Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
This is a tricky one. Created lasting value? First of all, that’s some serious sh*t. Second, how would you know if you actually created lasting value? It’s one thing to think that that’s the case. It’s another thing for it to be true, persistently. First thing’s first, we need to identify our story before we do anything else…
Creating lasting value implies bringing something new to the table. You changed a company’s algorithm for hiring: previously they’d focused on X, you inspired them instead to focus on Y. Or, you pursued a growth opportunity no one had ever considered before. It worked, and now it’s a stable and NEW source of revenue. There are a million versions. Whatever it is that you did … it can’t have been in the job description. It can’t have been something that was expected of you. It has to be something YOU brought to the table in a somehow surprising way. Think of your best few examples of that. That’s a good starting point.
Now, let’s talk about how you LED the thing. This particular leadership example requires proactively doing something that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. What were the stakes? What obstacles stood in your way? Why was it difficult? What were your personal risks? What propelled your forward in SPITE of those challenges? What were you hoping to achieve? Take us through your actions, bringing us into your thought process along the way. Let’s see how your gears work.
Finally, what did you learn during all of this? Did everything work out as expected? Congrats… you didn’t learn anything. There must have been twists. An instance when you were WRONG. An instance when you made a bad call. An instance when a certain challenge was HARDER than you expected it would be. An aspect of yourself that you had rated too highly, or not highly enough. Something that bumped along the way. Take us through the “before” and “after” here. Somewhere inside that delta of where you landed AFTER this experience should have POSITIVE implications for your NEXT leadership adventure. If you have an example, even better. If not, throw it into the future regardless, forecasting how you’ll APPLY some of the lessons learned here.
Part I – Setup the Situation. Explain the status quo you were hoping to disrupt. Or the boss’s directive. Whatever it was that led to your stepping into a leadership role and ultimately delivering something cool and NEW to the table. Set it up by explaining what the goal was, what the challenges were, why it was important, and what you stood to gain or lose. End this section laying out what would be required for “someone” to step in and lead this thing to success. (100 words)
Part II – Explain the leadership stuff. Take us through the “what you did” piece, step by step, decision by decision. Conflict to conflict. Inner debate, weighing options, eventual decisions. All of it. Lay it all out. (125 words)
Part III – How did this create lasting value? Now comes the tricky part. Where’s the evidence that this “was bigger than you,” and actually fundamentally changed things? First we need to learn of this in some verifiable way other than “you think it created value.” How did you come to learn of it? Walk us through that, and then explain in plain terms what that value actually means. It’s important to do this in the simplest of terms we can understand. (100-125 words)
Part IV – Wha’d Ya Learn? This is reflection time. Time to expose some of those bumps, bad calls, or incorrect assumptions. It doesn’t have to be “bad” but something that convincingly outs you as a REFLECTIVE individual. Put yourself on trial here, throw yourself under the microscope. Make a case for why the version of you at the END of this experience is better than the person at its BEGINNING. Try to wrap your mind around that… Something shifted along the way to IMPROVE you. What was it? Take your time to identify what those things might have been, and try to articulate it all as simply and clearly as you possibly can here. (100-125 words)
Now that we’ve handled that, on to Essay 2.
Read more and explore each step of the Kellogg full-time MBA application process here.
What are your short and long-term goals? Why is an MBA a critical next step toward achieving those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)
Sorry to say, but this is a bog standard MBA application essay: Give us your goals, explain why you need an MBA (and why you need it now) and finally, of all the programs out there, why Tuck specifically? Even the word count is standard. No real need to overthink this one, folks. Perhaps the best way to examine each piece is simply to dive into a template for how you may want to approach your first draft. That’ll give you some clay to mold, and the rest is easy.
Part 1 – Short-Term/Long-Term Goals
Before we get specific here, let’s take a giant step back first.
Is there a status quo out there you’re itching to disrupt? Is something broken somewhere that you’d like to fix? Has the stage been set somewhere for something incredible to happen, and it’s just waiting for a visionary leader to make it happen? If you have an answer to one or more of these questions, great! But not all “important” businessmen and businesswomen graduate with MBAs and then “change the world by themselves.” Goals can be much humbler, much simpler. The common ingredient between the Steve Jobses of the world as well as the VP of a family business somewhere in Luxembourg that no one has ever heard about is SUCCESS.
