Chicago Booth Essay Analysis, 2017-2018
How can you write essays that grab the attention of MBA admissions committees? With this thorough Chicago Booth essay analysis, our friends atmbaMission help you conceptualize your essay ideas and understand how to execute, so that your experiences truly stand out.
For the third year in a row, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business is maintaining its rather unique “essay” question in which it asks applicants to select from a group of images depicting key moments in the Chicago Booth MBA experience and explain why the chosen image “best resonates” with them. When this prompt was first introduced in 2015–2016, the school offered a collection of 16 photos from which candidates could choose; last year, the group was reduced to ten. This season, Chicago Booth is presenting just six image options. We are unaware of the exact reasons behind this continued minimizing, but we theorize that certain types of photos were rarely chosen or did not elicit the kind of response the admissions committee ultimately felt was helpful in evaluating candidates. Another possibility is that multiple photos may have inspired very similar essays, so only one such picture was needed. Or Chicago Booth may have wanted to focus applicants on specific aspects of its program and therefore eliminated any images not related to those elements. This year’s photos again come with captions describing the depicted scene—an important factor in this equation in that an individual might be strongly drawn to a particular image, but the associated caption might influence his or her initial interpretation of it in some way. The bottom line is that with this nontraditional prompt, the school puts a significant amount of power in candidates’ hands in letting them select from a group of options, which thereby lets them better control the impression of themselves they want to present. We hope that you will find the essay question exciting and inspiring, rather than intimidating, and offer the following Chicago Booth essay analysis to help you plan your response.
The following is a collection of shared Booth moments. Choose the moment that best resonates with you and tell us why.
- Choose the format that works for you. Want to illustrate your response visually? Submit a slide presentation. Like to express yourself with words? Write a traditional essay. Use the format that you feel best captures your response, the Admissions Committee has no preference.
- Determine your own length. There is no prescribed minimum or maximum length. We trust that you will use your best judgment in determining how long your submission should be, but we recommend that you think strategically about how to best allocate the space.
- File Size: Maximum file size is 16 MB.
- Accepted Upload Formats: Acceptable formats are PDF, Word, and PowerPoint. We strongly recommend converting your piece to a PDF file prior to submitting.
- Multimedia Restrictions: We will be viewing your submission electronically and in full color, but all submissions will be converted to PDF files, so animation, video, music, etc. will not translate over.
In offering advice to applicants on how best to approach its unorthodox essay prompt, a member of the Chicago Booth admissions committee stated on the department’s blog, “Simply put, we want applicants to have fun with the question and let their personality shine through. Focus less on curating a certain image and more on embracing who you are. Please trust when I say that there is no hidden meaning in the prompt.” We sincerely hope you will take the school’s counsel to heart and let go of any fears you might have about choosing the “wrong” image. Every MBA program’s essay questions share a common purpose—to help the admissions committee learn about you—and this is just a very pure and creative way of approaching the issue. Chicago Booth is not testing you. It is merely offering a novel way of inspiring a discussion about something you feel is fundamental about you—something you want the school to know about who you are, where you have been, and/or where you want to go in the future. The photos provided are very malleable, so they all offer a good opportunity to convey key messages about yourself. With a little time and contemplation, you should begin to feel a genuine connection with one of the options.
You might pick an image that connects with or recalls an important event from your past that had a significant impact on you and colors the person you are today. You could instead opt for a photo that relates to your aspirations as a Chicago Booth student or in your career. Another option is to select a picture that elicits a more emotional response from you and correlates with one or more of your core values or beliefs. Perhaps a good approach would be to let the image choose you, so to speak. With this essay—as with all application essays, of course—being sincere is crucial, so you will likely be able to craft your most compelling response when you feel a genuine attraction to the photo you choose. And do not merely identify an attribute in a photo and riff for a thousand words on what you feel are your most impressive accomplishments; instead, really get to the heart of how and why the image speaks to you personally. If you truly own your experiences and provide sufficient detail in showcasing them, your message will come across as authentic.
You can choose from multiple format options beyond the traditional essay for your submission, which no doubt adds to this prompt’s intimidation factor for some applicants. We offer no recommendation with respect to whether a written essay, a PowerPoint presentation, or any other format is “best” in this case. Opportunities are certainly available in both traditional and creative approaches, depending on where your strengths lie. We do, however, recommend that if you choose to write an essay, you limit yourself to no more than a thousand words.
Optional Essay: Is there any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? If so, please address in an optional essay. (300 words maximum)
Chicago Booth’s optional essay prompt is rather open-ended in that it does not specify that you discuss only problem areas in your candidacy, though it does restrict you to just 300 words. Nevertheless, this is still your opportunity to address—if you need to—any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a low GMAT or GRE score, a poor grade or overall GPA, or a gap in your work experience. Do not simply try to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you. And however tempted you might be, this is not the place to reuse a strong essay you wrote for another school or to offer a few anecdotes you were unable to share in your required essay. But if you truly feel that you must emphasize or explain something that would render your application incomplete if omitted, write a very brief piece on this key aspect of your profile. For more guidance, we encourage you to download your free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, with multiple examples, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your application.
