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MBA Admission Essays: Kellogg School of Management

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

The MBA admission essays published by Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management give a good indication of the type of MBA applicant they are looking to fill their program with- strong leaders with a tough character and a generous spirit. Take a look at our tips for answering Kellogg’s character-focused MBA admission essays.

Essay 1: Resilience. Perseverance. Grit. Call it what you will… Challenges can build character. Describe a challenging experience you’ve had. How were you tested? What did you learn? (450 words)

MBA Admission Essays

The key here is selecting a persistent, rather thorny challenge. As you explain the challenge, you want the reader to be thinking, “Hmm… that’s tough. How will he or she get out of this?” not, “Oh, I see where this is going.” The solution should not be self-evident.

Begin your essay by explaining the challenge that you faced, being sure to be specific about the details that made it an unusual challenge. Then, explain your reaction. Use active, powerful verbs to share what you did and why you did it.

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Finally, devote the last half of the essay (about 200 words) to examining what you learned and how overcoming this challenge made you a better professional and person. How did it change your beliefs and assumptions? How did you modify your behavior? What best practices did you learn, or what practices did you learn to avoid? Take a clue from the actual wording of the question; Kellogg is interested in the character of its students. So be sure to share how this experience strengthened your character.

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Essay 2: Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others. Describe a professional experience that required you to influence people. What did this experience teach you about working with others, and how will it make you a better leader? (450 words)

Kellogg is known as a very collaborative program, and places heavy emphasis on teamwork. Consequently, their MBA admissions board has a lot of practice in distinguishing the qualities that generally make a good teammate- a great work ethic, an open mind, an eagerness to listen, and an ability to drive projects forward. They can quickly spot a genuine story of teamwork, and throw out a false one.

In choosing the story you want to tell here, look for times when you have had to work with unfamiliar teams, perhaps merging departments, demographics, or industries. Make sure that you have concrete examples to back up your role. Where did your ideas make an impact? How did you generate buy-in to your ideas? What challenges did you face in motivating those on your team? What did you do to overcome those challenges? What would you do differently if you could do it again? These questions should help you brainstorm an appropriate topic.

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When writing your essay, try to reflect on keywords included in the prompt, such as “collaborate”, “motivate”, and “influence”. Use them to guide the points that you make.


For more information, visit Kellogg’s website.

Kellogg MBA Application Deadlines: Round 1- September 24; Round 2- January 7; Round 3- April 1