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Kellogg MBA Application Essay for 2023-24

The following two essays are required of all applicants:

  • Question 1(450 words): Kellogg Leaders are primed to tackle today’s pressing concerns everywhere, from the boardroom to their neighborhoods. Tell us about a time in your life where you’ve needed a combination of skills to solve a problem or overcome a challenge. Which skills did you use? What did you accomplish?
  • Question 2 (450 words): At Kellogg, our values are based on research that concludes organizations comprised of leaders with varied backgrounds and perspectives outperform homogeneous ones. How do you believe your personal and professional experiences to date will help to enrich the Kellogg community?

Certain applicants will respond to an additional question about their interest in our specialty programs.

Reapplicants will receive a prompt about their growth since their last application: How have you grown or changed personally and professionally since you previously applied and what steps have you taken to become the strongest candidate you can be? (250 words)

Kellogg MBA Winning Sample Essay – 1

Kellogg MBA Essay 1: Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (approximately 450 words)

If I were to pick a quote to personify myself it would be “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” by Quincy Adams.

I was raised in a traditional South Indian family that believed women are to be married young, bear children and live forever taking care of them.  While this is an ideal way of life for some, it wasn’t for me. 

In the year 2014, a year after our marriage, my husband vocalized his intent to take a break from his career and pursue medical residency and if I would be willing to support him. As a young independent individual, I was more than happy to support my husband, and we decided that we were in it together as a team. However, our parents were opposed to this idea as they are very traditional. They argued that my husband should find steady work, and I should be staying home taking care of the family. Nevertheless, during this period, I stepped up to handle a career at Ogilvy & Mather as a software developer where I partnered with a team to incubate a new initiative and in parallel, I also made sure the home and parents were taken care of. At the end of the 4 years, after a lot of ups and downs, my husband completed his exams and residency. He secured a medical director job at a top pharmaceutical company.

Once my husband completed his exams, I took another step that our parents did not agree with by taking the entrepreneurial route and to build a publishing platform. With the help of three other founders, We co-founded a content creation platform called “Medium Theory” which was a next-gen destination that focused on women. The platform published content on careers, technology, news, politics, mental health and entertainment for women. We bootstrapped the platform with six team members where I was a product manager that was responsible for defining the roadmap and initiatives we pursued. We successfully grew the platform to more than 500 unique monthly users and were working with recognized brands and freelance content creators which was a successful start to my dreams. 

These are the two instances where I exemplify Quincy’s quote but for myself.  In both these examples, I did not lead big teams but these are big situations that have pushed me to challenge my own status quo. Going against your family is never easy but I learned to use that criticism to power through and succeed. I refused to be bound by archaic roles and dared to dream more, do more and become more.

Kellogg MBA Essay 2: Values are what guide you in life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (approximately 450 words) 

For me, being able to deeply touch and impact another life in a positive way is the most profound satisfaction. One of my principles in life is to make a positive impact in this world in my lifetime.

I have been in a lot of circumstances where I was underestimated and was given a secondary consolation position just because I was a woman. Education has empowered me to think, take action, control the situation and eventually break the barriers of my surroundings. Having broken my own barriers and knowing that there are many other women and children in similar situations inspired me to help empower them.

I am an active member of “pledge 1%” and for the past three years, I have been volunteering and mentor for ‘girls who code’ where I teach high school students about programming in the NJ/NY area. I also dedicate my time to provide mentorship and career guidance for students entering their first jobs after graduation. I have mentored seven students to date that have grown into their respective careers and working with three other students that are graduating in 2020.

Another value that deeply resonates with me is being persistent for what I care about and what I want to achieve. Over the years, I have developed this innate quality to go towards a goal with whatever it takes to make it happen. The very first instance when I learned about this innate persistence of mine was during high school. I was not great at academics and outside of that the one thing that I really enjoyed was volleyball and I became so deeply passionate about it that I spent sixteen hours a day training and learning the skill. Still, I failed the first two selection trials for my school team but the passion for the sport did not let me down. I worked on figuring out my shortcomings with my coach and focused on building chemistry with other players to work together as a team and succeed. To improve, I increased playing with the team and not just by myself. I also took up throw-ball and badminton to understand and learn team strategy. I eventually ended up playing for my school at the state and national level during the next consecutive years.

