Kellogg published on its blog a series of six articles written by Beth Tidmarsh, director of MBA admissions, explaining what the admissions committee is looking for in candidates and the six categories used to evaluate them:

1.Intellectual ability – “Our goal is to be sure you can handle the rigor in the Kellogg classroom. Your undergraduate GPA, course selection and GMAT score help us assess your readiness. But we’re also invested in finding creative thinkers who can solve problems. Qualitative evidence of intellectual ability is going to come out in your essays, your interview and your recommendations. We truly take a holistic look at our applicants rather than relying only on a number.”

2.Work experience – “One thing that makes the Kellogg experience so rich is the wide variety of backgrounds — both personal and professional — in our student body. We admit applicants from diverse fields, with varying years of experience. We also analyze each applicant within the context of his or her own career path, rather than against each other. Our admissions officers are looking to understand how you’ve progressed and why what you’ve done is significant. Are you progressing faster than others at your same level? Did you get promoted more quickly? Have you taken on additional responsibilities?

The quality of your professional experience, regardless of where you are in your career, is what will stand out. A great way to make your application pop is to help us understand what the standards are within your industry and your particular company or organization. Some workplaces or careers are very structured about how someone can advance through the ranks, while others provide opportunities for leadership in other, less formal ways. One tip we will share: Think about how you would explain your job to a 10-year-old or your grandmother. Jargon and acronyms will often create confusion, so avoid them whenever you can. This is a great place to show us how you can communicate ideas across fields and disciplines.

By including your resume, you’re giving us a quick overview that highlights a few significant achievements of your work experience. Within your application, you can specify more about your day-to-day responsibilities, the nitty-gritty of how you operate in the working world. Capitalize on that extra space and don’t just copy your resume into the input fields! You have many chances to tell more about your career, so seize every one and make each part count in its own way.”

3. Professional Goals – “Ask any alum, and they will tell you that Kellogg was a pivotal point in his or her career. With your work experience, you’ve told us what’s led you to Kellogg. Outlining your professional goals will help us understand how a Kellogg MBA will bridge your past and future together.

The MBA program will expose you to a lot of great things to help you crystallize that path, but due to the nature of our programs, a lot starts happening very fast. (Have you heard about pre-term? We don’t waste a day getting you engaged.) Your time at Kellogg is going to fly by – and you are going to want to make the most of it by giving some serious thought for your reasons for pursuing an MBA. If you arrive without a clue what direction you’re headed, you’ll get overwhelmed pretty quickly. Knowing that our applicants have thought about the deeper reasons behind pursuing this degree — why they’re doing it, where they’re trying to go, how this education and their career fit together — helps students to hit the ground running once they arrive on campus.

We want to see a clear narrative that explains why you want this MBA. No answer is wrong, so feel free to talk openly about how this program and community will help you achieve that goal.”

4. Leadership – “Many people pursue an MBA to gain experience and improve their management and leadership skills. The Kellogg admissions team is looking for both demonstrated leadership in the past and an applicant’s leadership potential. Given the scope and range of our community, this means many different things. Someone with a military background will present different accomplishments than someone with a few years as a junior analyst, or a teacher. What showcases your leadership is going to depend on the path you’ve had and the organizations that you’ve been in, and we take that into account.

A few things will be similar, though. We look for those who have taken up new responsibilities and opportunities in whatever way they can, however their career path has allowed. Maybe this means you’ve led an initiative within your company, or it could mean that you’ve secured promotions quickly, or that you’re deeply involved with a volunteer commitment. Your roles don’t have to be formal, just indicative of your drive. The better you can help us see how these activities fit in with your overall career narrative, the more clearly we can think about how you might fit in with the Kellogg community.”

5. Impact – “Our team understands how demanding work can be, but pursuing interests outside the office helps maintain a balanced and engaged life. Our admissions committee wants to understand what fulfills our applicants outside of work, and how they’ve made an impact within an organization or a community that matters to them. In the United States, we think of that as “extracurricular activity,” but it applies all over the globe.
What matters here is quality of experience over quantity; two years of involvement with one activity means a lot more than eight brief commitments in eight different places. We like to see our applicants involved with something they’re passionate about. If it fits in with your personal career narrative — say you volunteer with a literacy organization, and you want to pursue education policy after Kellogg — that’s great. But for plenty of applicants, a personal passion or commitment is not directly connected to the career goals at all.”

6.Interpersonal skills – “Our community values collaboration, involvement and giving back, and we look for that in our applicants as well. A significant part of the Admissions process is ensuring a good fit between student and program. If you thrive in team-based environments, Kellogg might be a good fit for you.

The ability to work in teams doesn’t mean agreeing all the time, nor is it an easy approach. Team-based learning means you can push ideas, disagree respectfully and challenge each other, but also that you’re doing so in a way that’s both productive and conducive to a better outcome. Our ideal applicant likes to hear different viewpoints, respects others, can voice and challenge opinions and isn’t afraid to speak up, but can do so in a way that’s collaborative and would help further a group or a classroom conversation.

If everyone came from the exact same environment and was used to working in the exact same way, no one would learn much from each other. The diversity of perspectives and opinions in our community creates a rich arena for debate. Bringing together all those different perspectives enhances everybody’s experience. Learning to synthesize and negotiate those differences is a vital component of the Kellogg experience, too.”

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