Northwestern Kellogg School of Management Essay Questions and Strategic Guidance, 2022-2023

Kellogg requires two written essays. As with all business school applications, you want to keep the admissions reader learning new things about you throughout. You are multifaceted, and remember that the stories you share need not be limited to professional ones. Use your two essays to convey different aspects of your character, skillset, experiences, and so on.

Here are a few notes regarding Northwestern Kellogg’s application:

  • According to Kellogg’s website, the school seeks candidates who
    • can motivate a team to drive impact.
    • are not afraid to question the status quo and seek nonobvious solutions.
    • approach business problems with a mix of intellect, energy, and creativity.
    • seek diversity in their networks and teams.
    • are eager to dive in and collaborate with an engaged, ambitious community of peers.

As you brainstorm what to share throughout your application, keep these qualities in mind. Understanding what Kellogg looks for in its candidates before you start brainstorming can give you a frame of reference through which to view and consider your stories and perhaps help you identify which might be most compelling ones to include in your application. But let us be clear that we are not saying the stories you share must reveal all or even any of these traits. As always, keep the focus on you—your unique experiences and what you want the admissions committee to know about you.

  • In addition, Kellogg’s online application includes some very brief questions about your short- and long-term goals. Although you might naturally discuss your goals at some point in your written essays, be aware that you are not required to do so because you are prompted elsewhere to share them.
  • Kellogg gives candidates ample opportunities to share who they are really throughout the submitted application. Most schools accept only a written application, but Kellogg also asks every applicant to submit video responses to multiple prompts. Some candidates are intimidated by this video component, but we at Gatehouse see it as a boon for applicants. After all, the more opportunities you have for the admissions committee to get to know you, the better.

Essay 1:  Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)

  • First and foremost, Kellogg’s prompt is asking for a story. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end; they take place in a certain time and location; and they have a protagonist—which in this case is you.
  • What is equally important is that Kellogg wants a specific kind of story—one in which you are a leader who faced challenges, created value, and learned something. Whatever story you tell, it must check each of these boxes. Practically speaking, this means that your essay should describe the specific challenges you encountered (and how you worked through them), the results of the story (the value you created), and what the experience ultimately taught you.
  • The STARR format (Situation, Task, Actions, Results, Reflection) is a very effective tool for helping you construct your story.
  • When choosing which story to tell, remember that “leadership” comes in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps you were the assigned or elected leader of an initiative, team, or project. Great! Depending on the experience, that might be an excellent story to share. But do not discount stories of when you acted as a thought leader, an informal leader, a leader from behind or the middle, a solo entrepreneur, or some other kind of unconventional principal figure. Each of these can also demonstrate compelling leadership.
  • You can focus in your essay on an experience in the workplace or on something outside of work, such as an extracurricular activity. Generally, we discourage applicants who have been working for more than three years from sharing a story from college unless it is incredibly powerful. But if you do elect to discuss a college-era experience in this essay, consider focusing on professional experiences in your other essay.
  • Given this essay prompt, you have no need to discuss your goals or why you are interested in attending Kellogg. Only do so if these things are somehow integral to the rest of the story you are sharing.

For additional support, view our video workshop on crafting business school essays. In it, you will learn several strategies for effective writing.

Essay 2:  Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)

  • Although you might be tempted to look at what Kellogg seeks in its candidates and try writing an essay that demonstrates that you possess those values, you should instead start by looking inward. Remember that ultimately, Kellogg wants to build a class of diverse students. Focus on what motivates and truly represents you, not what you think the school might want to hear.
  • Also, recognize that values are somewhat fluid—they can be whatever you define them to be. Sometimes, candidates believe they must pick a well-recognized, conventional “value,” such as loyalty, humility, or compassion. Although these can certainly work, so can, for example, love of family, creativity, a desire to help others, or striving to do your best. (We are italicizing these examples just to highlight them; you do not need to italicize your selected value[s] in your essay.) The options are almost as numerous as applicants! Rather than trying to label your value and worrying about whether it qualifies as a “true” value by conventional standards, think about what motivates and guides you at your core. Such personal exploration will reveal the values that are genuinely the most important to you. Try to identify one or two values to highlight. You could include as many as three, but the school’s 450-word limit makes covering any more than that very challenging.
  • After identifying the values you want to discuss, think about examples from your life that can prove these values are important to you. Your goal with this essay is to help the admissions committee get to know you better as a person, not to endorse or explain a certain value. By offering personal examples that demonstrate how and why the values you are highlighting have guided you, you will give the school valuable insight into what makes you
  • As with the other required essay, you do not need to discuss your goals or interest in Kellogg here. However, if either topic relates in some important way to your values, you can certainly include it in your essay.