MBA Admissions Q&A: The Kellogg School |

MBA Admissions Q&A: The Kellogg School

By Mike Grill

Updated July 23, 2019 Updated July 23, 2019

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has a well-established reputation as one of the leading business schools in the US and currently lies in 6th position in QS’s regional MBA rankings.  

So, how does one gain entry to a school that offers both a one-year and a two-year MBA program? sought the advice of the Kellogg School’s admissions team to learn more. For example, the team isn’t keen on seeing candidates who simply try to tick all the boxes of what they believe the school is looking for in an applicant, as they explain: “Too many people try to become what they envision as the ‘ideal’ b-school candidate, and then all those people seem quite similar.” Read on for further tips on how you might be able to stand out from the crowd.   

Beth Tidmarsh, Kellogg's admissions team
What are the most important aspects of the Kellogg MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA, and current job position?

Kellogg has a holistic application review process and there is not one component of the application that is more important than another.  We look at the overall application and evaluate where that individual has excelled and demonstrated a strong performance compared to peers. At Kellogg, we strive to interview every applicant to get to know them better and understand their fit with our program and culture.

What is a common mistake you see applicants make?

A frequent mistake is trying to be someone you think the admissions committee wants to see rather than being your authentic self.  Try not to be too polished or overly rehearsed. Be yourself in your essays, interview and video essay. Too many people try to become what they envision as the ‘ideal’ b-school candidate, and then all those people seem quite similar.

What is something you would like to see applicants do more often?

Do your homework before you apply. There is a vast array of opportunities at Kellogg and nobody could take advantage of them all. Doing your homework ahead of time helps you to be clearer and more specific in your application about what you hope to participate in, take away from the program, and contribute to the class. In addition, the homework will pay off when you start the program and are already prepared to maximize your Kellogg experience.

What does the Kellogg application process look like?

At Kellogg we have three rounds of applications that are due in September, January and April.  We admit the vast majority of our class in the first two rounds. Each application consists of a written portion, an interview and a video essay. The video essay allows the admissions committee to ‘meet’ each applicant, no matter where he or she is in the world.  We seek to interview all applicants. Candidates select where they want to interview (on campus or off campus) and these interviews will take place during each round. It is not required to interview on campus, so you should choose the location that is most convenient for you.

At Kellogg we offer four different programs: One-year, two-year, and joint degrees of MMM (the Kellogg MBA and a design innovation master’s from Northwestern’s engineering and applied science school) and JD-MBA. Applicants can only apply to one program, so they should ensure they understand the differences and select the one that best fits their goals. Admission decisions are released on the same day at the end of each round in December, March, and May.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

Test scores are only one data point we consider and evaluate in assessing whether a candidate is prepared for the classroom rigor of Kellogg. We also take into consideration an applicant’s undergraduate performance (courses taken and grades received) and depth of work experience. We do see candidates who have retaken the GMAT or GRE when they believe their first attempt is not a good reflection of their intellectual ability and we will consider the highest score.

MBA admissions tips

Kate Smith, Kellogg's admissions team
Essay(s): Answer the question asked. Each school asks slightly different questions and you should put in the time to answer the question and not try to repurpose an essay written for another school. Don’t rush - prepare your essays in advance and revisit them later for editing and clarity.

Interview: Put your best foot forward. The interviewer will only have seen your résumé, not your whole application file. We encourage you to prepare as you would for a job interview – be timely, courteous, professional and prepared. Be attentive in the interview and answer the questions asked.

Letters of recommendation: Choose people who are close to your work that can speak with great familiarity about your contributions. We do not consider seniority or title to be an important factor in who writes your recommendations.

CV/résumé: We recommend submitting a one-page résumé highlighting key contributions. Try to avoid technical terms and acronyms around your function and industry. Make your résumé readable to people not in your industry or area of expertise.

School visit: Plan ahead! Review the Kellogg visit calendar so you can choose to come to campus on days when we have activities scheduled. Our website has details on when you can attend a class, meet with students, take a tour, or attend an information session, so please look at the calendar and come at a time when the activities you want to participate in are taking place.

This article was originally published in August 2015 . It was last updated in July 2019

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