How to Approach the New (!) Kellogg Essays

Great Kellogg essays will earn you a spot on this beautiful campus.

If you’re applying to Kellogg and have been patiently waiting for them to release their essay questions, the time has come! The prompts have been reworked this year, after a number of application cycles without changes. Without further ado, here are the prompts for this year’s Kellogg essays:

  1. Kellogg Leaders are primed to tackle today’s pressing concerns everywhere, from the boardroom to their neighborhoods. Tell us about a time in your life where you’ve needed a combination of skills to solve a problem or overcome a challenge. Which skills did you use? What did you accomplish? (450 words)
  2. At Kellogg, our values are based on research that concludes organizations comprised of leaders with varied backgrounds and perspectives outperform homogeneous ones. How do you believe your personal and professional experiences to date will help to enrich the Kellogg community? (450 words)

Note: There is also a third required essay for those applying to a specialized MBA program and/or for those who are reapplying. Finally, Kellogg has three video essay questions that will need to be submitted within 96 hours of the application deadline (a link will be sent to you after you submit your application).

Advice for Approaching the Kellogg Essays

While the Kellogg essays may have changed, the qualities they look for haven’t. Let’s start by defining exactly what those qualities are. Kellogg shares that they value individuals who:

  • Approach business problems with a mix of hard and soft skills.
  • Seek to adapt to the evolving business world with open curiosity and innovation.
  • Believe in strong, empathetic collaboration as a way to strengthen work, perspectives and outcomes.
  • Embrace the power of diversity in your teams and networks.

A strong thread throughout each of these criteria is that Kellogg highly prioritizes soft skills – in short, they want leaders who bring people together to innovate and solve challenges. Before you even consider how you will approach the Kellogg essays, give thought to how you embody this statement and brainstorm examples that prove this is true. 

Think Long and Hard About the Story You Select for Essay One

As the first essay prompt indicates, Kellogg is looking for you to share one concrete ‘story’ in your answer. So, essentially, you have one shot to demonstrate why, as proven by a past experience, you are a strong leader that can overcome challenges and have impact on the organizations of which you are a part. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one story, so it’s important to choose wisely.

Our recommended approach is to brainstorm a variety of stories you could potentially use here and not simply go with the first one that comes to mind. Just because an accomplishment was personally significant to you doesn’t mean it is the best material for this essay.

Most applicants will likely share a professional example, but an extracurricular situation could work equally as well. Whichever you choose, we recommend that it is relatively recent (within the last two years) and involves teamwork of some kind. Kellogg wants to see the kind of leader you are today and given the heavily team-oriented nature of the program, telling a story about a time you accomplished something without the help of others doesn’t demonstrate the fit they are looking for. 

Once you’ve brainstormed a list of stories, consider which skills (beyond teamwork, which is non-negotiable) each one highlights. Compare this list of skills with the personal branding you’ve developed earlier in the application process – which story feels most cohesive with the picture you are trying to present of yourself?  Which story highlights the broadest list of MBA-applicable skills, notably those that are important to Kellogg which places a lot of value on soft skills? In fact, we think a successful essay could speak to primarily (if not all) soft skills given Kellogg’s culture and also because hard skills can be showcased through your test score, GPA, and resume. Ask yourself these questions as you narrow down your list to that perfect example.

Revisit Your Personal Branding (Again!) for Essay Two

You may find your head spinning upon reading the second essay prompt, wondering how you’ll possibly narrow down the list of ‘things’ you might share. Note that we’re using the term ‘things’ here because, while the essay prompt references ‘experiences’, we’d suggest that you can also think beyond discrete situations or characteristics and consider including more conceptual influences or themes that make you who you are. For instance, perhaps you’ve lived in seven countries in your lifetime – that combination of ‘experiences’ and their influence on you could be a topic of discussion.  

To start, we recommend that you revisit your personal branding work. What formative experiences or influences did you identify as being the driving force behind what you’ve done to date and what you hope to do in the future? Consider these the top contenders for inclusion in this essay because, beyond painting a picture of who you are, they should connect with why Kellogg – and an MBA in general – is right for you (in other words, they tell Kellogg who you are AND, critically, why they should care). 

Of note, make sure you don’t lean entirely professional in this essay. Even if you feel like your differentiated work experience is your key ‘selling’ point, it is important to weave in some personal background as well. Kellogg (and business schools in general) want you to bring your whole self to campus, so being comfortable opening up in the application demonstrates you are ready to contribute in this way if admitted.   

Once you’ve chosen and described the ‘things’ that make you unique, it is critical to share discrete ways in which you will utilize your perspective, skill set, etc. to improve the experience of others in the Kellogg community. Avoid a laundry list here and, instead, demonstrate you’ve put real thought into how you will contribute on campus with a few specific and impactful examples.

Structure Ideas for the Kellogg Essays

For Essay 1, we recommend a structure somewhat like this:

  • P1: Share the context of the situation you will discuss and the problem or challenge at hand
  • P2: Describe the actions you took, emphasizing elements of teamwork, collaboration, and innovative problem solving
  • P3: Wrap up the story, covering the ‘results’ and the impact you had on your team or organization
  • P4: Summarize the skills you demonstrated as well as any learnings you gained and talk about how you envision applying them at Kellogg and beyond

For Essay 2, we recommend a structure somewhat like this:

  • P1: Introduce the first ‘thing’ that makes you unique, including how it has influenced or changed the way you see the world
  • P2: Describe how you will use this perspective to enrich the Kellogg community
  • P3: Introduce a second ‘thing’ that makes you unique and how it has influenced or shaped you
  • P4: Share another concrete, actionable way you will apply this uniqueness at Kellogg
Kellogg Video Essay Tips

Kellogg requires you to record and submit responses to three questions, which you will not know in advance. The only clues they give are that the questions are designed to ‘help you showcase your personality and share some of the experiences that brought you here today’.

Not knowing the questions can feel intimidating, but we recommend you prepare an introduction of yourself that highlights your personality (hobbies, interests, etc. are fair game!) and also brainstorm a list of the best stories you imagine using for behavioral interview questions.

Procedurally speaking, once the clock starts ticking, you will have 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to answer each question. Focus the bulk of your practice on getting the timing right – a minute is shorter than you think! So, practice (out loud!) using the STAR format to tell each of your stories within this timeframe so you ensure you don’t get cut off before you can share the awesome ‘result’ you drove.  

Good luck!

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