Business schools like success. Love, actually. Better to pitch INEVITABLE success on a small idea than QUESTIONABLE success on a game-changer. Keep that in mind as you’re setting up the problem or opportunity – get the reader’s buy-in on a cool opportunity, or problem that needs solving, and then deliver the knockout blow when you then make a convincing case that YOU’RE THE PERSON to step into the role of SOLVING that issue.
Once you have those pieces dialed in, now you can start to structure it. Generally, we like the following mini-structure of this opening section:
Step 1 – Establish the Problem/Opportunity
Open by throwing us into the problem that needs fixing, or the opportunity that needs exploiting. Like, throw us into the weeds, deep. Such that we’re in it, can taste it, feel it. Make it so that we develop the same ITCH you have to FIX it, or CAPITALIZE on it, whatever the case.
Then, explain very loosely, and at a very high level, what your overall goal is. Don’t give us your full-length long-term goals just yet. This is just the one-liner version to give us a nice frame for where things are headed.
Step 2 – Short-Term Battle Plan
Now, walk us through your short-term goals. This should read like a military battle plan. Precise, efficient, utterly logical; one step leads sensibly to the next. Again, the goal itself is less important than convincing the reader you have (1) thought it through, and (2) have developed an utterly logical plan of attack, that therefore (3) seems achievable. (Bonus points for contingency plans should things not go according to plan.)
Step 3 – Long-Term Impact/The Result of Your Success
Let this naturally segue into where it’s headed several years from now, the Long-Term vision. Less important is the job you want ten years from now. More important is what you hope to achieve by achieving. In other words, what happens to OTHERS if you succeed at your long-term goals? Is an industry impacted? Are people? What’s the EFFECT of it? Sell us on why THAT ASPECT is meaningful to you.
Part 2 – Why MBA Now?
Walk through a few key ingredients “SOMEONE (anyone)” would need in order to achieve all the things you’ve laid out. What’s necessary? Killer leadership skills? Institutional knowledge of the Oil & Gas industry? Nitty gritty IT skills? Cultural IQ pertaining to Southeast Asia? Experience handling teams greater numbering more than 50? Pick a handful, and simply establish what they are and why they’re important. Then, explain how you ALREADY HAVE… between, say, 60-80% of those things. But at some point… you hit a brick wall. Otherwise, you’d have skipped the whole MBA distraction, no? Something in your skill set/experience/knowledge base/etc. Is MISSING. Reveal what those things are HERE.
This segues perfectly into your argument for why it’s so crucial for you to pursue “an” MBA… now. You’ve done your job when after reading this section, your reader can say nothing other than, “makes perfect sense.” Don’t give us your resume here. Don’t sell us on how great your experiences are. This section is actually MUCH HARDER than you think, because of that temptation. Focus on the stuff you’re missing. That’ll help you throw SOME light on the good stuff you already have in the bag, while keeping you on track to satisfy the real challenge of this section which is “Does this kid GET what an MBA is, and therefore, is he/she the kind of person who will truly add value and absorb while here?”
Part 3 – Why Tuck?
Our favorite conceit here is to imagine receiving admit letters from all top 10 MBA programs. Yes, including Harvard and Wharton and Stanford. Why might you shrug your shoulders at those three, and consider Tuck instead? Why might you, in fact, turn DOWN those other invites, and go here? What is it about Tuck – specifically – that you believe will propel you toward your goals “better” than another program?
Imagine 10 parallel storylines, each one that results from going to Harvard, then Stanford, then Wharton, down the line. Imagine deltas between each one of them, resulting from whatever the differences may be between those programs. Why is the Tuck outcome more appealing to you? Why are your chances of success better when going through Tuck? What’s the secret sauce HERE that gives it an edge, given who you are, given what your goals are, given your strengths/weaknesses, etc.?
If your argument contains reasoning that can be applied to another program, it’s not a great argument. Likewise, if your argument can be applied to any old MBA candidate, but not necessarily to you specifically, not a great argument. The correct reasoning here applies a specific aspect of Tuck that maps specifically to you, specifically. In kind of a specific way. (P.S. Be specific.)
Now that that’s handled, shall we take a peek at Essay #2?
Learn more and explore each step of the Dartmouth Tuck School of Business full-time MBA application process here.