Kellogg 2014 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

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Northwestern Kellogg

“Think Bravely”

While this year Kellogg changed its MBA application less than it did last year, it too has cut word limits and it also removed its one short-answer question.  There may be short answers as part of the online application, but that is not yet available.

I strongly urge you to watch the videos where Kellogg defines what it means by Think Bravely. The qualified applicants who show they identify with that motto will have the best chance of acceptance.


 What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome (personally or professionally)? 
How has overcoming this obstacle prepared you to achieve success now and in the future? (350 word limit)

New question this year and 150 words less than was allowed for last year’s first question about pivotal moments that have defined who you are today. However, this question is not entirely unrelated. The truth is that we frequently are defined if not heavily influenced by overcoming obstacles. Furthermore overcoming obstacles is tremendous preparation for achieving success in the future because winning that game, closing that deal, or making that goal almost always requires overcoming obstacles.  (For more on this, please see Admissions Tips from Dr. Pausch’s Last Lecture (Part 2) or for a deeper exploration of the topic, see Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dweck.)

The response to this question begs for an anecdotal opening and requires a specific example or incident. What was the obstacle? What were you trying to achieve? How did you overcome it. Then analyze what the experience means to you. How will overcoming that obstacle help you overcome even greater ones in the future? What did you learn specifically that will contribute to success? And please don’t write that you learned you can overcome anything you set your mind to.  I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s not true, and a lot of people will write that (at least if they don’t read this).

Realize that in the Think Bravely video, Dean Blount talks about four initiatives to drive Kellogg’s thought leadership in the business world: 1) Markets and customers 2) Collaboration 3) Public/Private Interface 4) Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She defines the latter as renewal, resilience, and new ideas. This question is all about renewal and resilience, particularly resilience.

 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. (500 word limit)

Here you can draw on professional or personal experiences, but make sure your answer shows you in a leadership role. You have the option of discussing more than one experience. Due to the word limit, I would bring up no more than three, and obviously choose the “most significant.”  Answer the question as posed, but just as Kellogg suggests keep in mind its “Think Bravely” motto.

Because of that motto, focus on challenges that were not just technical or logistical; focus on leadership experiences where you were innovating , facing interpersonal issues, dealing with the public/private interface, or responding to markets and customers. Those are the situations where thinking bravely, as Kellogg defines it, almost automatically come into play.

. Part 1: What career/role are you looking to pursue and why?  (250 word limit)

This is a variation of last year’s career goals question. It is more focused. Kellogg has also split the components of last year’s 500-word question more narrowly focused 250-word components.

For part 1, what do you want to do after you get your MBA? What function do you want to perform and in what industry? If you have geographic element to your goal, that can be included too.  You can answer that part of the question very succinctly and directly. In terms of the reasons for pursuing this goal, describe an experience or two, preferably an achievement,  that convinced you this is the right path for you.

You can also start your essay with the experience and then say that it influenced your goal to do XYZ in the ABC industry.

Part 2: Why are Kellogg and the MBA essential to achieving these career goals?  (250 word limit)
(Please answer Part 2 in terms of your program choice: One-Year, Two-Year, MMM, JD-MBA).

This question was part of last year’s application.  How will the Kellogg’s option you choose help you achieve your goal. What specific elements of its curriculum, co-curricular activities, and career management strengths will help you go from where you are today to where you want to be the day after tomorrow. Show that Kellogg is the ideal means for you to achieve your ends.

Re-Applicants Only: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 word limit) Please note: re-applicants are required to answer this question in addition to #1-3.

No trick questions here. How are you a better candidate today than when Kellogg rejected you? Have you addressed weaknesses in your previous application? Check out MBA Reapplicant 101 — a lot of (free) resources. 

Additional Information (Optional): If needed, 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 is a true optional question If necessary, use it to provide context for possible negatives. Take responsibility for mistakes if necessary.

Keep this section short and to-the-point. Don’t be fooled by “No word limit.”

Video: Kellogg recently announced that it is adding a video component to this year’s application. We will add to this post when more details are known about the this element of the application. Per Poets and Quants:

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management said today (July 29) it will now require a video essay as part of its 2013/2014 MBA application, which will be available in mid-August. While several B-schools have included optional video responses in their applications, Kellogg is the highest ranked business school to make it a mandatory.

In Kellogg’s case, students will have several minutes to answer a spontaneous, randomized question on a Skype-like screen. “We felt like this was a great opportunity to meet our applicants from wherever they might be in the world,” says 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.”

Kellogg’s applicants will 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.  ”The spirit of the questions is to get to know our candidates on a more personal level in a spontaneous format,” Smith says. “They’re designed to bring to life the person we’ve learned about on paper in the application, including their passions, interests and ideas.”

The video is not intended to replace the in-person interview.


To prepare for your webcam session, you need to practice for the experience of talking to a video camera with no responses from another human being. For tips on how to prepare and behave during the webcam session, please see: Tips for Video MBA Essay Questions. 

If you would like professional guidance with your Kellogg MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Kellogg application. 

