Kellogg’s Complete New Essay Set

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management today (July 11) posted an entire new slate of essay questions for 2012-2013 applicants to its MBA program. In dropping all of its previous essays, the school also cut the total word limit to 1,525 from 2,200 a year earlier.

Among the new set of four required questions is an incredibly short one with a limit of just 25 words: “What one interesting or fun fact would you want your future Kellogg classmates to know about you?”

Kate Smith, Kellogg’s new admissions director, said the new essays are meant to give the school a broader and deeper view of its applicants. “These new essay questions are designed to give the Kellogg Admissions team a deep, 360-view of applicants: who they are as individuals and what their goals and aspirations are for pursuing a Kellogg MBA,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for candidates to share a fuller picture of their character beyond factual background information about their experience and accomplishments.”

Kellogg, which experienced a 7% decline in applications last year, has an acceptance rate of 21% and along with Dartmouth Tuck is one of a few schools that provide all applicants the opportunity of an admissions interview. Some 5,457 applicants applied for admission to Kellogg last year. Roughly 35% of the school’s MBA candidates apply in the first  round, with 59% in the second, and 7% in the third and final round.

“As you know, Kellogg’s people-centric, relational culture is at the heart of the Kellogg student experience, and the new essay questions will help illuminate how candidates would contribute to and enrich our community,” added Smith. “It’s also worth noting that all applicants have the opportunity to request an in-person interview, but these essay questions provide an initial, thoughtful layer of texture to each individual applying to the school.”

In addition to the 25-word question, the new essays are:

Discuss moments or influences in your personal life that have defined who you are today. (500 word limit)

What have been your most significant leadership experiences? What challenges did you face, and what impact did you have? This is your opportunity to explain how you Think Bravely (personally and/or professionally). (500-word limit)

Imagine yourself at your Kellogg graduation. What career will you be preparing to enter, and how have the MBA and Kellogg helped you get there? (Please answer in terms of your program choice: One-Year, Two-Year, MMM, JD-MBA) (500-word limit)

(For MMM applicants only): How have you redefined yourself, your business environment and community through the pursuit of design and innovation? (400-word limit)

The new set of questions completely replace last year’s essays with a total word limit of 2,200 words. They were:

1) Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing an MBA.

2) Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experiences.

3) Why would you and your peers select you for admission, and what impact would you make as a member of the Kellogg community?

4) Complete one of the following:

A) Describe a time you had to inspire a reluctant individual or group

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

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


  • guest

    The interview.  Look at Darden:  This is the second year in a row they use one 500 word essay.  To me that says GMAT, GPA and Resume are gonna determine who they invite to interview…I just don’t think you can tell a great story in one essay.

    I think schools are starting to cut out the goals essay simply because they know people change their minds, or in some cases, blatantly put a goal on paper “that makes sense” then go in a different direction once accepted.

  • Guest

    I think it just comes down to what is the best way of differentiating applicants and assess who is the best. Will the time it takes to read 500 more words help Adcoms make a better decision? If not – then what’s the point. More work for students and more work for adcoms. 

  • Good point, but the trend (see HBS’s minimalist essay set this year) is worrying: are we headed for one-tweet MBA applications for top schools? If so, how do applicants with truly interesting stories to tell — stories that don’t fit into the traditional parameters of career success — tell them? 

  • GotTime

    I love the idea of writing an essay that can fit in tweet! I wonder how many haikus Kellogg will receive?

    More writing isn’t always the same thing as better writing — I welcome the opportunity to spend proportionately more time and energy on each essay. Besides, what’s the marginal benefit of another 500 words, for you or the AdCom?

  • I think two factors are at work: (a) B-schools are increasingly distrusting that the words they’re reading in the essays are genuine and (b) their admissions staff are overworked and underpaid and at current applicant volumes they need to cut corners. I suspect the latter is the primary driver. 

  • Guest

    Too many words, never been really read or too much the same…. Guess that’s what happening if B schools are about business. Reading that many words does not make B school earn more money.

  • Prusd

     Why are most of the major MBA programs reducing the word counts and/or reducing the number of questions applicants have to answer this year?  Since I completed my BA last decade, all the big MBA programs had their applicants write more essays with longer word counts.  Why all of a sudden, the change?