Kellogg Mba Essay Questions

Northwestern / Kellogg Recommendation Questions 2017-2018

The Kellogg application is live for the Class of 2020 — meaning that the Kellogg recommendation questions for the 2017-2018 admissions season are now available to recommenders of Northwestern applicants. Recommenders are asked to provide background information about their relationship with the applicant, rate them on a series of leadership-related skills and qualities, and briefly respond to four questions about constructive feedback and how the applicant compares to others.


2017-2018 Northwestern / Kellogg Recommendation Questions

Are you a Kellogg Alumnus?

Have known candidate since:

Please comment briefly on the context of your interaction with the applicant and his/her role in your organization. (250 characters)

What has been the candidate’s most significant contribution to your organization? Provide measurable impact if applicable. (250 character)


Leadership Assessment

Listed below you will find a section listing some competencies and character traits that contribute to successful leadership. For each item, please select the response corresponding to the behavior that the candidate most typically exhibits. Your candid, honest appraisal of the candidate will be helpful to the Admissions Committee.

Please assess the candidate on the following skills/qualities.

Results Orientation

  • Invents and delivers best in class standards and performance
  • Introduces incremental improvements to enhance business performance using robust analysis
  • Exceeds goals and raises effectiveness of organization
  • Overcomes obstacles to achieve goals
  • Fulfills assigned tasks
  • No Basis

Strategic Orientation

  • Implements a successful strategy that challenges other parts of the company or other players in the industry
  • Develops insights or recommendations that have shaped team or department strategy
  • Develops insights or recommendations that have improved business performance
  • Identifies opportunities for improvement within area of responsibility
  • Understands immediate issues of work or analysis
  • No Basis

Team Leadership

  • Recruits others into duties or roles based on insight into individual abilities; rewards those who exceed expectations
  • Actively engages the team to develop plans and resolve issues through collaboration; shows how work fits in with what others are doing
  • Solicits ideas and perspectives from the team; holds members accountable
  • Assigns tasks to team members
  • Avoids leadership responsibilities; does not provide direction to team
  • No Basis

Influence and Collaboration

  • Builds enduring partnerships within and outside of organization to improve effectiveness, even at short-term personal cost
  • Brings others together across boundaries to achieve results and share best practices
  • Generates support from others for ideas and initiatives
  • Engages others in problem solving
  • Accepts input from others
  • No Basis


  • Presents views clearly; solicits opinions and concerns; discusses them openly
  • Presents views clearly and demonstrates understanding of the response of others
  • Presents views clearly and in a well-structured manner
  • Is generally to the point and organized
  • Sometimes rambles or is occasionally unfocused
  • No Basis

Information Seeking

  • Involves others who would not normally be involved including experts or outside organizations; may get them to seek out information
  • Does research by making a systematic effort over a limited period of time to obtain needed data or feedback
  • Asks a series of probing questions to get at the root of a situation or problem
  • Personally investigates problems by going directly to sources of information
  • Asks direct questions about problem at hand to those individuals immediately available
  • No Basis

Developing Others

  • Inspires and motivates others to develop by providing feedback and identifying new growth opportunties as well as supporting their efforts to change
  • Gives specific positive and negative behavioral feedback and provides unfailing support
  • Points out mistakes to support the development of others
  • Focuses primarily on own abilities
  • No Basis

Change Leadership

  • Builds coalition of supports and coordinates change across multiple individuals; may create champions who will mobilize others to change
  • Promotes change and mobilizes individuals to change behavior
  • Defines positive direction for change and persuades others to support it
  • Challenges status quo and identifies what needs to change
  • Accepts status quo; does not see the need for change
  • No Basis

Respect for Others

  • Uses understanding of others and self to resolve conflicts and foster mutual respect
  • Is respectful to all and generous with praise; ensures other opinions are heard
  • Is humble and respectful to all
  • Generally treats others with respect; usually shares praise and credit
  • Is sometimes self-absorbed or overly self-interested
  • No Basis


  • Is reliable and authentic even at some personal cost; works to ensure all members of the organization operate with integrity
  • Is reliable and authentic even at some personal cost; acts as a role model for the values of the organization
  • Acts consistently with stated intentions even in difficult circumstances
  • Generally acts consistently with stated intentions
  • Shows occasional lapses in trustworthy behavior
  • No Basis

Based on your professional experience, how do you rate this candidate compared to her/his peer group?

  • The best I’ve encountered in my career
  • Outstanding (Top 5%)
  • Excellent (Top 10%)
  • Very good (well above average)
  • Average
  • Below Average
  • No Basis

If needed, please explain any rankings above.

Do you recommend this candidate for Kellogg?

  • Recommend the candidate
  • Recommend the candidate with reservations
  • Do not recommend the candidate

Are you willing to speak with an admissions officer about this candidate?


Recommendation Upload

Tell us about a time the candidate was proactively open to a situation, person, or new experience: a time when they sought to engage with difference, put themselves in a situation outside of their comfort zone, or actively sought to gain a new perspective from others. (300 words)

How does the candidate’s performance compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)

Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the candidate. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)

(optional) Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Posted in: Recommendation Questions, Recommendations

Schools: Northwestern / Kellogg

Round out your MBA application with stellar recommendations!

Purchase our Recommendation Guide.


Northwestern / Kellogg Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Now that Northwestern has announced the Kellogg essay topics for the 2017-2018 admissions season, we wanted to offer our advice to applicants who are targeting that program’s Class of 2020.

The format for Kellogg’s essays remains the same as last year’s: applicants will respond to two required essays in a maximum of 450 words each. While the adcom has maintained the prompt about growth, a new prompt hones in on creating lasting value as a leader.

