Friday, March 05, 2004

Kellogg Visit + Interview

I have found my happy place. Extreme left seat, last row. Room G44. Arthur Andersen Building at The Kellogg School. There must be something about the light in the room that makes everything look great. Especially the girl in the third row. With dark hair. And a blue sweater. I feel cold, I wish I ...


Man, it was hard, but I managed to somehow stay awake through the class I attended last week at Kellogg. It was a combination of fatigue as well as the class itself, some sort of finance class that was supposed to be case-based but turned out to be a long lecture.

My day started out all wrong. I had planned to attend a 9 AM class prior to my noontime interview. But I had to work through the previous night to finish my LBS essays and it was almost 5 AM by the time I got to bed. It was 9 AM when I woke up so decided to go straight to the interview. I was low on prep so used the extra hour to read up some more on Kellogg clubs, classes and professors. Found my way to campus fifteen minutes before the interview and parked in a lot about 10 minutes away from the Kellogg building. When I reached the admissions office I was given a parking sticker that I needed to place in my car. So I literally ran back and from the parking lot just barely in time for my interview. My interviewer was already waiting for me. After some profuse apologizing, we got started.

The interviewer was an AdCom member and she just had my resume which I had handed in 15 minutes earlier. She mentioned that she had not seen my application and I should feel free to repeat things I had said in there if I thought appropriate. She also said that she was going to be taking a lot of notes. The initial questions were those I had expected and was prepared for. In not exactly the order they were asked they were:
* why did you choose the college you went to
* why did you study your undergraduate major
* why did you choose your current job
* why do you feel the need for an MBA now
* how did you decide on Kellogg

She then asked me some questions about my experience working with teams and leadership experiences. The one question that caught me offguard was, if you were at Kellogg today and were part of a team what would be the one thing that your teammates would want to change about you ? that was really a tough one but I think I may have pulled through. Some other questions:
* tell me an instance when you had an impact as a leader
* tell me an instance when you took the initiative on an issue at work
* what do you do outside of work
* what do you intend to do outside of studies at Kellogg
* how are you going to contribute to Kellogg

We talked for about 30-40 minutes I think and I had time for a few questions. She also gave me an opportunity to address some aspect of my application or personality that wasn't covered by the interview questions.

Upto that point I thought it was a decent interview but for the one question I got tripped up with. Then I asked her what makes a successful Kellogg student in her opinion, and her reply was pretty much similar to the reasons I had given her for my wanting to be at Kellogg. She also had a "like you said earlier" comment where she referred to a teamwork example I mentioned as a good trait for a Kellogg student. From her answer to my question, I would say I am a good 'fit' for Kellogg. But, she was the consummate interviewer, never betrayed any emotions. Nevertheless, I walked out of the interview feeling good.

Lunch. I was told that they discontinued their lunch program for prospectives a few years earlier so I was on my own. There's a decent cafe in the building under an atrium, and I grabbed a pizza and found a second year to talk with. It was an interesting conversation, basically emphasized the Kellogg culture aspect of things - teamwork, teamwork and teamwork. We talked about housing, jobs, professors etc. He said that he was a marketer before he got here and was going back into marketing and he already had a job.

This was followed by a tour of the building. I was very impressed by the facility. I think it used to be 2 or 3 buildings that are now all connected into a single monolith. The space they have is enormous. Tons of conference rooms for study groups. The classrooms are apparently all going to be redone. We were shown one of the newer ones and it was classy. Our guide was excited to talk about their bidding system for electives. He said that it was a really big deal and people devised serious strategies to plan and bid for the courses they wanted. Also part of the mix were rumors and obfuscations about going rates for classes etc. Sounded like a great deal of fun. Another place where they use the bidding system is for job interviews. Companies apparently have closed and open lists for interviews. The former are based on resumes that they scan. The latter are open for bidding among those who don't make the closed list. This system exists to help career switchers whose resumes don't necessarily get them on to the closed lists. Very interesting.

The carreer office also helps student focus on what their competencies are and plan for careers based on several tests and tools they use. Our guide told us that he was a consultant before he came to K and is now switching careers to Brand Management. The job bidding system really helped him out in finding a job. After the tour, I was trying to find the restrooms and a couple of students stopped in the hallways to talk and answer any questions I had. One guy I was talking to asked me if I was interested in marketing. When I said that I wasn't particularly, he said that he wasn't either but almost everyone seems to want to get into the field once they get to K. Hmmm ... come to think of it, almost all people I spoke with that day were going to be marketers.

Next up was an information session. I must say the AdComs at Kellogg are as suave as they come. I don't mean this in a bad way. The person conducting the session was excellent in covering all the bases about what makes K K. It's all about teamwork here. It was also interesting to hear about the emphasis Kellogg places on professors paying attention to teaching. Every new hire has to go through a teaching guidelines training kind of thing, and spend the first few months actually observing other professors in class. And the feedback that profs get from students for any class they take is public knowledge. In fact, our tour guide told us that students look at this as one of the metrics when deciding if/how much to bid on a class. Interesting.

The final item on my agenda was a class visit. I was recommended a finance class by the guy I met at lunch because it was case based and would be interesting. I was thinking of attending a marketing class but there weren't any interesting-sounding ones that afternoon. The professor was awesome and the questions asked were very probing, the students knew what they were talking about. But, for an observer like myself with Zero knowledge of finance, an entire class spent poring over excel spreadsheets was too much. My lack of sleep caught up to me and I had to stop myself a couple of times from dozing off.

After class, I was asked by a few students to stay for TGIF, their friday evening let-your-hair-down event in the atrium where I had lunch. This is organized every week by a different club and I guess has free booze and food and is a meeting point for faculty and students. I would have loved to stay but I had to leave because I had a long drive into Wisconsin.

Walking back to my car, I had a chance to get a better look at the Northwestern campus. It is quite beautiful, located on the lakeshore with a view of downtown Chicago from the right places. The buildings are a mix of architectures but I think it works well. Evanston itself seems like an affluent community. I got lost on my way out and drove through some nice-looking neighborhoods.

It was a very successful visit. The interview aside, it was good to meet students and sit in a class. Though the class wasn't all that it didn't distract from the overall impression of Kellogg. I am glad I applied here. I am going to be happy to attend if I do get admitted here.


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