The University of Chicago Booth School of Business recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Yet another top-ranked business school has significantly cut back on its essay load this year: While last year’s essay word count was 1,350 (not counting the “PowerPoint essay”), this year’s total word count is just 900 words. Read on to see what we make of the changes.
Here are Booth’s new essays, followed by our comments in italics:
Chicago Booth Application Essays
- What are your short- and long-term goals, and how will an MBA from Chicago Booth help you reach them? (500 words)
This question is essentially the same as last year’s first question, aside from a very slight wording tweak and a reduction in word count from 600 to 500 words. This is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most business school ask. Note that, as important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to take the Booth part of the question seriously… What about Booth attracts you to the school? This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because Booth is highly ranked. Chicago Booth looks for a specific kind of applicant — one who’s intellectually curious and is not afraid of rigor. Does that appeal to you? If so, show it here!
- a. What has been your biggest challenge, and what have you learned from it? (200 words maximum)
This question is new this year. Yes, with a limit of 200 words, this essay doesn’t give you much to work with. With these types of questions, particularly when a school explicitly asks what you learned from a situation, we encourage applicants to use the “SAR” (Situation-Action-Result) method, with a lot of emphasis on the “Result” part. In this case, the result addresses the second and third questions in the essay prompt: What happened? What did you learn as a result? You only have 200 words here, so you must describe the situation VERY briefly, and then move on to the rest. This makes choosing a work situation ideal, since admissions officers will already have a basic understanding of where you work and what you do for a living. Also plan on keeping the “Action” part relatively tidy; the real key is devoting enough words to what you learned. Ideally, you can then describe how you took what you learned and put it into action in another, later situation. This is the very definition of growth.
- b. Tell us about something that has fundamentally transformed the way you think. (200 words maximum)
This question is also new this year. It replaces one that Booth tried for just one year, which asked, “How has your family, culture, and/or environment influenced you as a leader?” Clearly the school didn’t love the answers it got from that question, and now wants to try a different approach to better understanding what makes its applicants tick. With an essay like this, many applicants are tempted to “talk fancy” and tell stories along the lines of “My three months of inoculating mountain goats in Machu Picchu 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 one that sounds impressive. The story could be about a professor that you had (the more recent, the better), a terrific boss you worked with, or something outside of the workplace. But choose something real over something that sounds flashy. And be sure to adequately describe the transformation that resulted from the experience!
- 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?
We have set forth the following 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 * 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
* The file will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.
Ahh, Chicago Booth’s “PowerPoint question” is still here, although it’s been reworded again this year. The new wording puts emphasis on broadening perspectives… Both having your own perspective broadened at Booth, and you working to broaden the admissions team’s perspective of you. Last year the school more explicitly asked applicants to consider “what you’ve already included in the application,” and while this is worded differently, they’re mostly getting at the same thing: “Tell us something new and different about you.” You therefore really must ensure that these pages add something new to your application — don’t use it 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!
- (Re-applicants only) Upon reflection, how has your thinking regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words)
This re-applicant question is 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 ask 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. The way it’s written, this question 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, but that may not at all be why they were rejected last time. Imagine you’re an applicant who had all the right reasons for applying to Booth last year, but you had some other big weakness that kept you out, such as a low GMAT score or not enough meaningful work experience. Now you’re back, and you’ve worked hard to plug those holes, and now you need to manufacture a reason why your thinking is now different, although that thinking wasn’t the problem the first time around.
So, our advice here is to answer the question (ALWAYS answer the question asked!), but keep in mind that the phrasing may mislead you a bit. If you’re certain that it was something else that kept you out, be sure to work that into this essay, particularly if it’s something that won’t immediately jump out at admissions officers when they review your application data sheets.
For more advice on getting into Booth, download our Essential Guide to Booth, one of our 15 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Booth and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!
