Mckinsey Leadership Essay

This year, two senior IIT Boeing Scholars, Joshua Woodard (Whitney Young Magnet) and Brian Zdeb (Northside College Prep) received incredible news that they have been awarded the prestigious McKinsey Diverse Young Leaders Scholarship!

In addition to a $1000 Scholarship, each Scholar is matched with a mentor from the McKinsey Chicago office AND offered a guaranteed interview for a McKinsey summer internship after sophomore or junior year of college, or a guaranteed interview for a full-time position after senior year. This scholarship program is an opportunity of a lifetime to connect with a powerhouse company.


Words from Brian Zdeb:

I was first introduced to The McKinsey Scholarship through The Boeing Scholars leaders, specifically Ms. Katherine Rhee, who emailed me the opportunity and kept in contact with me through the entire process. A big thank you goes out to her! The scholarship is essentially a three step process: first an essay and recommendation is submitted, then some students from that group are chosen for first round interviews, then even fewer are chosen for second round interviews. The interviews last an hour long, and are split between two employees, 30 minutes with each. My contact with the McKinsey staff over the past few months has shown me they emphasize the importance of having leadership experience in one way or another over a student’s high school career. The essay asked to elaborate on one of those experiences, so naturally I wrote about my Boeing Scholars Leadership Grant Project, of which I had played a leadership role on my team along with a few other peers, one also being a McKinsey Scholarship recipient with me, Josh Woodard. All Scholars are lucky to have that opportunity, as it is always something to be proud of and something to talk about even if the project had numerous hiccups along the way as mine had.

After getting through the first step, I was asked to pick a date and time for an interview at The McKinsey Company downtown. I felt my first round interviews went very well, Ms. Heather Peters and Ms. Lisana O’Day were just awesome people in general, and it is always nice to see someone genuinely interested in what you have accomplished. During the interview, I went in depth about my leadership experiences in Boy Scouts, Robotics, The IIT Boeing Scholars, and everyday activities, as well as shared some of my aspirations and desires of the type of place I want to work. Coincidentally, McKinsey seems like one of those places. I learned a lot about the company through them, like how their staff is comprised of people from numerous different majors, how their teams essentially improve a client company’s processes to save them money, and how employees are always traveling to work on different client company projects.

The second round interviews were conducted in a similar fashion except with two new employees. I learned from them the fantastic morals McKinsey has when dealing with clients; they are not searching just for contracts for profit, but instead look for what would be the best choice for the client. They will even refrain from entering a contract if they think the final outcome not be beneficial to the client. Like I said before, they are all around great people. After about a week I received the phone call telling me I would be the recipient of a $1000 scholarship from McKinsey! I was ecstatic, but I was even more excited about even being associated with them. The brief pizza party/reception I attended showed me that I know have contacts within the company, which is fantastic if I want to try to apply for internships through college. McKinsey is a company where a graduate is lucky to even be offered an interview spot, and now this scholarship is essentially a foot in the door to McKinsey, and I would hope with a lot more effort on my part I could one day join the diverse teams that McKinsey has.


Words from Joshua Woodard:

I’m very thankful for being a recipient of the McKinsey Young Leaders Scholarship. It is it a step in the right direction as far as paying college tuition goes, but in addition, it presents me with the unique opportunity to come back for an internship interview. After receiving a little taste of the relaxed work environment, friendly rapport, and ambitious focus of the company, I very well may take a hiatus from my engineering track one summer and experience their world!


Brian Zdeb and Joshua Woodard will be enrolling at California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology respectively this fall.

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I get this question fairly frequently. After all - the leadership essay is optional, right?



Always write one.

I'll elaborate a little bit on the advice I gave in the 'Firm-specific advice' booklet (available to all registered members).

The logic goes as follows: if you won’t go above and beyond for your application, are you going to go above and beyond as a consultant? Anything that impacts your application - even just a little bit - should be taken very seriously by you.

Second of all, remember that if you are a “maybe” or if there are any questions about your communication abilities, your essay will be looked at more closely – this is especially true if the topic of the essay aligns with a perceived weakness in your CV (e.g. leadership).

Finally, make sure to write like a consultant! When I wrote my essay on leadership, I broke it down into 4 sections, and created a diagram for each section. When explaining the leadership structure of the organization I was working with, I found it effective to draw a small pyramid (using SmartArt) which clearly illustrated the breakdown. I used similar approaches for the remaining 3 sections.

Show that you can think in a structured manner and are able to concisely convey your experience. I also added headers, section titles, and saved the document as PDF to make sure the document seemed as professional as possible.

There's similar advice covering applications and interviews for McKinsey, BCG, Oliver Wyman, Monitor, Accenture, and Deloitte in the 'Firm-specific advice' booklet. 


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