Non-Traditional Background: Applying To Business School

Indiana University Kelley School of Business

Tips for Kelley MBA Essays

At Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, supportive career and leadership development are central to the MBA experience. Kelley students are given a variety of resources—from personalized coaching to leadership training—to support them in reaching their goals. There’s even a tradition called the “Kelley Clap,” a small, but symbolic practice that demonstrates the sense of support that the B-school instills in its culture.

For applicants intent on attending the Kelley School of Business, nailing the admissions essays is key. Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed the 2021-2022 Kelley MBA essay prompts and what essential aspects applicants should focus on.


The first Kelley essay prompt asks applicants the following:

Discuss your immediate post-MBA professional goals. How will your professional experience, when combined with a Kelley MBA degree, allow you to achieve these goals? Should the short-term goals you have identified not materialize, what alternate career paths might you consider? (500 words)

When approaching the first essay, Blackman says, it’s best to focus on the most critical moments in your career.

“Consider the times when you had to stretch to accomplish the goals set out for you,” Blackman writes. “Maybe that happened when you stepped up to lead or became introspective about your career aspirations. These are the stories that will explain how your professional experience will help you achieve your goals.”

To answer the second part of the prompt, Blackman suggests brainstorming what goals are essential to you and how you can reach those goals with flexibility.

“For example, perhaps you are passionate about the food industry and want to update the world of packaged goods,” Blackman writes. “However, you could imagine pursuing either a strategy role or a finance role within consumer packaged goods. Or, you love marketing but could see yourself either marketing a film or a jewelry line. In this case, the most crucial factor is practicing the craft of marketing. Showing that you can pivot while staying true to your core values and interests will position you well in this set of Kelley School of Business essays.”


The second Kelley essay prompt asks applicants the following:

Please respond to one of the following short essay prompts. (300 words)

My greatest memory is…

I’m most afraid of…

My greatest challenge has been…

I’m most proud of…

The second essay is giving applicants a sense of who you are at the core of your personality.

“In this essay, the story you choose to tell will reveal your personality and values to the admissions committee,” Blackman writes. “Therefore, think about the moments in your life when you have changed or matured. Was there an experience that led you to learn more about yourself? Or, perhaps you interacted with someone who challenged or inspired you.”

Whichever moment you choose to write about, Blackman says, it’s important to highlight the ‘why’ aspect in your essay.

“Once you have a story to tell, make sure you explain why this moment is important to you,” Blackman writes. “To clarify, you can narrate your thoughts, reactions, and opinions as you retell the story. Another idea is to take time at the end of the essay to reflect upon what you learned and why it was important.”


The third Kelley essay prompt asks applicants the following:

Share a brief fact about yourself that your classmates would find interesting, surprising, or noteworthy. (25 words)

This essay, Blackman says, aims to highlight elements of your story that admissions officer can’t get from demographic or background data in your application.

“This is a great question to poll friends and family about,” Blackman writes. “Because your friends and family likely know the elements of your background and personality, this can be an effective way to develop a unique story. Those elements are more profound than your resume or application fact sheet.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, P&Q

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