(note: “contributions” is normally spelled with a ‘c’)
Describe how your background, values, academics, activities and/or leadership skills will enhance the experience of other Kellogg students.
That’s good old Question 2 on Kellogg’s MBA application. It’s a simple enough query, but one that stymies many of my clients, leading to several questions:
“Do they want me to talk mostly about work?”
“How do I talk about all of those in detail in two double-spaced pages?”
“Should I tell stories for this one?”
“I don’t have any values. What do I do?”
Luckily I have high-level answers for all of those: “No”; “That’s not the point of the question”; “Yes, short ones,”; “I think Sachin just made this one up” (I did).
The answer to this question is yet another chance to add dimension to your Kellogg application. And in this case you can also be very specific about how your experiences/skills/values will help you contribute to the Kellogg community. I counsel my clients to approach this one as they would all the others: with a solid structure and rich specifics.
Let’s take structure first. The question asks about so many areas that it seems difficult to approach it as you would a simpler “Tell us about a leadership/teamwork experience” question, where you tell a story then focus on lessons learned. But that’s no reason to respond with a hodgepodge of resume material, partial stories, and general statements, as some of my clients do in their first drafts. Instead, pick the areas you want to highlight, then state those clearly in your introduction:
“My cross-cultural background, focus on professional ethics, and deep community service experience will help me contribute to the Kellogg community in several specific ways.”
“But Sachin,” you might say, “that’s hardly a ‘killer’ opening.” True, but this question pulls for less of a story-oriented approach upfront, as you have to cover multiple domains (not that you couldn’t try: you could start with a killer opening, a story that highlights one of the ways you’ll contribute and then move on to other domains, but let’s keep it simple for now). Notice also that the introduction implies that you may not be talking about everything the question mentions. But that’s okay. After all, the question says “and/or” and Kellogg has a whole essay on leadership experience.
After that introduction, you would devote a longish paragraph to each of the domains you mention. In this case: cross-cultural background, ethics, and community service. That brings us to specifics. By now you know I won’t let you get away with rehashing your resume bullets here. Instead, bring out the stories behind the bullets. If you were raised in three different countries and worked in two others, talk briefly about cultural lessons you learned in each or the many cuisines you now cook. If you served on your company’s ethics board, talk about a couple of particularly thorny issues you wrestled with. If you started a tutoring service for underprivileged children talk about the challenges of recruiting fellow volunteers and/or getting through to a particularly resistant child. These specifics will showcase your multi-dimensionality, thoughtfulness, and initiative. As you could imagine, this approach works equally well with domains not discussed here, such as sports and social clubs of any sort.
But you’re not done.
In each section, you should link your past experience/values to how you’ll contribute at Kellogg. If you have great cross-cultural experience, you could use that to lead a GIM trip (see my GIM blog). If you’ve volunteered with multiple community service organizations, then of course you’ll lead/join at least one at Kellogg (e.g., Social Impact Club). If you have a skill/interest that isn’t currently represented by a club or activity at Kellogg (e.g., triathlons), then mention how you’ll start one. They love that, especially if you can back it up with deep experience participating and initiating.
Of course there are other good ways to approach this question, including talking about your experiences chronologically and linking them to Kellogg contributions. Regardless, using a clear, logical structure and rich specifics to answer this question just may put you in a position to make the contributions as an actual Kellogg student. My fellow Accepted editors and I would be happy to help you craft such an essay.
By Dr. Sachin Waikar, Accepted.com Editor.