Our Insider Top Tips on Applying to Ten Top Schools – Kellogg

August 29, 2014 | by Matt Symonds

In our Fortuna Admissions series of ‘Top Tips’ for applying to top business schools, today we’re looking at the Kellogg School of Management. Sometimes stereo-typed as the school for marketing, Kellogg is so much more and it’s no wonder why McKinsey recruits more MBAs from Kellogg than any other U.S. school. With am emphasis on teamwork – ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ – Kellogg is known for its collaborative style of learning and a close-knit community. However don’t be fooled by the school’s friendly, inviting nature when visiting the school, as admission to Kellogg is fiercely competitive with over 5,500 applicants applying for 465 spots in the full-time MBA program.

For our first three insider admissions tips for Kellogg, see below, and to receive the remaining tips, click here. Also, be sure to check out the Fortuna Admissions blog for insider tips on HBS, Stanford, MIT Sloan and, soon to come, tips for Wharton, Chicago, Columbia, Kellogg, NYU Stern, INSEAD, and LBS.

Tip #1 – Play to your strengths, even if they seem conventional

Kellogg prides itself on building a truly diverse class across many dimensions. One of the signature traditions during orientation is for the Dean of Admissions to give a speech called “One of You” that runs down a list of remarkable highlights about new students. This means there’s a place for you based on your true, authentic self. The key is to embrace your genuine story even if it seems entirely normal – failing to do trips up more applicants than you can imagine. If you’ve taken a traditional path in banking because that’s your interest, then own that. After all, an entire class can’t be filled by Peace Corps workers who started their own microfinance funds. And if you try to spice up your application with details or stories that read falsely, officers will easily be able to identify them. 

Tip #2 – Differentiate yourself based on your conventions

In fact Kellogg has become so diverse that more conventional paths can stand out. This is particularly true if you’re coming from finance with plans to potentially stay in that industry or make a pivot from, say, private equity to investment banking. There is concern in some quarters that the program has embraced the poets at the expense of the quants. While this effort reflects a shift among the applicant pool (and the broader decline of finance as the prestige MBA path), the school is very much attuned to applicants with a linear story and exceptional quant skills.

Tip #3 – Recognize that culture really does matter – and know what that means

As the Kellogg culture has become more deeply ingrained, the need to preserve it has been heightened. The Admissions team feels a real sense of obligation to protect what makes the school unique and many aspects of the application have some component aimed at identifying if the student is the right fit. Kellogg’s Dean Blount expresses it as impact without ego, and that’s about as good a definition as exists. Another way to think about the culture is like this: The program will force you to work in teams constantly and most people can be dependable peers for an hour at a time. But what if you’re in hour 12 of case analysis? Do you still have the maturity to be just as diplomatic as in hour 1? Or, if everyone in the group wants to be the leader, do you have the poise to switch roles and become the facilitator to get everyone on the same page? Strong applicants will show situational awareness and examples of how they can work in lots of different types of teams.

Get additional tips on Kellogg and for other b-school application tips see our Fortuna videos.

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