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Kellogg Hits Snag In New Video Adcom Test

computer galLet’s go to the video tape? Maybe not.

A sizable number of MBA applicants to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management are finding that the school’s new video admissions test isn’t working as planned, Poets&Quants has learned. Some MBA candidates say the software Kellogg is using prevented them from completing the exercise now required for admission to the prestigious school.

Kellogg is one of three major business schools now requiring applicants to answer random questions on video as part of its admissions process. The other two are Yale University’s School of Management and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School, the first prominent school to make video questions a mandatory part of the admissions process.


The new Kellogg test, recently rolled out for the start of the 2013/2014 admissions season, gives applicants several minutes to answer a spontaneous, randomized question on a Skype-like screen. Kellogg’s applicants were supposed to have the luxury of three tries to record a compelling answer. If they bomb the first question, they can discard it and request another one – they’ll receive a different question each time. While it sounds stressful, the admissions team hopes it will lead to more authentic interactions with the more than 5,000 people who apply to Kellogg each year.

“We felt like this was a great opportunity to meet our applicants from wherever they might be in the world,” explained Kate Smith, Kellogg’s assistant dean of admissions and financial aid.  ”We felt that we were past the tipping point in terms of video technology and comfort with it – most applicants would have used Skype or FaceTime. The spirit of the questions is to get to know our candidates on a more personal level in a spontaneous format. They’re designed to bring to life the person we’ve learned about on paper in the application, including their passions, interests and ideas.”

Problem is, the technology isn’t always cooperating. A spokesperson for Kellogg acknowledged the glitch. “Some of our applicants (approximately 8 percent) have reported connectivity issues with the video essay portion, wherein they are either unable to complete the video essay or are unable to review the submission,” said spokesperson Jeffrey Brennan. “Our admissions team is evaluating reports on a case-by-case basis and waiving the video essay component as needed, so applicants can meet the Round One deadline at midnight, October 16. This waiver will not adversely affect the review of applications.”


It will, no doubt, make it more difficult for Kellogg’s admissions staff to uniformly assess candidate’s on the basis of their videos when a significant portion of the applicant pool lacks the video component. That will especially be the case if Kellogg can’t get the technology to function more consistently for its largest application round which starts today and ends on Jan. 7.

“It’s unfortunate for Kellogg and its applicants that the launch of this video essay process didn’t go smoothly,” said Dan Bauer, CEO of The MBA Exchange, a leading admissions consulting firm. “We added a professional video coach to our consulting team to help our clients anticipate and prepare for on-camera stress — even when everything goes right. Although Kellogg waived the video requirement for individuals who encountered the unexpected technical issue, it’s impossible to know what that waiver will mean to their chances.

“Given three applicants with otherwise identical qualifications, the one with a strong video essay has presented a more complete and compelling case for admission than the other who received the waiver,” added Bauer. “And the third applicant whose video was sub-par probably would have benefitted from a waiver. A more equitable solution might have been to postpone the video essay component for all Round 1 applicants until Kellogg could fix the glitch. In any case, the most significant takeaway for future applicants is that each element of an MBA application — resume, short answers, written and video essays — has to be robust and convincing on its own. When it comes to administrative and technical processes, even at a top business school, stuff happens.”


True enough, Computer snags are hardly new. Similar snafus were experienced by Yale’s School of Management during its video pilot last year. “We are working with our technology provider to determine the cause,” added Brennan. “Issues thus far seem to be primarily problems of intermittent connectivity.”

Part of the reason to go to the video tape is for admission officials to get a glimpse of a more unscripted MBA applicant, without the polishing provided by an admissions consultant. But already the consulting industry has quickly responded to the change at Kellogg, Yale, and Rotman by offering video practices for their clients.