Kellogg Wants You to Be Yourself In a chat on BusinessWeek.com, Northwestern's Kellogg School director of admissions discussed application issues with prospective students By: Francesca Di Meglio
August 16, 2006, BusinessWeek.com
The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., consistently gets praised by students for its rigor and level of responsiveness to student feedback. As a result, a seat at Kellogg is among the most coveted.
In 2005, 24% of applicants were admitted to the school. It may not be easy to get into Kellogg, but it's definitely possible, says Beth Flye, assistant dean and director of admissions and financial aid at Kellogg. Flye (BethFlye2005), joined by student Colby McGavin (Colby_McGavin), recently fielded questions about the B-school's admissions policy and culture from B-schools community manager and reporter Francesca Di Meglio (FrancescaBW) and audience members. Here is an edited transcript of the chat event:
FrancescaBW: This first question comes to us from someone who couldn't join us today: If you are not absolutely sure of what you want to study, should you steer clear of business school? Or, will B-school help to narrow down your focus within a general facet of business, say marketing?
BethFlye2005: We don't expect a person to be absolutely sure of his or her career goal post-MBA, but we are looking for candidates who have direction. At the same time, one of the great benefits of an MBA program such as Kellogg is students can come in and be exposed to many other career paths that they may not have previously been very informed about, thanks to courses, career management, presentations from recruiters, and learning about the backgrounds and career interests of their fellow classmates.
animesh: What is the percentage of admission offers given every year?
BethFlye2005: The selectivity varies. The most important thing to us is the quality of the applicant pool, so of course when the [overall] pool declines, the selectivity may be higher. But it's important to know the quality of the pool. The pool continues to be one of high quality and diversity, which is what we want.
clinton: I have never worked for anyone or any company, and I have been managing my own business for the past eight years. I'm wondering who I should ask to write my recommendations since I cannot ask a direct supervisor.
BethFlye2005: In such a case, my advice would be to perhaps consult a client or a supplier. What's important is that this is a work-related person and that this person knows the applicant well and can answer the questions that we have on our career progress survey.
hiarlin: I'm planning on applying to the 2007 fall program, but I have about three and a half years of [work] experience (will be four years by fall '07). Is that too short?
BethFlye2005: No, again, what we're more interested in is the depth, breadth, and quality of an applicant's professional experience.
Guddu: What's the percentage of students who are in their mid-30s? How are the job prospects different for older students compared to average-aged students? Does the additional experience play to their advantage or is it a hindrance?
BethFlye2005: In terms of the percentage, it is a smaller number. But we're not factoring in one's age when we're evaluating applicants. If people in their mid-30s apply, we're going to be looking at the same things that we look for in every applicant: the quality of his or her professional work experience, and links from that to a person's professional goals.
I would say with great confidence that, overall, the job prospects are quite good, but as with any student, it depends on what type of industry or functional role that person is pursuing. Again, what we're looking for is the quality, breadth, and depth of their professional background. Of course, recruiters always welcome quality experience when they're interviewing our MBA students because that's going to be a greater value-added investment when they are hired.
romaldo1: What are the main points that Kellogg looks for in a prospective MBA student?
BethFlye2005: First of all, we look at a number of different areas. Our evaluative approach is one that is very holistic. By that, I mean no single area of criteria carries more weight than another. We're looking at the entire application package. For instance, we're certainly looking for evidence of strong intellect and academic ability, quality of work experience. Of course, we take into account the two letters of recommendation, the content of essays.
We also factor in the applicant's interview. And then other characteristics and qualities that we pull from the interview—essays, recommendations, including things such as maturity, ambition, fit with the culture, leadership experience, and potential. We certainly are also looking for the extracurricular and/or community involvements from their undergraduate years as well as post-undergraduate. Really, summing it up, we are looking for very high-quality candidates who are a good fit for Kellogg, and of course, who want to be at Kellogg.
FrancescaBW: Colby, can you tell us about how much work you have to do and what it's like to balance school and life at Kellogg?