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Chicago Booth is one of the “hottest” MBA programs in the world, considering the rankings. More and more top-tier candidates now consider applying to Booth than ever before, making getting in to Booth tougher. Over the past several years, we have probably seen inquires about Booth increase more than those for any other school. Booth is hot, and people want to go there. If you’re reading this, then odds are that you’re considering Booth, too.
But how do you know Chicago Booth is a good fit for you? Today we look at four things that might make Booth an especially good fit for you. Not all of these need to apply to you, but the more these things sound like you, the more likely you are to fit in at Booth and excel in its rigorous learning environment:
You appreciate the Midwest
Obviously the majority of top American schools are on the coasts. Chicago Booth is one of two excellent schools in the middle of the country. If you don’t mind the cold — and the wind — Chicago is a dynamic city with plenty of urban attractions and diversions to occupy you when you’re not in class. Most recruiters who come to Chicago Booth also go to the other top schools on the coasts, however if you plan to stay in the Midwest after business school, then Chicago is an obvious choice.
You are an impressive early-career candidate
Chicago Booth has been known to be somewhat more open to younger applicants, though not generally those coming straight from university. Chicago Booth Admissions states that usually 1½ or 2 years in the workforce is recommended before you’ll be ready for the MBA experience.
You are changing careers
The freedom of curriculum design at Chicago Booth means that career changers can target their first-year experience to gain not just the standard MBA skills of economics, statistics, and finance, but also begin to develop the specialized training they will need for their post-MBA career — before their internship. At Chicago Booth, a well-planned first-year program can potentially result in a more meaningful summer internship experience and dramatically accelerate your progress in your new field, making you more attractive when you compete against candidates from other programs.
You like a smaller classroom
While its graduating class is at the upper end of the range of business school programs, at 550 full-time students, the actual class size at Chicago Booth tends to be a little smaller than at other schools, particularly in the core classes. This is because of that flexible curriculum again: instead of being assigned to a cluster that might be up to 90 students, and is almost definitely at least 65 (the average at Columbia and Wharton), Chicago Booth first-years choose how to satisfy their core requirements from a variety of options. The incoming class naturally scatters out to pursue the core subjects at their appropriate level of difficulty — and resulting in less than 60 students per class. Electives at Chicago Booth generally have fewer than 50 students. You might still get “lost in the crowd” given how large Chicago Booth is overall, but the classroom experience might be marginally less intimidating with fewer people people in the room.
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Given its reputation in finance and as an overall program that turns out analytically superior grads, it’s no wonder that thousands of applicants aim for a seat at Chicago Booth every year. What is surprising, though, is that so few of those applicants really know the school beyond its strong rankings and location in Chicago. We always urge these applicants to go back and do their homework a bit more before they start crafting their Booth applications.
If you’re considering applying to Booth, ask yourself: How do you know if Booth really is a good fit for you? And, perhaps more importantly, how do you know if the Booth admissions committee will decide that you’re a good fit for the school? Today we look at four things that set Booth apart from other top-tier MBA programs around the world:
A Quant Focus Beyond Finance
Chicago Booth possesses a strong reputation for its rigor, focus on analytics, and expertise in finance and economics — and, believe it or not, marketing. The finance and economics faculty members at Chicago Booth are outstanding, led by professors such as Eugene F. Fama, whom many call the “father of modern finance.” Chicago Booth is both deserving and proud of its “quant” reputation, but that tends to overshadow strengths in other areas Chicago Booth has been actively improving over the last decade. Not surprisingly, when a Chicago Booth admissions representative is asked, “What’s the one thing that applicants should know about Booth?” the answer will often mention Booth’s strengths in academic areas outside of pure finance — particularly entrepreneurship and marketing.
With only one required class, Chicago Booth most definitely takes a different approach to the process of getting an MBA. They do foster training in the “language of business” as they call it — the fundamentals of economics, statistics, and finance — however the unique setup of the program means that students determine how they will meet the requirements of the degree. Chicago Booth is not a prescriptive environment, and the emphasis on — and appreciation for — ideas makes it a place for mavericks and renegades as well as more traditional types.
