The MMM (MBA + MS in Design Innovation) Program at Northwestern University

Inside the Admissions Office

The MMM (MBA + MS in Design Innovation) Program at Northwestern University

My name is Ariel Rogers and I am a 2013 graduate of the MMM program at Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management + McCormick School of Engineering). I loved my business school experience. Thanks to my MBA, I developed a strategic business mindset, strengthened personal skills, and elevated many hard skills necessary for business analysis, development and management. But, through the MMM program at-large, I also traveled the world (a total of 13 countries!), built lifelong friendships (and general alumni network), and grew as a person throughout every step of the journey. And it all began with a single application. The following piece is an extension of my last piece on the Kellogg MBA to help those that might be inspired to pursue not just one degree, but two. 

Now, let me preface this by saying that applications are hard, mostly because they're time consuming. The application to any school is like a having a semester long class, except there are no professors or peers assigned to partner with you and you either get a pass or fail grade at the end of the session. But I know that whether you're working with a ChaseFuture, signed up for a GMAT class, or started scheduling your next several personal statement drafts, you're already on your way! So the following are not rule. They're guidelines that worked for me. They're highlights of my experience. Let's begin!

I. Time

I’ve said it once. I’ll kindly say it again: Treat your application deadline like an upcoming New Years Party at Six Flags Amusement Park. Imagine 500 attendees and you're the host. You are responsible for coordinating everything, from booking the venue to figuring out transportion. I know, it's an extreme example that already feels overwhelming. But, trust me: It's manageable. But, yes, it is also a hearty helping of time-consuming tasks. Make a CALENDAR showing deadlines and then reverse engineer a timeline. Make it your plan of attack. 

For more on time and some of my specific time-tips, I'd recommend taking a look at my piece on the MBA application, but I do want to mention a few MMM specific things. 

First, the MMM program starts several months before the standard MBA program and you have a little bit more to complete with your application than a standard MBA applicant, in particular the MMM-specific essay question. This means that you can't think of this as a single application, but a double and dual one that will demand simultaneous and separate demands on your time. Really be sure to give yourself time to complete all the components of the application. 

II. Getting Accepted is the Beginning

If (let's be positive, when,) you are accepted, you can apply the backwards plan and calendar system to any prep material that you are given to complete in advance of the first day of class. In fact, I really recommend it, because you'll be entering two programs with different demands on your time. 

One slippery slope in grad school is getting behind on the reading. It is easy to do because there are so many activities going on and it can generally be difficult to catch up. Take advantage of your free time by allocating a chunk of it to getting your work done in advance. It is tough to do schoolwork well if you have to rush through it. Because the assignments don’t usually have straightforward answers, you’ll often have to read a case (30-90 minutes) and then you’ll have to answer several questions that require that you think about the context, the data given, then apply your own judgment, and then crunch a couple numbers to prove your point. 

III. Know the Program and Show Your Interest

Your personal statement matters. A lot. Show the program that you know who they are by identifying the components of their curriculum that highly interest you. These should connect somehow with your short and long term goals. You want them to see why their program is going to help you achieve your goals after graduate school. 

(Hint: Send a 4-sentence version of this to your recommenders. If they know exactly your goals and a little bit about the program, they are more equipped to write a strong argument on your behalf.)

The best ways to learn about any school are to:

a) Look through the website thoroughly. Take note of the photos chosen and the quotes added to the page. Is the webpage functional? Pretty? Vague? In depth? These observations will give you a sense of the culture of the school. Paying attention to how a school chooses to represent itself is a good way to get to know it’s culture. These are the things that the institution values. If I were to ask you, what are Kellogg’s values? You should be able to give me at least an introductory answer purely based on information from the Kellogg website.

b) Google the school. See what pops up when you goggle the name “Kellogg Graduate School of Management and McCormick School of Engineering." This will help you to identify what other people find about this school that may not be on the official website. Are you a big fan of social media? Look up #Kellogg and #McCormick and #Northwestern. We are in a digital age and there is an abundance of information that you can find about any topic if you jut Google it. This approach is helpful in the sense that you can see content about the school which has been sourced by people outside of the Kellogg marketing department. You get to see what the students tweet and post on Instagram and Facebook. You can discover what trends occur. Utilize any and all resources and social media provides a wealth of information.

c) Ask an alumna questions. First, find an alumna (you can Google this or you can put out a Facebook search) and ask if they'd be willing to chat over the phone. You will probably come to realize that most of us are more than happy to give our story about Kellogg. And this willingness to speak to strangers about the school will tell you something about the culture within the student body: we're team-oriented. But it would be best for you to experience this for yourself rather than simply take my word for it.

IV. Know Yourself

You have a vision. You have goals. Show the admissions office who you are. This task is less about your abilities and more about your passions, the very thing that sparks your soul into action. Place the admissions essay and other questions in the back of you mind and really listen to your inner voice before putting pen to paper (or hands to keyboard). What drives you? Or drives you wild? 

For example, one of my favorite annual traditions was getting a Christmas tree because I was fascinated by the tree packaging assembly line, especially the cylinder that the tree gets shoved through that wraps the orange plastic netting snuggly around it. Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated by simple and efficient processes. The concept here is to identify your authentic self so that you can connect your passionate voice with an admissions question. Your answer might not seem perfect. That's okay. It doesn't have to be: it has to be yours. 

One final note before I finish. You may want to practice, while sitting in front of a mirror, answering the question, “Why do you want to go to Kellogg?” Do this a couple of times and each time work on pin-pointing the aspect of your future that you are most passionate about and then connecting it back to why Kellogg is the place to help you achieve that goal. I'm sure it is and can be if you let your ambitions and talents show. 

Good luck!