Colby_McGavin: I am definitely very busy at Kellogg! Courses are challenging, and because Kellogg's academic program includes teamwork, I find myself spending a lot of time doing group work. I am also involved in several student clubs, and of course recruiting takes time as well. The culture at Kellogg is very strong and fun; I really enjoy spending time with my peers. To balance, I try to designate time every day to spend with my fiancé, and I also try to get to the gym. Taking a weekend—one a quarter—to go out of town is also a good way to balance.
acrago: What are the top three qualities or traits you look for in students at Kellogg?
BethFlye2005: I'm just going to list a couple here, but I would stress these are not in any kind of ranked order: Evidence of strong intellectual ability and evidence of potential for leadership.
Ribbonman5: If a student wants to pursue a career in sports management, is it better to obtain an MBA or a law degree?
BethFlye2005: Hmm, I guess my question would be: What does this person have in mind in terms of sports management? For instance, if this particular functional role would involve anything relating to legal contracts, then I could certainly see the value of a JD/MBA program, which of course we offer here at Northwestern. To give more insight about that, I would need to know more about exactly what you have in mind in terms of sports management.
s_terifete: Do you have any recommendations for what to make sure to do when making a campus visit (for example, preferred time of week, activities, courses)?
Colby_McGavin: Definitely visit a class and take a campus tour, which are led by current students. Ask students around the building to talk with you about their experiences. We love talking about Kellogg.
BethFlye2005: I would certainly echo Colby's suggestions. I would also add that every day at 2 p.m. CST, in the admissions office, we have an hour-long information session, and there's no advance reservation process. People can just come to the admissions office shortly before two, and one of the admissions officers will meet with the group.
Colby_McGavin: Also, if you happen to be in town on a Friday afternoon, at 5 p.m. CST the entire Kellogg community (students, families, and faculty) gathers in our atrium to celebrate the end of the week or "TG." It's a great chance to see Kellogg's culture in action.
s_terifete: What is Kellogg's competitive advantage in the field of marketing? How do you feel its program is better suited for today's marketplace?
BethFlye2005: The marketing program here is strongly based on a foundation of cutting-edge research, and that's ongoing in all of the academic areas in the school. One other thing I would add, in terms of being in a functional marketing role, is that our program has a strong element of quantitative rigor, which is extremely important.
Companies are expecting that from their marketing professionals. I want the folks out there who are interested in marketing and in coming to Kellogg to know that their marketing education here will have a strong base of quantitative rigor and a curriculum based on cutting-edge research.
scapillato: Do applicants to [Kellogg] have the opportunity to interview in Chicago or is it invitation only?
BethFlye2005: Yes, any applicant can always interview here at the Jacobs Center. Otherwise, if that's not their preference, an applicant can request an alumni interview. But to do that he or she must complete and submit part one of the application first.
FrancescaBW: I wanted to ask a question that is coming from many of our audience members. First, what is the application process like for international students? And does international work experience help or hurt your chances of getting in?
BethFlye2005: I'll answer the first question: There's not anything vastly different for an international applicant as compared to a U.S. citizen who is applying to Kellogg. One additional piece of information that would be necessary for the large majority of international applicants is the requirement of submitting an official TOEFL score.
Regarding international work experience, we would certainly take a look at the quality of this experience. What were this person's responsibilities? What did this person learn? Is there evidence of progress? And again, we would be asking the same question of a person working in their home country, whether that's the U.S. or any other country. Again, it comes back to the quality of their work experience.
Metaxa07: Generally, B-schools ask for two recommendations. Can one additional one be submitted?
BethFlye2005: I would advise that it's always wise for an applicant to follow the directions in the application information for each school. If an applicant wants to submit an additional recommendation with their Kellogg application, I strongly recommend that this person reference this third recommendation in the additional information section, just to explain why he or she asked this third person for a recommendation, to help us understand the reasoning behind the choice to do that.
FrancescaBW: If you can also comment on who should be writing recommendation letters, we would appreciate it. Many of the audience members are asking about that.
BethFlye2005: First of all, we require two recommendations. Those forms for the Kellogg application are called the Career Progress Surveys. The recommendations should be from someone work related, preferably a manager or someone to whom the applicant reports or has reported. In addition, what is most important for applicants to know is that they should be wise in choosing their recommenders, meaning they should choose someone who knows them well, can give thorough feedback, and of course is familiar with the applicant's goals with regard to business school.
