Are You Growth Minded? Mastering Kellogg’s Changing Brand

Episode 2 in our Big Brand Theory Series for MBA applicants: Northwestern Kellogg.

Two days before Kellogg’s Dean Sally Blount announced Kellogg’s motto change from “Think Bravely” to “Inspiring Growth,” I received an email and video link in my inbox from my education hero, Sal Khan about why he will never tell his son that he is smart.

His Khan Academy disrupted the education paradigm and made me a super fan years ago when my then, 10-year-old son ran into my arms, but not for a hug…no, he wanted my computer so he could earn badges. At first I thought he was planning to play a game. I limited his computer use to 15 minutes and then watched him open up the Khan Academy site and whiz through math problems that were two grades ahead of his own (earning his badges along the way). I didn’t take the computer away until dinnertime.

His love for the Khan Academy reminded me of Dr. Carol Dweck’s research on motivation, success and the growth mindset. I had read her work a few years before my son fell in love with the Khan Academy. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which I highly recommend if you are applying to Kellogg, she compares and contrasts growth-oriented minds and fixed minds

The growth mindset is something to behold, and I watched it unfold over the years as my son solved my husband’s 5X5X5 Rubik’s cube, conquered my father in chess, and created “inventions” that he thought would make my life easier. I love the way his mind works. Thank you, Sal Khan and Thank you, Carol Dweck.

However, as a former admission dean and director, I often wondered when I would see Dr. Dweck’s concepts flourish in business schools. While I think several schools filter applicants for growth mindsets and challenge their students to stretch themselves, Kellogg’s new brand strategy was the first time I’ve seen Dr. Dweck’s approach become the very essence of the school.

Just as the growth mindset is dynamic and constantly seeks challenges and change, Kellogg has also reinvented itself many times over. I don’t think people will ever get over the fact that Kellogg is a marketing giant. However, since Dean Blount’s arrival, they’ve moved from “Team-Oriented” to “Think Bravely” to “Inspiring Growth” in the span of just a few years. These moves are reflected in their essay prompts, in their video essays, and in their interviews. You as an applicant need to respond to this change and address the filters Kellogg has added to its admissions process.

When working with clients applying to Kellogg, I always discuss my clients’ greatest challenges; then I push and push and push, until we discover something that they were initially afraid to reveal. If you are doing this yourself, realize that this inquiry means going deep within your psyche to figure out if you truly have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset (and I always recommend reading Dr. Dweck’s research. See link to her book above).

If at the end of our meetings my clients realize that they are not happy stretching, taking risks, and testing themselves, I ask them to rethink their school choice. Yes, Kellogg students are team-oriented; yes, Kellogg students are bright; yes, Kellogg students are personable, but Dean Blount got it right: Kellogg students are intellectually curious. They are resourceful. They challenge themselves to go beyond what they think are their limits. They have a growth mindset, and Kellogg inspires that growth.

For you the Kellogg motto means showing that you have the mindset to benefit from and contribute to Kellogg’s community dedicated to growth. As you apply to Kellogg demonstrate that you share Kellogg’s commitment to growth as an individual and as a future leader of your community and the business world.

(Look for Next Week’s Episode in the Big Brand Theory: Does Stanford Really Change the World?)

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs - A Guide to Selecting the Right One!

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.


Related Resources:

Kellogg 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
Leadership in Admissions

• What Does “At The Very Center of Business” Mean for CBS Applicants? 

What Does “At The Very Center of Business” Mean for CBS Applicants?

Want to learn the secret to getting accepted to Columbia Business School?Episode 1 in our Big Brand Theory Series for MBA applicants: Columbia Business School’s motto.

Columbia Business School Essay 2 asks you to watch a short video entitled, “The Center” and then use it to answer the question, “How will you take advantage of being ‘at the very center of business’?” The video and the essay question are Columbia’s attempts to regain its brand and market share.

Over the years, Columbia strayed from its core strength: its geographic location and the access that the school offers its students. As a reaction to New York’s financial industry shrinkage and then, a drop in applications, they began pitching teams, clusters, and close-knit communities. I’m sorry, but those words do not even begin to describe Columbia.

CBS is just like New York: historical, large, gritty, and filled with surprises. It doesn’t coddle its students, and its students don’t expect to be coddled. They are smart, resourceful, and assertive.

So what does it mean to be at the very center of business? Well, you have the usual suspects: access to corporate world headquarters, brown bags with executives, subway rides to everything. But I ask you, where else can you have an accidental meeting at a cultural event with the Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman, or award winning entertainer and entrepreneur Dr. Dre?