Through all my highs and lows in playing as a team I learned how important being passionate is and if you want to achieve something, you have to figure out if you really care about it and if you are ready to give it your heart and soul.

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Kellogg MBA Winning Sample Essay - 2

I have always had a passion for singing, and at my university, I was the president of our Choir group. We all had aspirations to compete and represent the Philippines in the World Choir Games, but just like with most artists, finances were a major hurdle that stopped all the previous choir groups from following their aspirations.

When I became the university choir president, I inspired everyone to atleast put in an effort and try for it. I asked choir member who were marketing majors to partner with communication majors to craft sponsorship packages and portfolios. Computer science majors coded it into websites, while fine arts majors designed the interface. While our strengths complemented, sometimes our perspectives clashed. But with our motivation towards a shared vision and with some active listening and open communication, we resolved our challenges and conflicts. 

We finally managed to raise $120,000 for our competition tour. We won 8 competitions across Europe, including the World Choir Games, where we bested 72 countries. Even today, when choir members of my university look for sponsors, they still benefited from the prestigious title we earned. 

I realized that inspiring everyone towards a shared goal and empowering people’s strengths was my leadership style and I bring this quality with me to my professional experiences as well. During the pandemic, Meta hosted a ‘hackathon’ with the objective of building solutions to help the community. Now, because of my passion and background in music, I knew most of the live performance art musicians were struggling during COVID times because all performance venues were closed. That is why I envisioned a Facebook Live Concert Series to raise funds for musician communities.

My concept was simple–turn Facebook Live into a new virtual stage for musicians and enable audiences to easily donate for the performance. While I recruited a strong team but engineers wanted to create a complete and sophisticated product, while others pushed for simplicity and speed. In the end, I always educated my team that we should focus on the end customer and work backward from their needs and what they would be able to use. This philosophy helped us design a very simple Live concert feature with an easy-to-donate button always displayed on the live stream. This feature was a hit and our initiative raised $2.4 million via 170 music concerts hosted within 3 months. The donate button still exists today and is now heavily used by NGOs.

With these experiences, I do believe I embody the values of a leader who educates, equips, and inspires his team to create lasting value and now I would love to bring these attributes to Kellogg.

I grew up visiting my dad in a prison. This expereince forced me to embraced the value of integrity and resilience from an early age. 

My dad was obsessed with money, power, and sex. He owned the country’s largest motor oil distribution company which made him the Tan family’s most successful businessman. However, his greed led to unethical business practices. He mixed original motor oils with cheaper oils and repacked them to improve margins. The more people he deceived, the higher the profits he earned. His love for money continued when he got involved in distributing illegal drugs. Similarly, his power and money attracted an adulterous lifestyle.

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” – Stevie Wonder

I saw how he quickly soared and crashed. When the principal company discovered the unethical practices they terminated his distribution license and my father went bankrupt. He got arrested for drug trafficking, and my mom became distant after learning about the mistresses. While having money, power, and sex isn’t bad in and of itself, I believe it’s destructive when gained without integrity.

My moral principles have been my guiding light all my life, especially during difficult situations. I remember when my closest colleague at Meta asked me to convince my client to share a data set which had sensitive information. He was pressed out of time for his product test and told me he just needed a sample size of 50 people in the data. Although I can easily convince my client for the “low-risk” request, I advocated that respecting privacy and security should have no compromise regardless of 50 or 5 people. This could have jeoprodized my closest friendship but the real test of values happen in such difficult times only. In the end, I convinced him to follow due process and committed accelerating tasks within my control. His test was delayed for almost 2 weeks, but we had peace and confidence in doing the right thing.

I knew this importance of integrity because of my dad, but my resilience was inspired by my mom. Amidst all the challenges, she pivoted from being a full-time housewife to becoming the highest achiever in her company. She turned trophies into paperweights while single-handedly raising her two sons. 

Today I remain resilient and strive for excellence to honor my mom’s sacrifice. Despite the challenges and circumstance, I became the first on our family to work outside of philippines. Although my ambition was paused by the Meta layoffs, but just like my mom, I remain optimistic that I can turn my biggest adversities into life’s greatest opportunities.