Northwestern / Kellogg MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Let’s take a closer look at each of the Kellogg MBA essays for 2017-2018.

Essay 1

Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value.  Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value.  What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
This question asks the candidate to recount a leadership experience in which they had a substantial impact, and also involved overcoming challenges and learning something that will continue to serve them in future situations. The word “brave” also stands out as an important descriptor in this prompt, as, in thepast, Kellogg has asked applicants to explain how they “Think Bravely.” According to Dean Sally Blount, thinking bravely refers to thinking outside of the box and being unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom.  With that in mind, you’ll want to choose leadership examples that showcase not only your ability to rally others around you and guide them toward an objective, but also your ability to do so in an innovative way.

Regarding the sorts of examples that one might cover, the wording of this question is technically wide open to personal and professional experiences. Moreover, rather than gauging the significance of an experience solely in dollar amounts or percentages, we encourage applicants to attend to the follow up question about the challenges faced and lessons learned. Whether the challenge was logistical (like stretching yourself to coordinate across internal teams while managing a client’s expectations) or interpersonal (such as developing a good working relationship with an adversarial colleague), effective responses will highlight a transferable skill that was formed or strengthened during this process. Of course, the end result must be lasting and positive.

With respect to structure, we recommend a basic STAR approach for this response. Begin by describing the situation, the players, and stakeholders involved before moving into the task: what you needed to accomplish in your leadership goal. You should also lay the groundwork for the challenges you encountered in this introduction, identifying the factors or relationships you would need to navigate to be successful. You should then move into the action, providing a chronological account of how you moved through the project or process. It would likely make narrative sense to introduce the challenges and how you overcame them as part of this narrative rather than addressing this in a separate section.

Finally, you should comment on the result — the outcome of your leadership efforts and the resolution of the story. Given the focus on “lasting value,” this will likely involve a comment on a positive impact and happy clients, customers, or stakeholders. The response should then conclude with a reflection on the lessons you learned, and perhaps a comment on how they have served you since and/or how they position you to add real value to the Kellogg community.

Essay 2

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
This two-part question asks about past growth — either personal or professional — as well as the applicant’s plans to continue developing in important ways during his or her MBA studies.

While the latter part of the prompt is fairly focused, the first query is quite open ended; this part of the discussion can be drawn from any aspect or era of the applicant’s life. To narrow the scope, we suggest that applicants remain mindful of Kellogg’s even-stronger-than-average emphasis on the program’s collaborative student culture. It would therefore make sense to identify past growth that now makes you an even better potential student, classmate, colleague, and friend to other members of the MBA community. This can still take virtually any form; you might write about learning to handle ambiguity during a turbulent time at work, growing as a teammate under a demanding supervisor, developing more patience and compassion while caring for a sick relative, tapping into your focus and resilience in overcoming an illness or injury, or becoming more comfortable and authentic in an important aspect of your identity. Effective essays will touch on 2-3 areas or experiences and comment on the growth that occurred, and link these to ways the applicant might contribute to the Kellogg community. In choosing what sorts of experiences to highlight, applicants would likely do well to strike a balance between personal and professional examples.

As for the growth that the applicant will undertake at Kellogg, this section should likely touch on the candidate’s mid- to long-range professional plans. After all, this is (presumably) the primary reason you’re applying to MBA programs. Identifying the industry or sector one hopes to enter and the impact one hopes to make through one’s career — even in 1-2 sentences — can help to establish the context for the professional growth the applicant hopes to achieve. Naturally, it will also make sense to comment on how you intend to accomplish this growth (and to demonstrate your familiarity with Kellogg’s offerings) by naming specific courses, programmatic offerings, and student organizations that are aligned with these objectives. As for personal growth, you might also want to identify management skills you hope to refine or identify a hobby in which you’d like to deepen your involvement — and, of course, name a corresponding feature of the Kellogg program or community that would facilitate this. Given that Kellogg places such a strong emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, also consider how the community itself would help you grow. You will be interacting daily with a talented group of peers—how do you hope to be challenged or enlightened accordingly? It will be important to develop a good sense of the growth opportunities available at Kellogg; visiting the campus or attending information sessions, speaking with students and alumni about the growth they’ve experienced, or learning about the program through our in-depth Clear Admit School Guide to Kellogg will pay dividends here.

Structurally, the school asks applicants to cover a fair amount of ground in just 450 words. It will therefore be important to make judicious use of space. We recommend that applicants aim to cover past growth in 200-250 words in order to have ample room to discuss their plans for growth while on the Kellogg campus.

Re-applicant Essay

Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 word limit)
The framing of this question suggests that the adcom is more interested in proactive steps toward material improvement of one’s candidacy, as opposed to a reflective discussion of personal growth (in fairness, the growth angle is well covered in the school’s required essays). Applicants should therefore focus on the specific ways they’ve worked to strengthen their candidacies over the past year (e.g. assuming more responsibility at work, attending conferences in line with your long-term professional goals, retaking the GMAT, or bolstering community involvement), and the reasons that they believe themselves to be a better applicant to Kellogg this time around.

Additional Information

If needed, use this section to briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (no word count)
The wording of this prompt signals that comments in this section should be limited to explaining potential liabilities or inconsistencies in one’s application. While applicants are free to write as much as they like here, we recommend a straightforward approach that uses as few words — and as little of the reader’s scarce time — as possible. Applicants who chose to respond to this essay should adopt a humble tone, acknowledge the issue without making excuses, and gently suggest other aspects of his or her candidacy that may help to compensate for this weakness.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Kellogg MBA essay topics! As you work on your Northwestern MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s offerings:

Posted in: Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

Schools: Northwestern / Kellogg


One thought on “Kellogg Mba Essay Questions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *