Is Kellogg Really a ‘Party School’? Debunking Myths with a Second-year MBA Student
Updated: Jan 31
Rachel applied to Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in 2021. Her professional background was in supply chain technology. During her internship at Amazon, and later as a project manager at Cisco, she translated business requirements to technical implementation. Her goal was to use her MBA to drive technology adoption.
Now, she’s in her 2nd year of the MBA program at Kellogg, having completed a summer internship with Apple. We sat down with her to touch base and learn about her application journey, how Kellogg has helped her with her career development, and how admissions consulting worked for her.
Watch the full interview here:
Q. What surprised you about the Kellogg MBA?
Rachel: One of the things that Kellogg is really known for is its culture and its people. I’d wished for that to be true, and it is! So I wouldn’t say it necessarily surprised me so much.
One thing I noticed here is that there's a big culture of giving back here at Kellogg. As a first year, you’re looking up to your second-years, and getting help from them, since they have been in the program for longer and learned the ropes. Now, as a second-year, I’m enjoying paying that forward.
What does that look like on the ground? Well, during recruiting season, I’ve already had so many coffee chats with first-years, and I know my peers have done the same for consulting where it’s particularly important to get reps of case preparation. And we do it for free! I’ve heard that in some other MBA programs, the second-years actually charge the first-years a fee for doing case interviews! But over here at Kellogg, it’s all about camaraderie and giving back. I’ve been very happy that this has been my experience of Kellogg’s culture so far.
Q. Is Kellogg really a “party school”?
Rachel: I’d say that Kellogg is quite social. We’re located about an hour north of Chicago, which means that students typically live within a mile of each other. We see each other a lot. It’s not like we all just disperse into the city after school, so that does lead us to be very social.
In terms of being a party school, I think it depends on what you're looking for. We usually don't have classes on Wednesdays, so a lot of people like to go out or meet their friends on Tuesday nights. I’m not much of a party person myself - 9 pm means bedtime! I had no problem finding friends here who are more my speed. There's definitely something for everyone, but it’s fair to say we do tend to be more collaborative and social than other schools.
Q. What were the best Kellogg MBA classes?
Rachel: My favorite class was Executive Presentations. It was held every Tuesday, and I would dread it every week at first! They would hook you up to a microphone and have you present in front of the entire class. You had the whole week to prepare, but every class, the presentations would get longer. They record you and give you feedback as well. It wasn’t easy, but it was very helpful for me.
The class knows that it’s tough to be up there presenting. So they’re very supportive and always give each other constructive comments. When you make eye contact with people, they're always nodding and smiling in encouragement.
Presenting to a group of people is also a great example of how an MBA helps you build leadership skills. You have to structure your presentation well, communicate clearly, and positively influence your audience. Once you’ve presented in front of so many people, when you go into smaller groups in the work environment, it becomes a lot easier. I learned to be more engaging and communicate more effectively.
Q. How does Kellogg support candidates recruiting in Tech?
Rachel: Kellogg is a tech-heavy school. In 2022, 24% of the Kellogg class went into tech after their MBA, second only to consulting. The big tech players love Kellogg students.
For me, Kellogg opened many doors. School assignments sometimes required us to network with a high executive from a company. In my case, it was a company I hadn’t worked at before. I introduced myself, basically saying “I see you're also a Kellogg alum in this space, and I want to chat with you”. He responded within 24 hours, and I was able to schedule a chat with him. Connecting with these professionals on shared grounds gave me more room to make those warm introductions and build meaningful connections.
Q. Tell us about Kellogg's careers services
Rachel: At Kellogg, we have the Career Management Center, known as the CMC. They provide a strong support network and connect us to student career coaches, who are second-years that the CMC trains to help with the first-years.
The CMC coaches are pretty available and have a large network across companies. They are regularly in touch with their contacts at all those companies and send us emails about any recruiting intel they have, especially nowadays when recruiting in tech is tough.
Q. Is it a challenging time to apply to Tech jobs?
Rachel: I would say it is a little bit tougher to pivot to tech roles than a few years ago. Personally, I’ve been focused within the supply chain space, so my recruitment journey has been different. I was able to get interviews with different FAANG companies and ended up at Apple this summer. Hopefully, I’ll be getting a full-time offer from them soon!
