How to Nail Your Kellogg MBA Application Essays

Tips and tricks that will help you craft the best application essays possible and get admitted into Kellogg.

Posted January 9, 2024

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The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is consistently ranked high and is one of the top seven business schools (“M7”) in the United States. The essay portion of the Kellogg MBA application is unique because it comes in two parts: a written essay and a video essay portion.

The written essays are due along with the application while the video essays are due 96 hours after the application deadline. Once the application and fee have been uploaded, a link will appear on the application portal that will give the applicant access to the video portion.

2022-2023 Kellogg Application Deadlines

Round 1: September 14, 2022

Round 2: January 10, 2023

Round 3: April 5, 2023

To read more about the MBA program at Northwestern, visit The Kellogg School of Management–MBA Program and Application Overview.

Written Essays

The written essay portion is a great place to highlight the skills and experience that can’t be found on your resume or any other part of your MBA application. Your essays should present a compelling, concise, and clear story of your path to business school generally as well as Kellogg specifically. Kellogg requires two essays for all its applicants and a third for certain kinds of applicants (JD-MBA, reapplicants, etc). See the additional questions here.

2022-2023 Prompts

Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)

Reading this prompt closely provides several insights. Firstly, Kellogg asks for an example, not examples. Choose one that makes the most compelling case. Secondly, in asking about challenges, Kellogg acknowledges that leadership comes with difficulties. Talk about the trials you faced throughout the story, don’t just throw them in at the end. Lead the adcom through the ups and downs of the example and make sure that the lessons learned tie into the overall narrative and aren’t tangential.

Values are what guide us in our life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)

This question is purposefully left broad to allow you the space to craft a response that is genuine to your story. A good way to start brainstorming your response is to work backward. Make a list of the major decisions you’ve made in your life and identify why you made them. Then, see if there are any reasons that come up often. Going through the process like this will help you write your response to the second part of the question as well, as how the values have influenced you. You don’t have very many words so stick to one or two of the most important ones and choose examples that concretely show them.

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Video Essays

The video essays are your chance to bring your candidacy to life in a way that is impossible to do on paper. Instead of seeing numbers and credentials, the admissions committee will see a person. The video essay is optional, however, it is definitely strongly preferred that you complete it.

Kellogg says that the video should take about 20-25 minutes to complete, including time for setup. You’ll need to have a stable internet connection as well as a computer with a webcam and microphone. For each question, you’ll have up to one minute to respond.

2022-2023 Prompts

There are three video essay prompts, all designed to help you make your case for admission. They are as follows:

  1. Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee. – What do you want your future classmates and the adcom to know about you? What makes you, you?
  2. What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there, and why is this program right for you? – Answer honestly and meaningfully, why are you pursuing an MBA and why are you choosing the Kellogg full-time program?
  3. One question will be based on a challenge you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from it.

Kellogg MBA Essay Tips

For each written essay, you are only given 450 words, and for the video you only have a minute for each prompt, both are not a lot. For this reason, make sure that every part of your answer is directly relevant to the question at hand. Here are several tips for acing your essays and making your application that much more competitive.

Use unique stories and anecdotes that aren’t found in other parts of your application.

Essays are a way for you to further expound on your candidacy and provide information that can’t be found elsewhere, whether that be on your resume, letters of recommendation, etc. Be intentional about where you choose to include certain information. If you have an important example that’s a bit lengthier, put it in your written essay. Have a funny or entertaining story? Talk about it in your video essay to add character.

Build Kellogg values into your answers.

After reading your essays and watching your video, the adcom should know exactly why you want to go to Kellogg specifically. You could go to any M7 and be successful and if you can get into one, you can get probably get into another. Even if Kellogg isn’t your top choice, showing that you understand what’s important to the institution will prove to the admissions committee that you care enough to have done some research.

You can do this by reading articles online–both on the school’s official site and third-party publications–taking tours of the campus, talking to alumni, contacting admissions for specific questions, and more. Get creative and work the values into your goals and plans.

Get specific.

When you talk about your strengths and the attributes you portray, make sure you’re providing concrete and specific examples. It’s easy to list off different things; it is much harder to prove how you’ve demonstrated them in the past. They should also be directly and obviously relevant to your overall narrative.

Remember: the admissions committee will not know any information that you don’t explicitly tell them. You have limited space to present a compelling reason that they should give you a seat in the class. Make that more likely by clearly demonstrating what you bring to the table.

Build a cohesive narrative.

At the end of the day, your entire application is basically one long story. Each part of the story should be related to the overall idea. Your candidacy is the culmination of the different parts of you that you’re choosing to present to the adcom.

As you write and film your essays, keep this in mind. Is the example you’re providing directly relevant to the narrative? If not, consider whether it should be there. There is a fine line between trying to portray as much of yourself as you can, in order to show your wide variety of strengths, and focusing on a set of core values. The right balance is usually somewhere in the middle.

Start early!

Start as early as you possibly can on your written essays. Usually, it takes a lot more time than you think it will to write multiple drafts, revise, receive feedback, and polish. For many people, it’s helpful to have a rough idea of your story before you start writing. Working with a coach can be really beneficial for this.

After writing your first draft, put it aside for a few days so that when you go back to it, you’re reading with a fresh perspective. Several drafts later after receiving feedback, read your essay out loud. Doing so will give you an idea of what it will sound like to an admissions committee member.

For the video essays, you should also start early. Practice your responses several times until you feel very comfortable giving them in a smooth manner. The last thing you want is to stumble over your words or be constantly “uhhh” and “umm”-ing your way through the answer. Talk to yourself in the mirror, practice recording yourself on Zoom, or role-play it with a friend.

Final Note

Hopefully, you find these tips helpful as you put together your Kellogg MBA application. We know that it can be a very stressful process. For personalized, one-on-one advice and guidance, work with a Leland coach. We have lots who are Kellogg alumni who will be able to help you find the right narrative to tell. Here are some of our highest-rated MBA admissions coaches:

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