Friday, July 20, 2012

Kellogg 2012-13 MBA Essay Analysis

What follows is a quick analysis of the application essays included in the Kellogg application for those aiming to enter the program in the fall of 2013.

Required Essays:

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

As the question asks, this is to be a non-work related story.  What to choose? Certainly topics that reveal the strengths and characteristics you have today. The question asks for moments or influences - meaning that first of all more than one topic can be used, and in addition to that you may consider a story or even a person or experience that has helped to shape who you are today.  Be careful to avoid work topics, and also be careful to always show the relevance of any topic you do develop to who you are now.  It is likely possible to include 2-3 separate elements as you weave together a picture of who you are now.

2. 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)

Leadership experiences is plural so I usually recommend people to write about more than one experience in this essay. Two is often ideal, as it may be difficult to put more than that into a single 500 word essay. Two is also ideal, as those who wish to emphasize that their leadership goes beyond their jobs can use one professional and one personal example in developing their answer to this essay.  

Significant experiences with challenges and impacts have two key factors: a) your could learn from them and b) you could make a difference on the people around you by accomplishing something.  I think it necessary to try and show both in the overall essay, and even in possible in each episode you choose to write about. Choose episodes in which you had an impact as a leader, and for each be clear about what you did, the impact of success, and what you learned (about leadership or about yourself) from each.  The goal is to paint a picture of who you are and how you lead today - as the result of your accumulated experiences and learning.

The last part of the question (Think Bravely) s a new addition for this year. Think Bravely appears to mean being able to envision major changes by thinking outside the box, taking the necessary steps towards implementing these changes, and importantly, encouraging/enabling others to join.  Watch this video hereAdditionally, here is a brief analysis from Kellogg Dean Sally Blount here

Consider the leadership episodes from this perspective. While it is not advisable to copy the words and feelings from the videos into your leadership experiences in this essay, it is worthwhile to ask yourself if, after reading your stories, you feel that Kellogg would believe that you exemplify these ideals, or are capable of becoming the kind of transformative leader they wish to mould at the school.  Do your experiences help show that you have the potential to make amazing and significant changes in the future? This is the type of person who may be successful at Kellogg.

3. 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)

This is the standard goals - why MBA - why school essay. In order to prepare to write his essay, or any other goals essay for that matter, you need to deeply consider the following questions:

What are your current strengths and skills?
What are your short-term and long-term goals?
How will those current strengths and skills be useful in achieving those goals?
What additional skills or experiences do you need?
How (with specific examples) can you get these additional skills and experiences at Kellogg?

Your answers to these questions and the alignment that comes as they are put together will become the building blocks of this essay.

In terms of the goals, because the subject of this essay is you at graduation, you should probably be able to write very clear and specific short-term goals.  Identify the challenge you are moving onto next, and why it is a desirable and important next step for you. So imagining yourself with no idea what your next step will be (may be true and realistic for some but) will not be an effective way to showcase yourself effectively here.  Add detail as well on your long term goal, and where you envision your career going 5-10 years after graduation.

The twist here is that you are imagining yourself after completing our 2 years at Kellogg, so naturally you will need to reflect on the courses that were most memorable and useful to you now - even before you have enrolled in the program! It would be ineffective this essay ambiguously, i.e. to only write that there were "various" or "several" courses that had an impact on you. What strengths do you need to gain at Kellogg and which courses or experiences may help you to gain them? Do your homework, and try to come up with 3-4 concrete examples of courses or experiences at Kellogg that may help you position yourself to achieve the goals you have for the future. 

4. What one interesting or fun fact would you want your future Kellogg classmates to know about you? (25 words or less)

There is no do this and don't do that set of rules with a short essay.  Aim for surprise, color, and a memorable finish to your essay set here.

Those that feel a 25-word essay is easier than a 100-word essay will likely change their opinion as they try to put this one together. This content should be memorable, surprising, not developed in detail anywhere else in your application, and should reveal something (else) special and different about you that is appealing to admissions at Kellogg and/or shows how you will add value to your future colleagues. Did you lead your university soccer team to a national championship? Is your passion cooking Italian food?  Take your unique strength or skill and try to show it in a way that demonstrates the contribution you'll have at Kellogg. In so doing, you can use this last essay to make a colorful and memorable conclusion to your Kellogg essay set, offering one extra thing that'll show your potential to contribute to the Kellogg experience. 

Additional Information (Optional):
If needed, use this section to briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (No word limit)

This additional essay is intended to address possibly negative elements of your application.  The content (and decision as to write it or not) will be done on an individual basis - but certainly if you have failed a course in university or had a bad term, for instance, you'll want to aim to highlight all the great things you were doing at that time in your life, or offer up something else as an explanation.

John Couke