Columbia wants its students to embrace New York and at the same time not allow the abundance of everything to intimidate them.  Years ago, I watched a Columbia Business School PowerPoint presentation. The closing slide displayed a world map. The Columbia campus was superimposed on a big red apple that spread over half the Atlantic Ocean and an arrow pointing to the apple as the “Center of the World.” I keep that image in my mind as I offer my clients my best rendition of the song, New York, New York, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” (High kicks and all. Fortunately they can’t see me when I do it)

As a former admissions dean and director, I would expect to see an answer to that essay that would enable me to identify (and admit) people who thrive in the hustle bustle of New York.  I would want my applicants to capture the energy of the city that never sleeps. At the same time, I would filter out students who would be intimidated by New York. I would want my students to love their NYC experience: rats, roaches and all.

And now I need an consultant to help me edit this blog down to 250 words or less.

(Look for next week’s episode of the Big Brand Theory: Kellogg – Are you Growth Minded?)

Free on-demand webinar: Get Accepted to Columbia Business School!

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , who when she’s not listening to old Frank Sinatra songs about New York, consults with clients and reminisces about her Admission Director days.


Related Resources:

• Columbia Business School 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
How to Get Accepted to Columbia Business School
• Columbia Business School Hosts AIGAC!

MBA Scholarships: How Do I Apply and What Should I Emphasize?

Which b-schools offer the most scholarships?

Scholarship dollars are designated by a donor for specific reasons.

While each school has its own unique scholarship offerings (merit only, merit and need, need only), they do so for a variety of reasons.  Similar to admissions, a director will consider your academic indicators, your work experience, your extra-curricular activities, your goals and your community service.  They also consider socio-economic factors for need-based and outstanding accomplishments for merit-need-based scholarships.

Merit-based general scholarships give the schools an opportunity to attract a candidate that they may not have the opportunity to enroll without the scholarship.  For schools with deep pockets, it helps the admissions office attract and maintain individuals that without the scholarship, the school could easily lose to other schools.  It also helps some schools fill their enrollment requirements.  Regardless, scholarships enable the admissions director to create his or her mosaic.

In addition to general scholarships, each school may also have specialized scholarships.   Those scholarships often will be given to students that diversify the population through their goals or their backgrounds.  In addition to school scholarships, outside organizations may partner with the school to offer scholarships or offer scholarships autonomously. Many organizations offer scholarships for students with disabilities (National MS Society, Setoma, SBA), women (Forte, AAUW) under-represented minorities (Consortium, Tiogo, American Association of Indian Affairs, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, NSHMBA, NBMBA, Pfizer, Hispanic College Fund, and international students (Fulbright).  Specialized scholarships can be found on a national level (GFAO, Peace Corps, GI Bill, Fisher House), state level (New York State Scholarship Fund) and local level (Shanghai municipal scholarship) as well as through charitable and religious organizations.

Each school also has scholarship dollars that are designated by a corporate donor, alumnus or friend of the school for specific reasons.  Ernst and Young gave one school for whom I worked an endowment to distribute to candidates with accounting backgrounds, and another school for whom I worked had an alumnus who offered the school a fund designated for incoming Brazilian student scholarships.

I had the most difficulty distributing scholarships to local students with very specific backgrounds.  For example at one school, an alumnus gave us a generous fund to offer scholarships to students with accounting backgrounds from a specific county in the state in which the alumnus grew up.  The county was quite small and we rarely had applicants that applied to our school from that county with accounting backgrounds.  We couldn’t distribute that scholarship for several years in a row and when we did find a candidate that matched the criteria, that candidate received the scholarship regardless of need or merit.

Your best sources for scholarships are,, and the school you plan to attend.  However, check with each school’s scholarship policy before applying for admission.  Some schools may have you write an essay or check a box to show interest in scholarships.  Others distribute scholarships based on your admissions application and you don’t need to indicate an interest in scholarship at all.

Regardless of how you piece together your school funding, don’t pay for a scholarship search.  The information is free on the Internet or through your school’s admissions and/or financial aid office. Also, keep in mind that you must complete the FAFSA for U.S. scholarships and loans or the international equivalent through your country’s ministry of education.  And if you have multiple offers with scholarships, you have some negotiating power. If you need additional information, please contact me.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Getting Ready to Apply to Top Tier Colleges and Universities: Senior Year

Check out the rest of the Getting Ready to Apply to College Series!

Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application.

In this final segment of our new series Getting Ready to Apply to Top Tier Colleges and Universities: A Four Part Series for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors, I offer tips to high school seniors. can help bring out your best in your applications and my colleagues and I are here to help.

