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NOTE: For the latest information on written and video essays, please see this new post updated for the 2022–2023 application cycle.

By Jennifer Hayes, Director of Admissions for the One-Year Program

Over my 15 years in admissions at Kellogg I have read A LOT of essay questions. I am often asked about the “best essays” and believe me, there have been many wonderful answers. And I will write about what makes an essay a good one, but first let me start with some basics.

Five tips on acing the written essays on the Kellogg application

  1. We have two essay questions for all Kellogg applicants. Should you be applying to a specialty program (1Y, MMM, JD-MBA) there is a third. If you are a re-applicant we ask that you address what has changed since your previous application.
  2. There is specific guidance on font, spacing and word limits. We also ask that you restate the question at the top of each essay. Please follow these guidelines.
  3. The two essays for all applicants come to a total of 900 words. That’s not much real estate. Please be judicious in how you use this space and tell us only things that are meaningful to you. Using similar examples in both questions may not provide the breadth we are looking for. If there is detail you need to tell us about that doesn’t relate to leadership or values, use the additional information section so as not to detract from the question being answered.
  4. About that additional information section: It’s not an optional essay. We hope you use it as a place to write something you need to tell us, rather than putting it into a place it doesn’t belong.
  5. There is no right way to answer our questions. Each applicant’s interpretation of the question and the examples that resonate are different, and we love that!  For the first essay on leadership, we are looking for one recent example of an impactful leadership experience. A work example is most common, but if you have had a unique opportunity as a leader through an extracurricular, don’t shy away from sharing. We ask for description of a challenge you encountered and a strong reflection on what you learned. In the second essay on values, we are looking for you to focus on how your values have guided your decisions and influenced life choices. Be honest! Values morph, so if they have changed over time we’d like to hear about that too.

So you want to know how to write the best essay?  Be yourself. Be open. Spend time thinking broadly about your path, your accomplishments, and why or how you’ve gotten to where you are today. While some of this may not be directly related to the essay questions, putting time in for deep reflection will help you develop more meaty responses. The beauty is that we are not looking for one answer; we are looking for the story YOU wish to tell.  The best essays I’ve read have heart, are not over-edited, and let the applicant’s personality emerge (even though you might not realize this is what you are doing). Have someone who knows you really well read your essays. Do they sound like you, rather than just answers to a question? And have fun! We look forward to learning about you in the essays!

Read the full MBA Application Series to gain insights on other sections of the Kellogg application.