Kellogg 2014 MBA Application Deadlines:

Round     . Due Date*            . Decisions Released
Round 1 October 16 2013 December 18 2013
Round 2 January 9 2014 March 25 2014
Round 3 April 2 2014 May 15 2014

*All deadlines are 11:59pm Central Time.

Click here to download your free copy of Focus on Management Consulting

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

  • Linda Abraham

    If any readers would like a profile evaluation for Kellogg, please provide the following information:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Or if you just have a question about MBA admissions, I’ll do my best to answer it.

    • Garth

      Hi Linda,

      I have a bit of dilemma here about the goals essay. I am currently an entrepreneur in the technology sector focusing on mobile platforms. Over 5 years of experience mainly in sales and marketing in manufacturing and technology. But as part of my work, I have gone beyond my role and been involved in strategy. So my immediate goal is to get into mgmt consulting to gain more experience. This is relevant because it fits with my long term goals of starting a firm to provide consulting services for niche areas (not going into full details as it would make for a long read).

      Now my question is this – Kellogg attracts many for consulting, several from the consulting background itself. Do you think my chances of getting selected for interview diminish if I mention the above as my goals, given my background? While a few do make the transition from sales/mktg to consulting, I am a bit apprehensive. Should I just not worry and go ahead with the earlier? Or strategically, do you think positioning entrepreneurial aspirations throughout make for a stronger case?

      Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Looking forward! Thank you Linda!


      • Garth

        Hello Linda!

        Hope to hear a response from you soon. Would really appreciate it and hopefully can discuss other applications with you one-on-one.


      • Linda Abraham


        I think your true career plans make a lot of sense and are a good fit with Kellogg, which knows it feeds the consulting firms and also wants to see its grads going in an entrepreneurial direction.

        Assuming everything else is competitive, the key for your career goals will be showing that you have engaged in an consultative sales process. Show that your past experience is highly relevant and valuable for your future goals when combined with a Kellogg MBA.

        You might be interested in MBA in Sight: Focus on Management Consulting. It collects info and data from programs that are well regarded for those interested in management consulting. You may also be interested in this interview with Victor Chang, formerly of McKinsey.

        Please let me know if you would like assistance with future MBA applications.



        • Garth

          Thanks Linda!


    • Garth

      Hello Linda!

      Hope to hear a response from you soon. Would really appreciate it and hopefully can discuss other applications with you one-on-one.


  • Said

    For Essay 2, it seems that they are asking for more than one experience: What have…leadership expereinces? It’s all plural

    Is it okay if I just talk about one experience, but in detail?

    • Linda Abraham


      They do seem to be asking for 2 or more experiences, but if you have one truly exceptional and seminal experience that hits the nail on the head, you can focus on that. It is a judgement call and I don’t have enough info to advise you on whether you should or should not go with only one.

      If you do only go with one experience here, make sure that your resume, short answers, and everything else show lots of leadership and “brave thinking.” You don’t want them to think that you only have one example.


  • Ankit Agarwal

    Hi Linda,

    Is there any email I could contact you directly. I wanted to get my profile evaluated and some help on essays for application to some of the business schools.


  • Venkateshwar Rao Maddila

    Hello Linda,

    Thank you for offering help for profile evaluation.

    I am considering applying for Weekend MBA at Kellogg.

    Whats really pushing me on backfoot is the average work experience: 6 years while mine will be 3 years by the matriculation. I also wish to apply to Chicago Booth for Summer Quarter next year.

    My profile is as below:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience
    1 year in Automotive R&D in a start up in Germany
    2 years in Automotive Manufacturing in one of the largest Automotive major in Germany. I work in HQ and travel around the world (so far 15 countries) to deal with various manufacturing plants. Will move to the US in March 2014 for a 3 year delegation to lead a major Project.

    There are some stand out points in my career which I can provide in mail.

    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    GMAT: 720 (94%), Q50V35; 1 attempt

    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    GPA: 9.6/10 (4/4); IIT (India), Institute Rank 3

    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    Worked for various social organizations for about 2 years particularly in the field of green technologies for the poor, policies etc.
    Currently started a Foundation which does Policy research and engages youth of India to participate in the policy drafting for the country.

    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.

    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Want to continue in Automotive industry but in Management front. Main goal is to revamp the automotive sector in India create a market for green technologies.

    I greatly appreciate your support!

    Thank you.

    • Linda Abraham

      I share your concern about lack of work experience and the Kellogg part-time program. However, given the quality of your work experience, which sounds impressive, you stellar academics, well-suited goal, and extra-curricular activities, I encourage you to try. If you aren’t successful, try again next year. If you are successful, you start sooner.


      • Venkateshwar Rao Maddila

        Thank you for honest feedback. I would like to have a chat with you about the application and your consultancy. Please let me know when we can do it. Thank you

        • Linda Abraham

          Sure. You can call 310-815-9553 between 9 AM – 3 pm PT tomorrow (normally until 6 PM PT). I should be available; if not, please leave a message.

          Since you are interested in our services, you can go to, click on the Free Consultation button on the right. I’ll get the information and we can set up a call.

          • Venkateshwar Rao Maddila

            Registered! Looking forward to talk to you.