A Very Large Part-Time MBA Program
Chicago Booth is a big school, with about 3,500 active graduate students enrolled at any one time. (This compares to under 1,000 at Stanford.) The bulk of these students come from the two part-time study options (one Evening program, one Weekend program), totaling about 1,400 students between them. Another 1,100 students make up the full-time program, with about 550 students per graduating class. The balance of Booth’s students are in the EMBA and PhD programs and are found around the world at Chicago Booth’s other campuses. Unlike other schools, full-time and part-time Chicago Booth students often interact, since they sometimes take courses together.
Strong Emphasis on Employment
Perhaps nowhere else is the focus on getting a job as strong as it at Chicago Booth. As part of their application assessment, the admissions team carefully examines applicants’ career goals to ensure that they are achievable. And the school offers significant support to its students, both during their educational experience to construct a practical curriculum, and throughout the job search process too. The difference? There is also a strong emphasis on getting industry to hire Booth graduates. And Booth often seems quicker to publish current placement data on graduates than any other school (we have often felt that some schools were dragging their feet in releasing this data once the downturn hit). This access to data is also evidence of Booth’s commitment to transparency. Every top business school offers career services to graduates, however the support for and emphasis on successful placement out of the program is more significant at Chicago Booth than you may find elsewhere. This focus on graduate success is a key factor in Booth’s #1 position in the rankings in recent years.
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Today we take a close look at Chicago Booth’s MBA admissions essays, which have changed quite a bit since last year. It’s interesting to note that, after there was some chatter a few months ago that Booth would drop its “PowerPoint question” this year, the question lives on. We firmly believe that schools like Booth are still looking for new ways to learn more about you, and while that question hasn’t been perfect, they don’t want to give up on it since it’s still Booth’s best bet to get to know the real you before interviewing you.
Here are Chicago Booth’s essays for the Class of 2013, followed by our comments in italics:
Chicago Booth Application Essays
The Admissions Committee is interested in learning more about you on both a personal and professional level. Please answer the following (maximum of 300 words for each section):
a. Why are you pursuing a full-time MBA at this point in your life?
b. Define your short and long term career goals post MBA.
c. What is it about Chicago Booth that is going to help you reach your goals?
d. RE-APPLICANTS ONLY: Upon reflection, how has your thinking regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application?
This question is new this year, although in many ways it’s a direct descendant of last year’s first essay question. This is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most schools ask. Note that, as important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to take part (c) seriously… What about Booth attracts you to the school? This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because Booth is highly ranked.
Chicago Booth is a place that challenges its students to stretch and take risks that they might not take elsewhere. Tell us about a time when you took a risk and what you learned from that experience .(750 words)
This question is also new this year. The best response here will come directly from your work experience, provide enough drama to pull the reader in, and give you an opportunity to really answer the second part of the essay prompt: What did you learn from the experience? Last year “reflection” was a big theme in Booth’s essay questions, and while this question doesn’t specifically ask for reflection, this is your chance to show the kind of self-awareness and introspection that Booth admissions officers really want to see.
At Chicago Booth, we teach you HOW to think rather than what to think. With this in mind, we have provided you with “blank pages” in our application. Knowing that there is not a right or even a preferred answer allows you to demonstrate to the committee your ability to navigate ambiguity and provide information that you believe will support your candidacy for Chicago Booth.
We have set forth the following guidelines:
The content is completely up to you. Acceptable file formats are PowerPoint or PDF.
There is a strict maximum of four pages, though you can provide fewer if you choose.
The document will be printed in color and added to your file for review; therefore, flash, hyperlinks, embedded videos, music, etc. will not be viewed by the committee. You are limited to text and static images to convey your points.
The file will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.