Ribbonman5: What is your opinion of the rankings as determined by BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report?
BethFlye2005: I think rankings can provide some perspective and insightful information about MBA programs that can be helpful to applicants who are conducting their own research and due diligence about the different schools. However, the rankings are just one source of information and one of many different metrics of success about MBA programs.
Guddu: How family-friendly is the campus, especially for students with kids? How does the family get involved in the student community?
Colby_McGavin: Kellogg is very family-friendly. I don't have kids myself, but in my experience the community is very welcoming of partners as well as children. Our partners organization is called "Joint Ventures" or JVs, and they have a Web site you can check out. JVs are invited to all social events, and children are always welcome as well. I should add that JVs are also welcome to audit classes at Kellogg, which is a really neat opportunity.
scapillato: What can be done to enhance the application if you're finished with college and have taken the GMAT and only earned good scores but not stellar?
BethFlye2005: Always remember that regarding the GMAT score, that's just one area of criteria that we are looking at. We admit candidates with a range of scores. One piece of advice I always give applicants is to identify any areas where you can be proactive in strengthening your application, and also preparing yourself to be an MBA student.
For example, if someone is concerned about their quantitative readiness, I would recommend strongly considering taking a statistics or calculus course or a quantitative methods class. That's a proactive step as an applicant and that's beneficial coursework that will make them even more prepared for business school regardless of what program they ultimately choose.
Doug: How often do you encounter prospective students who are accepted into Kellogg but simply cannot afford to attend (even with loans, etc.)? What types of financial assistance could be available to an otherwise qualified prospective student?
BethFlye2005: U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been admitted to Kellogg can apply for financial aid here. Kellogg's financial aid is awarded based on merit and need, and these awards come in the form of grant funding. I would definitely encourage people to at least explore that option. Secondly, we also have an array of merit-based scholarships which we award throughout the admissions season.
There is no separate application for any of the merit-based scholarships, as we are always screening applications for potential scholarships as we make admission offers. Also, I am pleased to mention that we are very aware of the growing need for financial resources for students attending Kellogg, and one of the top priorities here at the school is fundraising for additional merit-based scholarships.
Lisanote: How do recruiters look at Kellogg graduates from the full- vs. part-time programs? Do recruiters feel there is better quality in one than in the other?
BethFlye2005: I work closely with my counterpart in the career management office, and I am very confident in saying that we have a variety of recruiters who come here to recruit both the full- and part-time students and graduates. The high quality is across the board with all of our programs here (see BusinessWeek.com, 1/18/06, "How Kellogg Grads Find a Home").
julianajkim: When assessing an applicant's past academic performance, does the admissions committee take into consideration the applicant's major (for example, noting the difference in rigor between a 3.5 GPA in the sciences vs. a 3.9 GPA in the arts or humanities)?
BethFlye2005: We take that into account, however, majors are different at different schools. We review their overall transcript and look at the courses that they have taken and look at the trend and overall academic performance.
regular_genome: Going back to the first question, to what degree should the career direction be reflected in the application? Should the applicant clearly know that they want to be a marketing manager, or would it be O.K. if they know that they want to enter the corporate world but are unsure which domain exactly?
BethFlye2005: Again, I will just stress that it is important that an applicant clearly articulate in the essays and in the interview their direction and career interest, and why they believe they need an MBA to achieve those goals.
FrancescaBW: Any parting advice for applicants?
BethFlye2005: Absolutely. First of all, I would encourage everyone out there who is interested in Kellogg to please come and visit. Any questions that candidates have about the admissions process or any aspects of Kellogg, they are welcome to contact our office.
We want to make sure they have 100% accurate information. I'd also say to everyone out there to please keep checking the events section of our Web site because we will most likely be coming to a city near you this fall. We would welcome you at one of our Kellogg information sessions.
Colby_McGavin: I definitely echo Beth's comments about visiting the campus. This is a wonderful place to spend two years and you will feel that as you visit classes and talk to students. Also, try to have fun with the application process. It may feel painful as you go through it, but it's a great opportunity to assess your own career goals and think about what you're hoping to get out of business school. When they tell you to just be yourself, they mean it!