Kellogg MBA Winning Sample Essay - 3

A quote that has stuck with me the most is ‘Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.’ by Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi has been my idol and following in his principles I have imbibed the value of democratic leadership.

The first few significant leadership responsibilities that I remember shouldering was as the captain of my college’s hockey team and President of Film and cinematography club. Team sports and film making both are pursuits which allows us to explore our physical limits and mental creativity respectively. But at the same time leads to dissent when ideas collide and directions differ. When my Hockey team was divided on game strategy and player formation. I sourced each player’s suggestion on strategy and mapped their skills and desire in terms of where they wanted to play. This form of inclusive leadership allowed every player to feel welcomed and play to his strengths which helped us win a silver medal. Similarly during film making whenever there were disagreements, I facilitated structured daily meetings to mobilize actors, editors, and cinematographers to share roadblocks and dependencies. This built empathy and increased cross-functional efficiency and overall satisfaction. As a result, we were able to win the third prize in an inter college competition for our movie.

I have carried forward the same leadership principle at my work as well. My company Sonder’s is a hospitality service provider. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our entire business crashed, as hospitality demand evaporated, and our apartment rates tumbled. It attracted poor quality tenants and guests which increased damage to our property and risk to our operations team members. The Revenue team was under pressure to bring in revenue which in turn put pressure on operations team to go out in the field and fix issues which endangered their lives. 

I strongly advocated the safety of our employees, and led cross-functional brainstorming sessions to share these pain points from the operations team, and requested Ideas from the revenue team to come up with a better business strategy. This collaboration and transparency drove unanimous alignment. Finally, we modified our revenue strategy, pricing algorithms, and operational workflow to incentivize safer guests, thereby helping meet our revenue goals. When these results were communicated in the stand-ups, the same strategy was adopted across Sonder 3 international offices.

These experiences cemented my belief that successful leadership of cross-functional teams embodies efficient cooperation amongst diverse sets of stakeholders and the ability to make compromises that are agreeable to everyone. At Kellogg, I aspire to continue learning how to approach problems from varied perspectives by uniting talented diverse teams towards a common goal. 

Growing up, I was afraid of wasting even an ounce of water. I initially could not rationalize her obsession with water conservation until I found out that She had grown up in the most arid area in India and had to carry a pot of water for six miles each day to secure drinking water for her family. As an educator and an engaged citizen, she now actively organises rainwater harvesting camps in villages and urban slums. 

I was doing my bachelor’s from IIT Madras, an Ivy league engineering college in India and I had multiple internship offers from fortune 500 companies. But inspired by my mother’s work, instead of interning in fortune 500 companies, I came back to my village and decided to enrol in a three-month volunteer program where I worked to increase drinking water access in rural villages.

As I tasted the smelly, murky, and saline water my host family in Kotri village regularly drank, I knew my work had purpose. The only functioning solar-powered desalination plant was insufficient to supply drinking water for all families in Kotri and the shortfall was affecting almost 200 families on a regular basis. I collaborated with villagers and local staff to quantify the daily clean water needs and then partnered with technicians and local architects to design and expand the plant.  I lobbied with government programs to secure a state-sponsored subsidy, which allowed us to buy subsidized equipment. Within 3 months, we successfully expanded the solar water plant, providing a clean water supply for 200 additional families.

Later, after graduation, I started my professional journey with KPMG as a business analyst. However, I couldn’t find the same level of job satisfaction and purpose at KPMG which I experienced during my internship. 

Therefore, I quit KPMG after the first year and returned to my home state to join Frontier Markets, a clean energy nonprofit working with Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to solve energy and business problems in rural India.  Here I led the development of a social e-commerce platform which rural entrepreneurs can use even with low cost smartphones and slow internet connectivity speed of 2G. We took inspiration from the M-pesa model in Africa and created a minimalistic application that helped small businesses to sell a variety of products, accept payments, and address repair and maintenance requests.

These projects, amplified the core value in my life is to alleviate lives of disadvantaged communities and to always prioritize it over materialistic pursuits.

These projects helped me witness the dire lack of basic amenities that plagues much of the rural communities and motivated me to devote 2 years of my career to alleviate their lives to build a more inclusive and leveled playing field for all of us. In future, I wish to continue to combine persistence with willingness to support disadvantaged communities by creating internet products for the small and medium business owners in the developing countries.

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