Files need to be less than 9 megabytes in order to upload. If your file is too large you may save your file as a PDF and upload your essay.
This is the famous “PowerPoint question,” although Booth sets it up differently this year, putting much more emphasis on the “Hey, you have a blank slate here!” message than before. Here the school asks you to present yourself creatively and succinctly. Almost nothing is out of bounds, but you really must ensure that these pages add something new to your application — don’t use it 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, give them some!
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Recently the University of Chicago Booth School of Business announced that Stanford GSB’s Sunil Kumar will assume the role of Dean at the school. Kumar’s appointment ends a search that began seven months ago, after Edward A. Snyder announced in December that he would leave the school at the end of the academic year after serving nearly two full five-year terms at the head of the school.
Kumar, who is currently the Fred H. Merrill Professor of Operations, Information and Technology at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, will begin his five-year term at Booth starting January 1, 2011. He brings with him an extensive resume of thought leadership in the operations management space. Kumar also is familiar with the role of leading an MBA program, currently serving as Stanford GSB’s Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
Over the past decade Booth has certainly spread its wings beyond hardcore quant and finance to gain a more well-rounded reputation among applicants and leaders at other schools. Appointing an “ops guy” like Kumar suggests that the school is comfortable with how far its reputation has come recently, and doesn’t feel a need to go any farther than it already has. Ten years ago, we wonder if the school, which has been interested in broadening its branding beyond the stereotype of hardcore quant-types, would have made this same appointment. That’s not to say that Kumar’s leadership will put a damper on the school’s other departments — everything we’ve seen about him suggests that he’s a well-rounded leader who happens to have a PhD in Electrical Engineering — but it’s an interesting signal about what the search committee thinks the school needs more right now.
“I am excited to become dean of Chicago Booth,” Kumar said in a released statement. “I share the school’s passion for the pursuit of ideas that hold up under careful scrutiny. I look forward to helping strengthen and enhance Booth’s outstanding research environment and its rigorous, discipline-based approach to business education. I am eager to get to know the faculty, students, alumni, and staff of the school, and to engage with the business community in the city of Chicago.”
No doubt about it, Kumar has some large shoes to fill. Snyder’s tenure at Booth was arguably the most successful run by any business school leader over the past decade: In 2008 alumnus David Booth donated $300 million, a staggering sum that led to the school changing its name from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business to Chicago Booth. The school also opened its new state-of-the-art Harper Center, which has significantly improved the quality of life for the student body. And, Chicago Booth’s global footprint has also grown significantly over the past decade, with a new campus in London and a planned campus expansions in Singapore. It’s hard to argue that any dean has had more of an impact on his or her school over the past ten years than Snyder had.
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Chicago Booth’s online application is now available for the 2010-2011 season. You may notice that Round 1 and Round have barely changed, but there is some interesting news on the Round 3 front that has bigger implications for many applicants’ overall timing strategies.
Here are the school’s new deadlines, followed by our comments in italics:
Chicago Booth Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 13, 2010
Round 2: January 5, 2011
Round 3: April 13, 2011
Round 1 and Round 2 have each only changed by a day this year, although Booth’s Round 3 deadline is now five weeks later than it was last year! We suspect the reason may be similar to the reason that UCLA Anderson gave us before: Top U.S. schools compete with many top international schools to attract great candidates, and many international schools’ final deadlines come much later than American schools’ deadlines typically do. Booth doesn’t want to miss out on a great applicant (who has legitimate reasons for applying in Round 3) simply because the admissions office has already shut its doors for the year.
For applicants who worry that Round 3 means an almost certain rejection letter, this is an important clue: The school has pushed back its deadline to encourage more people to apply! Round 3 must not be a complete dead end, then. While we still advise that candidates aim for Round 1 or Round 2, don’t believe all that you hear about Round 3 being impossible, especially at schools such as Booth that have made changes in their schedules to encourage more applicants to apply in Round 3.
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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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