From what I’ve seen, it’s popular among tech applicants to pivot to product management (PM). But if you don't have that product experience, recruitment can be tougher. When I first got here and saw that everyone wanted to transition to PM, I thought I should try PM too. But deep down I knew that I wanted to stay in supply chain logistics. So while I did manage to get an interview for a PM role, I didn’t put in as much effort as I should have. The interview went poorly, and it confirmed that I had tried to spread myself too thin. My peers who did put in the effort to practice case interviews and build a network in that space were able to make the pivot.
So, while there's an infinite number of career options when you start an MBA, you have to be honest with yourself and stay clear on your goals. Don’t do it just because everyone else is!
Q. What are the different types of Tech internships?
Rachel: Typically, people group all of tech into one big bundle. One thing we at KTech (Kellogg’s Tech Club - I’m part of the leadership, follow us on Instagram here!) would like to communicate more clearly is that tech doesn’t only mean product management. There are other routes.
For example, I represent the supply chain operations track. There's other tracks for strategy and operations, and business development. There's also finance leadership development programs or a finance track within tech.
So, in terms of the different types of functions within tech, it's like any other industry. It’s not all about just product management.
Want to learn more about post-MBA roles in tech? Check out our interview with Tom Lawrance, former head of global industry careers at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School and MBA recruiter at Amazon.
Q. Which clubs did you join at Kellogg?
Rachel: At Kellogg, you can join any club you’re interested in. All of the clubs are completely open for you to join. So you can realistically be in any club you want. On my Slack, I have access to all club event information. If it seems like an interesting event, I’ll go.
Kellogg's Clubs are broken down mainly into affinity or interest groups, and then industry or career groups. I would say anywhere between 3-5 clubs is a good amount to join. It would be reasonable to formally join a couple of affinity clubs, and maybe 1 career club (more if you’re still deciding). Also, you don’t necessarily have to be committed to a club – if you see an event you’re interested in, you can sign up and go.
In terms of the clubs that I am formally involved in, I’m in the leadership team of the Kellogg Tech Club. I'm also in the Asian Management Association, which is an affinity club.
Q. How was your MBA application process?
Rachel: Sam and I met 2 years ago. I was deep in the application process, and had actually already applied to a few schools the year before without much success.
When I started my MBA journey, I was still in my undergrad. So I independently applied for the early action programs in the US, for which you need to be an undergraduate student. In my case, I was doing a 2+2 Master’s program. I got an interview from one school, but ended up getting rejected. So I thought that the next time I applied, I’d do it with more help.
With my GRE being 333, which is a high score, I got the confidence to target top ranked schools. But I wanted to know what I could do better and thought that it was best to speak to a consultant. That’s when I found Sam. It felt like every other consultant had told me what I wanted to hear, but he was refreshingly straightforward and direct. He told me that my goals needed to be more focused. I had to really believe in why I wanted to do an MBA.
I felt like he was the only consultant who didn’t “sugarcoat” things. Instead, he gave me the cold hard truth that I needed to hear. That's why I ended up deciding to work with Sam.
Q. How did it help you to apply with an admissions consultant?
Rachel: I had strong work experience and a good story to tie together my interests with my background. But I needed to work on my goals: Why the MBA, and why now. That was where Sam made a difference. We would jump on a Google Doc together and edit my essays live, and that’s when I learned how to be a better writer.
My sister is currently applying for undergrad, and I’m applying the same writing lessons I’ve learned from Sam to her applications! I even forwarded one of Sam’s newsletters to her, which was about being more cohesive and clear in your writing style (sign up here). It’s very useful for communicating your story effectively. I’m passing that forward now. So it was a valuable summer I spent with Sam!
Want to work with SWC on your Kellogg applications? Book a free 20 min chat with one of our expert consultants.
If you’re applying to Kellogg like Rachel, sign up for MBAconsultant.com, our self-paced online platform for bespoke MBA application guidance, which has example Kellogg essays.