Chicago Booth has released its application essays and deadlines for the 2013-2014 admissions season. The Great Essay Reduction continues… Consistent with what we have seen many other top-ranked business schools, Booth has dropped an essay this year. The school has, however, kept its more unique “PowerPoint” question, suggesting that the admissions committee likes what it sees with the responses it gets from this prompt.
Here are Chicago Booth’s essays and deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments:
Chicago Booth Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 3, 2013
Round 2: January 8, 2014
Round 3: April 3, 2014
Booth’s application deadlines are virtually unchanged since last year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will hear back from Booth by December 19, giving you a couple of weeks to pull together Round 2 applications for other schools, if needed. Also, note the school’s relatively late Round 3 deadline. As always, we recommend against applying in Round 3 if you can pull together a strong application earlier, but moves like this show that Booth really does give Round 3 serious consideration.Chicago Booth Application Essays
1. Please respond to the following two essay prompts:
a. My favorite part of my work is… (250 words maximum)
b. I started to think differently when… (250 words maximum)
Chicago Booth has replaced its old first essay — which used to be a very traditional career goals / “Why Booth?” question — with these two short essays. Part (a) is new, while part (b) is a rework of one that Booth used last year. It’s clear that Booth liked how that question (which was new last year) worked, and now the admissions committee is doubling down on these more open-ended get-to-know-you questions.
For part (a), we have no doubt that the admissions team truly just wants to get to know you and understand what makes you tick, but you certainly want to be strategic here. Writing something like “Hitting deadlines is the favorite part of my job,” won’t add much depth to your application, while “Discovering a new way to solve an old problem” can demonstrate multiple dimensions that you may want to highlight in your profile. Note that you shouldn’t just talk the talk here — you should also plan on backing up what you say with an example. Of course, with just 250 words to work with, you’ll need to keep it tidy.
For part (b), having a meaningful story matters more than having an impressive-sounding one. With this type of essay prompt, many applicants feel compelled to tell big stories along the lines “Running an ultra marathon changed my life,” when the thing that truly influenced them on a profound level was something much closer to home. Even if something sounds mundane, if it really meant something to you and transformed the way you think, then we advise choosing that story over a flashier one. You could write about a great teacher that you once had (just be careful about choosing a really old story), a terrific boss you worked with, or something outside of the workplace. But choose something real over something that sounds flashy. And – this is key — be sure to describe the transformation that resulted from that experience!
2. 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 rest of the application, what else would you like us to know? (Presentation guidelines are here.)
Chicago Booth’s “PowerPoint question” returns once again, with barely any wording changes this year. Take special note of the last sentence in this prompt: The Chicago Booth admissions committee members already hold in their hands a great deal of information about you… What else do you want them to know? Don’t simply use this “essay” to just show off professional achievements that you already cover elsewhere in your application. Be creative! The reason Booth kept this question is because, while it hasn’t worked perfectly for the school so far, it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to tease some personality out of your application. So don’t be afraid to give them some!
Finally, note that an essay truly is okay here. Don’t feel that, because PowerPoint is an option, it’s expected or preferred. If you can best “broaden their perspective about who you are” using plain old words, then we recommend that you go that route.3. Reapplicant Question: Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words)
This question is virtually the same as it was last year, so our advice carries over mostly unchanged. This question gets at the heart of what MBA admissions officers at any school care about when they see a re-applicant: “What has changed since last time?” While we don’t believe the Booth admissions committee did it deliberately, we do think that the phrasing here can be a bit misleading.
An important thing to think about: The way this question is written, it may lead some applicants to believe that they didn’t get in before because of something wrong in the way they answered the “Why an MBA? Why Booth?” question, and that this is their chance to make another run at answering that question. But, that may not at all be why they were rejected last time. Maybe you had a weakness in your application that had nothing to do with your research on Booth or your reasons for wanting to earn an MBA, such as a low GMAT score or lack of leadership experience at work. While you do need to answer the question they ask, you will also need to make it obvious (here or somewhere else) that this weakness has been strengthened since last year.
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