Tips for High School Seniors

1. Create a spreadsheet that includes all of your school choices and your “to do” list like writing essays, supplements, gathering transcripts (many schools use a service like and I have found this service to provide an easy and high quality solution needed to expedite transcripts).  Note all the deadlines and to which schools you are applying for Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Decision.

2. Use the summer to complete the more tedious parts of the Common Application. It will reopen the summer before you begin your senior year.   Narrow down your school choices if you haven’t done so already.

3. Calendar time to apply to the UC system schools, if those schools are on your short-list. The University of California Application will open on October 1 and they give you a very small window to apply to the schools (November 1-November 30) but you can apply to many schools with the one application.  Each school also has its own supplements, so build the time you need to complete the applications.

4. Prepare and schedule time to apply to schools outside the UC system and schools that do not use the Common App. Note the schools that don’t subscribe to the common app and make certain that you are prepared to apply to these schools directly.

5. Build in 3-4 hours a week to work on your applications.  Most of my clients begin with their common application essay.  Remember that this essay will be read by all the common app schools to which you apply, and you won’t be able to reuse its contents in your supplemental essays.

6. Brainstorm essay concepts with someone whose judgment you trust: a parent, a teacher, a counselor, a consultant, or a family friend whose writing you admire.  I don’t suggest using your peers for this exercise.  If you pushed your boundaries in prior years, you will have good material to write about.  You need to believe that you are an interesting person and that the admissions director would want to have a 5-course meal with you, not just a 5-minute conversation.

7. Outline your essays and begin to write.  Ask for feedback.  Have someone look at your application and essays for editing, typos, grammar, and sentence structure.  When you are satisfied with the outcome, make sure you upload clean copies of your essays into the application.  Continue this process until you have completed all your applications.  Early applications are due in September or October and Regular Decisions are due in January.  Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application.

8. Make certain everything on the application is complete before you submit.

9. Check and recheck with your recommenders to make certain they have submitted their reference.
Retake the SAT or ACT, if necessary, before you submit your application.

10. Continue your good study habits and your leadership at school.  Universities will ask for a mid-term report before rendering a final decision.

Your decisions will begin to roll in and you will be on your way to a new journey that will likely be the best four years of your life.

Good luck!

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Getting Ready to Apply to Top Tier Colleges and Universities: Junior Year

Preparing for College in High School: A To-Do List for Eleventh Graders - click here for your free copy!

Schools use the junior year as a cornerstone for your academic achievement. Now is the time to excel.

In the third post of our new series Getting Ready to Apply to Top Tier Colleges and Universities: A Four Part Series for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors, I offer tips to high school juniors.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to gain admission into the country’s elite schools, knowing how to navigate the system should become important for you.

Tips for High School Juniors

1. Continue to take AP courses and tests.  Schools use the junior year as a cornerstone for your academic achievement.  Now is the time to excel.

2. Decide whether to take the SAT (and for some schools, SAT subject tests) or the ACT with writing and get assistance in preparing for these tests.  You will take them in your junior year, but you will have another opportunity to take the test in the summer.  You must be diligent in practicing for these exams outside of preparation classes or tutoring sessions.  Work with your peers or faculty through problems you don’t understand.  Practice tests will show you your weaknesses and it will be up to you to find the appropriate means to strengthen those weaknesses.  Most universities accept both the ACT and the SAT, but consider your top schools and make sure that the test you choose is a test they evaluate.

3. Ask 2-4 teachers if they can write you an outstanding recommendation.  Most schools require two teachers, but if you plan to apply to 20 schools, you are putting a lot of burden on those teachers.  Split it up and give them less of a work load.

4. Take on more leadership or get involved in something you care deeply about.  Schools are looking to see that you can push your own boundaries and always strive to achieve your best.

5. Begin to think about your place in the world and what you hope to achieve.

6. Use your winter and spring breaks to visit schools.  Attend school visits to your city.  Talk with alumni, current students (most schools have ambassadors that live in your city).  Get to know your regional admissions officer and make sure you are top of mind as an intelligent leader and team player.  Let them know your passions.  Follow up with all correspondence to everyone connected with the schools of your choice.

7. Narrow down your school list.  You should have some stretch schools 2-3, some match schools 5-7 and some safety schools 2-3.  If you are not sure how to narrow down your search, can assist you with this task.

8. Clean up all potentially negative social media. If it doesn’t reflect well on you, it could hurt your chances of acceptance.

9. Look for summer work that will not only give you extra spending money, but also opportunities to learn more about a field that interests you.

Download Free: Preparing for College in High School: A To-Do List for Eleventh Graders
Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.