You already know the importance of making every word count, but it’s even more important for Booth this year, since they’ve shaved 100 words off their career essay, and 350 words off what used to be the 2nd, leadership essay, and is now a two part 400 word essay. Women please note, Booth is actively encouraging applications from females this year!
Essay 1: What are your short- and long-term goals, and how will an MBA from Chicago Booth help you reach them? (500 words)
This advice is straight from the horse’s mouth. Aringo held a conference call with Joanne Legler, Chicago Booth’s associate director of admissions, this past April. Paraphrasing her remarks, they are looking for candidates with a really good understanding of what an MBA means and a clear idea of what they will do when they get it. The essay should make it clear that the candidate understands the path from getting admitted to working after the degree. What’s most important is: reasonability of goals (understanding the difficulties that lie ahead, knowing how to overcome them, understanding the industries you are talking about), clarity, and understanding the resources you will need to get where you want to go.
A good career essay is short and sweet. They don’t want huge essays that go on and on without answering the question. This is not meant to be the most exciting essays they read. The creativity and originality is left to the other two essays. There’s no expectation for a lot of information.
Make your point as simply as possible, the more obvious the better. Explain the general thought process about how you got to this point (wanting an MBA) and what you plan to do with it. While it’s fine to have a couple of career goal options, but they don’t want someone who will try for every interview the career office offers while in school.
Unfortunately they see a lot of applications written by people who are not very familiar with the school. Booth wants candidates to learn as much as they can about Booth; they like to see what you’ve gained by talking to current students and alums. Attending Booth events is highly recommended. Know the resources Booth has to use, what Booth offers. That will make your essay crisp, clear and passionate about Booth.
2. Short Answer Essays:
a. What has been your biggest challenge, and what have you learned from it? (200 words maximum)
b. Tell us about something that has fundamentally transformed the way you think. (200 words maximum)
When selecting topics for these essays, keep in mind the (relatively) short list of adjectives that Booth’s adcom told Aringo they seek in a candidate. Find experiences in your life that allow you, very concisely, to display these characteristics: confident, humble (these two only seem mutually exclusive), risk-taker, knowing how to address weaknesses as well as strengths, teamworker, teamworker and teamworker. Leadership is very important, but the ability to team-work, help others become their best, is priceless; similarly, collaboration skills are crucial.
While Booth seeks analytical candidates, that does not necessarily mean mathematically oriented. That said, they do take the quant side seriously and pride themselves on basing ideas on facts.
Booth reads your essays looking for that spark- someone who will be an active member in their community, as demonstrated by a history of activity – in sports, politics, community…
Now, on to the real challenge, finding a challenge and another transforming experience, personal or professional, demonstrating that the list of characteristics above describes you. Note that the first question does not call for ‘a’ challenge, but your ‘biggest’ challenge. If you can, consider using an example of how you applied the ‘lesson learned’ from the challenge you faced, rather than just stating the lesson.
The second essay must describe something that didn’t just change your thinking, but caused a ‘fundamental’ change. The question is designed to elicit responses that show your character. Show them your spark.
3. Presentation/Essay: The Chicago experience will take you deeper into issues, force you to challenge assumptions, and broaden your perspective. In a four-slide presentation or an essay of no more than 600 words, broaden our perspective about who you are. Understanding what we currently know about you from the application, what else would you like us to know?
Question 3 Guidelines
• The content is completely up to you. There is no right, or even preferred, approach to this presentation.
• There is a strict maximum of four pages (presentation) or 600 words (essay), though you can provide fewer if you choose.
• Acceptable formats for upload in the online application system are PowerPoint or PDF.
• The document will be viewed electronically, but we cannot support embedded videos, music, or motion images. Additionally, all content MUST be included in the four pages; hyperlinks will not be viewed.
• The file will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.
If the goal is broaden the adcom’s perspective about you and tell them something you want them to know that they don’t already see from the rest of your application, begin by deciding what you want to convey. Be sure to use the space to tell them something new about yourself that demonstrates the qualities they value in a candidate (see analysis of Essay 2 above).
Knowing what you want to tell them may make the format easier to decide on. This is the first, of the 6 years that Booth has been asking this question, that they have offered the option of submitting an essay. If you are not a poet, graphic designer, artist, etc., compelling prose can be an excellent option.
That said, look for a topic to show them your personality, then move on to format – PowerPoint, photography, book cover, slides of how you’ve changed or separate slides of various sides of you. Ask friends, co-workers, and family for suggestions of ways to present what you want to say, and show them drafts for feedback. While the options are so many it can induce an anxiety attack, try not to get as hung up on the format as on the content. Remember, the file will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.
The Aringo Team.
Sign up by the end of August for a full Chicago application package and get a special discount!
Take our Admission Chances Quiz to assess your chances to get into a top MBA program.
MBA Essay Samples