Reapplicant Essay: 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 maximum)
With this essay question, Chicago Booth is testing your resolve and your reasoning. We surmise that the school wants to be certain you are not just stubbornly following a path and trying to “finish what you started,” so to speak, but that you have truly reassessed your needs in the aftermath of your unfortunate rejection. We recommend that you discuss your subsequent growth and development as they pertain to additional personal and professional discovery, which validates your need for an MBA. In the interim, some of your interests or goals may have changed—that is not a bad thing, and the admissions committee will not automatically assume that you are “wishy-washy,” unless you give them good reason to do so. Just be sure that any of your goals that have changed still logically connect to your overall story and desire for an MBA. Your aspirations—new or original—need to represent a compelling progression of the growth you have achieved in the past year.
And for a thorough exploration of the Chicago Booth academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics, download your complimentary copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
mbaMission is the leader in MBA admissions consulting with a full-time and comprehensively trained staff of consultants, all with profound communications and MBA experience. mbaMission has helped thousands of candidates fulfill their dream of attending prominent MBA programs around the world. Take your first step toward a more successful MBA application experience with a free 30-minute consultation with one of mbaMission’s senior consultants. Sign up today at www.mbamission.com/manhattangmat.
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business is consistently rated in the top echelon of MBA programs in the United States and is known for a strong intellectual community. While Chicago has asked a version of a creative, open-ended essay for many years, this one focuses more on personal experiences with your classmates than in the past.
Senior Director of Admissions Donna Swinford says in the Booth Admissions Blog: “Please trust when I say that there is no hidden meaning in the prompt. Rather than spend time worrying about what you think we want to hear, focus instead on telling us why the Booth moment truly resonates with you.”
While Chicago highly values academics, there are many places in your MBA application to feature your academic accomplishments. Academic ability will largely be communicated through your GPA/GMAT, transcripts and other fixed data points, though intellectual curiosity can be demonstrated in the essays and the interview.
Along with academics, Chicago will be looking for demonstrated leadership, team building skills and community involvement, as well as your fit with Chicago Booth and the perspective you will share with your classmates.
If your career goals and work experience does not fit with the essay portion of the application, make sure your resume is shows progression, clearly communicates your experience and highlights core accomplishments.
View this collection of shared Booth moments. Choose the moment that best resonates with you and tell us why.
• Choose the format that works for you. Want to illustrate your response visually? Submit a slide presentation. Like to express yourself with words? Write a traditional essay. Use the format that you feel best captures your response, the Admissions Committee has no preference.
• Determine your own length. There is no prescribed minimum or maximum length. We trust that you will use your best judgment in determining how long your submission should be, but we recommend that you think strategically about how to best allocate the space.
• File Size: Maximum file size is 16 MB.
• Accepted Upload Formats: Acceptable formats are PDF, Word, and PowerPoint. We strongly recommend converting your piece to a PDF file prior to submitting.
• Multimedia Restrictions: We will be viewing your submission electronically and in full color, but all submissions will be converted to PDF files, so animation, video, music, etc. will not translate over.
This Chicago Booth essay question provides a set of photos and text describing and depicting a range of student activities at Booth – from a student taking notes in class to a group scuba diving in Central America– and asks you to choose one that resonates with you.
Your first step is to do as much school research as possible on Chicago. Visit campus. Attend events. Speak to alumni. Read the admissions blog. Whatever you are capable of doing to experience the community for yourself before starting your application will be invaluable as you set pen to paper.
Chicago Booth’s open-ended essay format is daunting for most applicants. Whether you choose to write an essay or prepare a presentation, take a step back from the unique format and think about the question strategically. The format’s open-ended setup simply gives you the freedom to express who you are in words, images, graphics or some combination.
Keep in mind what Chicago Booth represents in the image you choose. Booth is a school with a tradition of intellectual rigor, non-conformity, and innovation. When discussing the image that resonates with you about Chicago Booth you can share almost anything from any context, from work to home to extracurricular activities.
It’s also important to explain why your chosen image resonates with you and to bring in important elements of your application strategy. Maybe the image of students celebrating diversity resonates with you because it is one of your core values that you will share with your Booth classmates as a club president. Or the image of a student walking by the modern art collection resonates with a core hobby that you want to share with your classmates.
If you decide to write an essay response, you have enough space to tell a story that describes something new about yourself. If you decide to prepare a PowerPoint in response to this essay question, refine your story to its key elements.
To keep a visual essay interesting and high-impact, consider how you will format. Can you use photos? Drawings? If you use words, keep them clear and focused. Take every point up a level, so you are communicating a vision rather than a thesis.
Is there any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? If so, please address in an optional essay. (300 words maximum)
This optional essay is a flexible question, allowing you to provide the information you need to put forward the best possible application. If you have any areas that need to be explained in your profile, such as academic issues or gaps in work experience, this is the ideal place to add more detail.
Because the essay is open-ended you can also use it to add any additional information you wanted to inform the admissions committee about. Anything from an interesting personal background to meaningful extracurricular could be relevant context to add to a successful application.
Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn more about how we can help you approach your Booth application.
This entry was posted in Application Tips, Chicago Booth Advice and tagged application tips, applications, Booth MBA, Chicago Booth MBA, Chicago Booth School of Business, Essay Tips, Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips, MBA application, MBA Essays.
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