No More PowerPoint Presentation for Chicago Booth Applicants?

A new BusinessWeek article investigates how some schools are breaking with tradition and exploring new approaches to the MBA admissions process. Some business schools now accept the GRE in addition to the GMAT, while others are replacing traditional written essays with audio and video responses.

The whole article is interestig, but what we actually found most intriguing was the tidbit that Chicago Booth will drop its PowerPoint question this coming admission season (2010-2011). This questions had been a staple of Booth’s application for the past couple of years, but apparently it wasn’t doing what the school had intended, so they axed it.

Chicago Booth Associate Dean for Student Recruitment and Admissions Rose Martinelli addressed the story on her blog today:

The PowerPoint presentation was designed to elicit a sense of fit with Booth culture. Essentially, it presented applicants with a unique and somewhat ambiguous opportunity to convey information of their choice. It allowed applicants to tell us what was important and relevant in their candidacy and helped us learn much more about who they are than can be prompted through standard essay questions. It also has helped us evaluate how candidates navigate ambiguity through various frameworks and strategies. As applicants and consultants became more familiar with this exercise, however, we began to see more and more presentations that felt standard, rote and predictable.

As we approach the new application year, we have begun to think through each of the different application components. While this may be the last year of the presentation requirement in its current form, we have not yet made any final decisions as to what next year’s application will look like.

As we always say, when a school adds or changes or deletes an essay question, it’s a sign that the admissions office isn’t quite getting what it needs (and Martinelli’s post said exactly that). When reviewing every application, two main questions that goes through an admissions officer’s mind are, “How well does this applicant fit with the school?” and “What about this applicant makes me want to choose him over other, similar applicants?” If a question generates similar answers from hundreds of applicants, or doesn’t add anything new to most applicants’ stories, then it’s not getting the job done.

But, Booth’s admissions officers do deserve credit for trying something new. Also, we’re very intrigued by the “may be something that MBA applicants will have to do after they get through an initial screening process” comment… The natural move would be for Booth to follow schools such as UCLA Anderson and offer a video or audio component. But, maybe it will be something else entirely, and maybe it will be something used as the admissions interview is used — to get to know an applicant better after the school likes what it initially sees. We’ll find out this summer, when Chicago Booth releases its application for the 2010-2011 admissions season.

(By the way, while it’s not directly related to MBA admissions, take a look at some of the interesting videos that Tufts University applicants submitted last year. Pretty interesting stuff, and probably the future of admissions, at least in some small way!)

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