Thursday, May 3, 2018

Melissa Rapp, Director of Admissions for Kellogg’s MBA and MSMS

Poets & Quants has the following interview with Melissa Rapp, Director of Admissions for Kellogg’s MBA and MSMS programs

Melissa Rapp feels that Kellogg is much more than a “marketing school.”

“Kellogg is really concerned about the kind of experience that we offer and what students can expect from their MBA experience here. We do continue to hear students refer to Kellogg as ‘the marketing school’ — but we are much more than just a marketing school, and I think it’s important for candidates to understand that we offer an incredibly rich experience no matter what industry you’re looking to go into.”

The data supports Rapp, who became admissions chief at the Kellogg School in January 2016 after directing the school’s Evening and Weekend Program for a few years. 

In Kellogg’s most recent employment profile:
- 19% of MBAs in the Class of 2017 went into marketing — a typical outcome: marketing grads have hovered between 19% and 21% since 2013. 
- 34% go into consulting
-  Kellogg’s top recruiters last year were a trio of consulting giants were McKinsey, which employed 40 grads; Boston Consulting Group, which hired 36; Bain & Co., 28; and Amazon, which scooped up 32 MBAs from the shores of Lake Michigan.
- Kellogg had 488 full-time MBA grads last spring.
-  34% is a bigger consultant class than Harvard’s (25%), Stanford’s (28%), and even Wharton’s (32%). 
- Kellogg’s rank has slipped in a couple major lists (from No. 4 to No. 6 at U.S. News & World Report, and from No. 4 to No. 5 in Poets&Quants’ ranking
- The school’s class profile shines, including a 19-point increase in average scores on the Graduate Management Admission Test since 2013, from 713 to 732. 
- In 2017, Kellogg’s remarkably consistent 3.60 average undergraduate GPA was behind only Stanford (3.74), Harvard (3.71), and Chicago Booth (3.61).

Kellogg is a leader in Women's education: 

- The percentage of women in its student ranks. In the Class of 2019, Kellogg admitted 42% women, continuing its streak of greater than 40% female MBA population going back to 2013. Among elite schools, only Wharton and Harvard can claim to have kept pace in that five-year span.

“The diversity that we bring to Kellogg each and every year, in terms of gender but also across industries and backgrounds, I think it’s an important part of the culture, having that representation and diversity,” Rapp says. “We’ve been thrilled last year to have 42% women in the class, and it’s a combination of things: we have seen increased demand in our applicant pool, so that more women seem to be seeking graduate education and MBAs, but we have also taken a really proactive approach to engage particularly prospective female applicants. In particular, we work very closely with the Women’s Business Association to develop programming and outreach that will resonate with women.

“I feel like we have developed a really good, holistic approach to bringing women to Kellogg and supporting them throughout their MBA journey, and then sending them out to the world to do great things. That’s definitely something that we are very proud of and continue to see as important.”

Can gender parity be far behind? “We certainly continue to want to have that high level of women in our classroom,” Rapp says. “It’s real early to tell what the Class of 2020 will look like, but I do anticipate us having a very strong presence of women in this class.

“As far as getting to 50%, I feel like parity between genders is certainly a hot topic not just in higher education or MBA programs but across the board, and I think it’s just going to take a lot of dedicated hard work from people who care for probably a couple more years to make it happen.”

Kellogg has consistently enrolled 40% or more women in its full-time MBA program for the last five years

The school’s leadership has outlined three critical career pivot points where women are being lost on the way to the C-suite, and making what it terms “significant investments” to help alumni women at each of these phases: the post college/grad school years, the child rearing/caregiving years, and the transition to senior leadership. The school’s commitment to the issue will no doubt be prominently discussed at a first-time event in May, the Global Women’s Summit, featuring hundreds of Kellogg alumni, students, honored guests, and community members. Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, will be there featured speaker.

The May 8-9 summit “will bring some really prominent members of the Kellogg community here to urge women to engage with leadership and with each other,” Rapp says, with many others joining remotely from cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Developed by Kellogg’s women leaders, the 1 1/2-day summit will feature such topics such as the “likeability dilemma,” positioning oneself for a board seat, and negotiating effectively.

We can’t talk about women at Kellogg without mentioning that the most prominent Kellogg woman is leaving soon. What has it been like to work with Dean Sally Blount, who steps down at the end of this school year?

Dean Sally Blount has presided over a “transformative” period in Kellogg history, says Melissa Rapp

It’s been amazing. I came to Kellogg a couple years after Dean Blount had started her impactful journey here and just felt incredibly fortunate to have her as the leader of the organization and as a role model for myself and the other women here. It certainly has been a transformative period at Kellogg — she has left a mark here that will be enduring for a long time. And working with somebody who is so incredibly enthusiastic about the school is certainly very infectious.

All that being said, I have great respect for the fact that she is opening up the door for someone else to have the opportunity to impact Kellogg. She can recognize that she has played her part and has done an incredible job, and she has the humility now to step away and allow someone else to take the reins. I have a great deal of respect for her and a great deal of gratitude for what she’s done for Kellogg.

