In Kellogg’s MBA Class Of 2023, A Return To Normal — And Big Strides Forward

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

The disruption of 2020 needs no embellishment. Every school had to change its way of doing things, a little or a lot. But few schools made bigger — and, in the long run, more rewarding — adjustments than Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.

As the unknowns piled up in a chaotic spring of campus closures caused by coronavirus, and complaints came pouring in from prospective applicants that testing centers were canceling scheduled sittings, some schools temporarily lifted their testing requirements to ease the process. Kellogg was the first M7 school to do so, going so far as to lift requirements for such language tests as TOEFL or IELTS, too. Then Kellogg went further, making waves by allowing candidates rejected in earlier rounds to come back and apply for reconsideration in the same admissions cycle.

The school also extended its app deadlines, expanding its round 3 by nearly two months. The combination of strategies under first-year dean Francesca Cornelli resulted in a class that was 85 people, or 18%, larger than the Class of 2021, and erased losses that included a 15.5% drop in apps between the prior two admissions cycles. Overall, the school received the most-ever applications for one cycle, 5,813, a 54% jump from the prior year. In short, Kellogg’s Covid-19 strategy was a roaring success.


And now, with the release of the profile for the Kellogg MBA Class of 2023, we see that in several ways the school is inching back to normal. One way is in class size, which is 508 this fall, down from last year's record; another is in applications, which are down 1,181, or 20%, to 4,632. (Yet that total is higher for Kellogg than any other year going back to 2014, and up 22.6% from 2019.) International enrollment has steadied as well, at 36% of the class, up from 26% and more in line with the school's rate of foreign enrollment from the previous five years.

"Last year in the midst of the uncertainty of the pandemic we saw a significant increase in demand for Kellogg from high-caliber applicants, and we were happy to be able to admit a strong class as a result," Kate Smith, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid, writes in an email to Poets&Quants. "We believe this momentum has helped us to shape another strong class this year, which is more in line with the size of our prior classes."

But a mere return to normalcy would be out of character at Kellogg, the No. 4 school in the most recent ranking from U.S. News and No. 5 in Poets&Quants' annual aggregate ranking. Rather, the school reports big strides in key areas, including a new record for underrepresented minorities as a percentage of the domestic class (23%) and for women enrolled in the MBA. The latter record is 49%, up from 40% last year and 3 percentage points higher than the previous record set in 2018.

"We are proud of our legacy and longstanding commitment to advancing women leaders," Smith tells P&Q. "Our success in growing representation of women this year is also due to the great support and engagement of the student and alumni community, who have been terrific partners in helping us attract talented students and demonstrating what makes Kellogg special. We offer pathbreaking programming and resources for women at every stage of their professional and personal journey. We continue to build on our legacy with innovations such as co-curricular offerings with Poker Powher​. Most recently, Kellogg redoubled its efforts to accelerate the advancement of women in business with a transformative gift from Ann Drake ’84.With this gift, Kellogg launched the Drake Scholar Network, a powerful, intergenerational network of students, alumnae, and women faculty."


Kellogg's Class of 2023 makes school history again with the highest-ever average GPA (3.7), while staying consistent with last year in median (730) and mean (727) GMAT. And the class represents some seismic, though likely impermanent, shifts in other ways: 29% have financial services backgrounds, up from 22%, and 35% majored in STEM categories in undergrad, up from 29%. Humanities majors fell to 21% from 28%; tech workers fell from 15% to 12%.

"The Class of 2023 exemplifies Kellogg’s commitment to excellence both in academics and representation, but also what it means to be a Kellogg leader — a leader who energizes and inspires those around them with their special combination of analytical, creative and social intelligence," writes Smith in a blog post dated August 24. "Our admissions team spends time reviewing the details of students’ academic performance throughout their college experience to understand their true potential.

"Attracting academically excellent and diverse students is integral to how we uphold our commitment to foster an environment of exemplary diversity, equity and inclusion. Throughout their Kellogg experience, our students develop their empathetic mindsets and learn to collaborate by leveraging difference to solve complex problems.

"Our incoming students bring a wide range of experiences, career paths and pursuits to Kellogg. Our holistic admissions process allows us to get to know each candidate — from seeking to interview every applicant to requiring a video essay question as part of the application. From each touchpoint, we gain a fuller understanding of how candidates will contribute to the Kellogg community and make a lasting impact on the world."


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