This might be one of those posts that you “Favorite” – using that little button at the bottom of the post. Because if you’re in the U.S., you’re likely scrambling to get on the road today to make it home in time for a Thanksgiving feast tomorrow. But this post is probably one you’re gonna wanna read!!
Or hopefully not – hopefully you’re going to see admits from those Round 1 apps in just another very short few weeks! And you can say buh-bye to the ‘Snark and ride off into the MBA sunset (hopefully not before telling us that you got in! we always love getting the news of acceptances, so please update your SnarkCenter School Targets list before you disappear into your glorious new future!).
Today we’re talking about an actual BSer’s essay! For Kellogg!
This BSer sent in their intended Kellogg application materials to ask for a freebie review here on the blahg but alas, this came in too late for us to turn it around before the Kellogg Round 1 deadline. Hopefully their app has been received warmly in Evanston and this BSer is headed for good news when those decisions come ’round. If not (sad face) then maybe this post will be useful in figuring out a regroup strategy — and this post should certainly be useful for all of you who are looking for help on Round 2 applications. Those deadlines are indeed coming up fast!
This essay is for Kellogg essay 2 whose question is:
Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you?
My family home was a place of deep and wide-ranging discussions around the dining room table. Politics, history, and current affairs, were among the many topics that arose. My parents also encouraged me to read widely. They activated my curiosity and this has been critical in my life. It has made a difference in my career as I am always thirsty for new knowledge and therefore for new challenges. The decision to move from [Company 1] to [Company 2] was motivated by wanting to learn about many different industries and from professionals with a wide range of backgrounds. My drive to learn has helped me fast track my growth to better serve both my clients and teams.
We’re gonna interrupt things right there.
This essay can only be 450 words.
We’ve just read 117 of them.
And they say nothing. 🙁
It’s not that it’s devoid of all meaning. It’s just that it’s talking in really high-level language. We get the sense that this person comes from an intellectual family that is focused on education. Great! But that does not go deep enough. (And, it sets expectations that this applicant is going to have a solid GPA and high GMAT score, which based on what was shared from the profile, may not be the case.)
The thing with using words like “curiosity” and “thirsty for knowledge” is that they’re just too basic. You can absolutely start with something like that, but it’s the kind of thing that needs to be DEMONSTRATED.
So this is the classic advice we give over and over: We need to SEE THESE TRAITS IN ACTION.
Plus, we’re really concerned about seeing any professional content in this particular essay. It’s possible to include career-focused stories here, since “values” certainly extend to the workplace. You’re not going to check your values at the door when you come in to work every day. Quite the opposite. That’s one reason that Kellogg is asking this question. They want to know who you are.
But saying that you switched jobs because you wanted to learn stuff…. That’s just not saying anything.
Every single sentence in this opening paragraph is only operating at the surface. We’re getting generally a theme of “learning” from the paragraph, but it’s too long and roundabout for that, and none of it hits home as it could. It might work fine to use the opening line about the family dining table discussions, but from there, we really wanted something much more concrete about the BSer themself.
So what did we get in the second paragraph? Did this essay start to come together as it progressed down the page?
Here’s how it was presented to us:
My family also showed me the value of resilience. This requires positivism to turn negative situations into opportunities, and adaptability to change direction if necessary. These are teachings passed down by my great-grandparents who escaped the [political event that happened a very long time ago]. They changed their lives from farmers to colonizers to prosper in the [geographic region]. My grandparents and parents then moved to [city], the capital of [country], in search of opportunities, becoming entrepreneurs.
Now we’re just sad. 🙁
This has become an essay about other people.
It’s suffering from the same issue we warn about in the Kellogg MBA Application Guide and also have talked about relatives being entrepreneurs or being inspired by others who you have witnessed going through challenges.
Based on what was shared with us privately, we see that this particular BSer is coming from a less-crowded applicant pool in some ways — but it’s still a competitive sector, and Kellogg has become very selective. This essay simply did not do anything at all in helping this person to stand out for the admissions process. The main issue is that it’s going VERY broad on the topic, and veering all over the place. There are too many different themes being introduced, and it’s talking about the family instead of the applicant.
The best way to answer this question is to TELL A STORY ***ABOUT YOU***
Skip the family history. It’s just not meaningful in this context — or if you’re very attached to that, then cover it quickly, in two sentences at the most. Then you need to LINK IT TO YOU DIRECTLY. Why does that experience matter, how did it shape you? Not just that “everyone in our family was affected by this” because of traditions or family lore. In some cultures, that is indeed super important, but for the purpose of applying to business school, you need to have some appreciation of the opportunity at hand to present YOU. Your admissions reviewer is not considering your whole family for admission; they’re looking at YOU as an individual, to see what YOUR values are. You need to keep the focus there exclusively.
No idea if this person has enough other things going for them that they’re going to have celebrations happening from happy news from Kellogg — but this essay alone would not be the reason for the admit, if it comes. And if you’re in a crowded applicant pool, then being much more strategic, specific, personal, and precise in how you approach these questions will be critical.
So sorry for the negative take on this one but it’s suffering from all the common issues. This essay would have benefited from the full Essay Decimator process (or at minimum, a careful read of the Kellogg Essay Guide).
Hopefully this BSer is still around (and not totally gutted from reading this assessment) and will be able to share with us how things have gone so far. We’d love the chance to dig in further if it turns out to be necessary. Please give us an update!
You may also be interested in:
- essay critique! Kellogg “a time you have demonstrated leadership” (2018)
- essay critique! Yale “biggest commitment” (also 2018 – “commitments” should show “values” so there could be utility in reading up on our Yale advice too!)
- There’s totally time to submit your own essay for a possible freebie review! Any that come in over this long weekend have a high chance of getting discussed in the next few weeks as we ramp up to Round 2 deadlines here