Over the last five years the average GMAT score at Kellogg has climbed 19 points (713 to 732). Do you see the number continuing to rise, or will Kellogg be satisfied at some point with the level they’ve reached?

What’s going on is that Kellogg always has attracted an incredible population of applicants and we continue to look for applicants who are going to do well academically here. Certainly, though, that is just one of the factors that we use in the holistic approach that we have. We’ve just been really fortunate to continue to see that outstanding applicant pool. Whether or not that continues to go up, obviously we are going to continue to push to bring the best and brightest to Kellogg, and a portion of that equation is their academic ability, but that’s just one portion of it.

I sometimes wish that other factors had as tangible a scoring method as GMAT does. If there were some sort of leadership test where we could see where people stack up on that, it would be nice, because sometimes I think there’s a little too much focus on the rising GMAT scores versus all the other incredible characteristics that get MBA candidates through the doors.

That’s a good segue to ask about your early thoughts on the next crop of students. The Round 3 decision will be announced by May 16 — how do they look?

They look incredible! I think one of the things that I love about admissions is that I get to follow a new group of students every year and every year I think, “This is it. This has to be the best year yet.” And then the next class comes and I’ll be damned! There are just so many compelling people in the world, and I really fell very lucky to get to hear their stories.

I love that our process a variety of ways for a candidate to showcase themselves, from their written essay to the video essay and the in-person interview — you really do get to know these people, and some of the things that they are doing are just incredible. I feel very grateful to get to know the, to play a small part in their journey to being very successful human beings.

So I will tell you that the upcoming class is going to be the best class ever, and I will probably say that again next year.

With so many highly qualified co-applicants, what are some things a Kellogg applicant can do to really set themselves apart? And what are some terrible mistakes they should avoid?

To be well-prepared, we like to see a candidate understand why they want to get an MBA, what they are hoping to get out of it, how it fits with their story. To understand why they are applying to the schools that they are applying to. And try to learn about the programs and the school and understand some of the differences between them. All this is an important part of being a successful applicant.

And then it’s important to give yourself enough time. Sometimes we see that candidates have rushed through the application process, and maybe have not spent the time being reflective that they needed to to really put together a compelling application.

I think that kind of goes hand in hand with one of the mistakes that we do see: folks who don’t feel like they’re coming from a very genuine place when they’re doing their application. So their application comes across as disingenuous or that they’re trying to tell us what they think we want to hear versus their true story. And the honest truth is, we’re looking for strong candidates no matter what their background is — there is no one right answer for any of our questions. We want to hear every candidate’s story, we want to hear their reasons for wanting an MBA, and their reasons for wanting to come to Kellogg — and I think honesty and genuine interest in the program are the two things that really make you stand out.

Just as there are candidates with good-but-not-great test scores who are extraordinary in other ways get in, some candidates with great test scores but weaker applications in other areas don’t get in — do you see that often?

Every year. There is no golden ticket to get into Kellogg. So a perfect GMAT score doesn’t really mean anything other than you did really well on a particular test on a given day. It’s interesting, for sure — it’s going to catch our attention. But it’s certainly not a golden ticket.

I think of a great example. We had a candidate a couple years ago whose GMAT score probably wasn’t what you would expect or what we typically see for a Kellogg admit. But he was a military veteran, a top gun pilot, a decorated war hero, and taking all things into consideration — his personality in the interview, his expression of his personal values and how they aligned with Kellogg, his deep leadership experience — he ended up being one of our Austin Scholars that year (selected because they have demonstrated exceptional leadership in academic and professional endeavors, and show promise of future leadership at Kellogg and in business or public service) because he brought us interesting and unique characteristics beyond academics. Now, we were confident that he could be successful in the classroom as well, but there is a perfect example of someone who didn’t meet the typical criteria that folks think of when thinking of MBA applicants.

And he has turned out to be a phenomenal leader and great asset to Kellogg, and we’re very proud to have him here.

Is Kellogg contemplating any changes to the application process in the next couple of admission cycles?

Our application process is under review right now, but I don’t have sneak peeks for you! I do know that our application will be going live a bit earlier this year, maybe June versus July, and that’s exciting — we’re excited to give people the opportunity to start on their application a little earlier, have a little more time to craft their essays and things. It’s not a big change but it’s one that we feel will help improve the experience for our Round 1 candidates.

What if you could make a change to the process with a wave of your magic wand, what would it be?

What we really hunger for at Kellogg is the opportunity to meet every individual candidate, and that’s just physically impossible (the Class of 2019 has 478 members). But we did wave our magic wand and introduce a video essay a few years ago, and that has really added an important and interesting dimension to the application process, and given us the opportunity to see every candidate — and to allow every candidate to, in their own words, express why they want to come to Kellogg.

It’s sometimes really surprising, the variation you can get between the written word and the spoken word, and that little extra piece of the application process here at Kellogg was a magic wand for us. It unlocked having a personal interaction with every candidate.

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