University of Chicago (Booth) Essay Analysis, 2009-2010

1. How did you choose your most recent job/internship and how did this experience influence your future goals? What about the Chicago Booth MBA makes you feel it is the next best step in your career at this time? (750-1,000 words)

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the “mbaMission Personal Statement Guide.” We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store.  Please feel free to download your copy today.

For a thorough exploration of Chicago Booth’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to Chicago Booth .

Chicago Booth’s first essay question does warrant some additional discussion beyond the broadly applicable ideas available in our Personal Statement Guide, however. You should be sure to note that Booth asks you to focus on your most recent position, so you will need to be conscientious and not just paste in your career history section from your NYU application, for example. Further, you must also respond to the “how” question and not just tell the Admissions Committee what you accomplished in your most recent position. The Admissions Committee wants to understand that you have the ability to make reasoned professional decisions. So, your past professional choice will serve as the evidence they need to ensure that you are making the right choice in applying to Booth, that you have a sound career plan going forward (or an ability to react to changing circumstances) and that you will be thoughtful and resourceful about your career beyond Booth’s doors.

2. Please choose one of the following (500-750 words):

The two questions Booth offers as options for essay two will require you to be contrite and to accept your weaknesses, frailties or mistakes. Chicago Booth will be impressed by candidates’ abilities to be honest and will not look kindly on those who refuse to accept responsibility or who attempt to shift blame to others. Nevertheless, you do not need to turn your sword on yourself and engage in any savage condemnations. You will impress the Admissions Committee with honesty, rather than negatively surprise the committee with a brutal approach.

Describe a time when you wish you could have retracted something you said or did. When did you realize your mistake and how did you handle the situation?

While, again, you should strive to leave yourself exposed and reveal that you are not a perfect human being, we feel that after setting the stage for your mistake, you should focus the majority of your essay on how you resolved the issue (and as always, we emphasize the importance of conveying the “how” element).  By showing your actions, you will, ideally, reveal your self-awareness, honesty, reasoned ability to resolve problems and more, all of which will enable you to effectively convey your overall strength of character.


Describe a time when you were surprised by feedback that you received. What was the feedback and why were you surprised?

As you write this essay, you might consider leading the reader through a narrative that clearly shows that you believe you are making a series of “correct” choices. Then, you might introduce the feedback that you received, which would then indicate a very sharp contrast to your actions. Indeed, this contrast is the crux of what makes your story interesting—the conflict between your intentions and reality. (Many of these essays fail because the contrast presented is not particularly sharp, and thus, the situation does not effectively catch the reader’s interest.) Even though the question of what you learned from the feedback is not asked, we feel that it would be appropriate for you to address this aspect of the situation and, in some cases, even show that you implemented changes accordingly going forward. This final element should not be belabored, however, and candidates should be careful not to go off on a long tangent about other experiences. Stay focused on the core conflict and the reasons you were ultimately “surprised” by the feedback you received.

Slide Presentation

We have asked for a great deal of information throughout this application and now invite you to tell us about yourself. In four slides or less please answer the following question: What have you not already shared in your application that you would like your future classmates to know about you?

We have set forth the following guidelines for you to consider when creating your presentation. The content is completely up to you. There is no right or wrong approach to this essay. Feel free to use the software you are most comfortable with. Acceptable formats for upload in the online application system are PowerPoint or PDF. There is a strict maximum of four (4) slides, though you can provide fewer than four if you choose.  Slides will be printed 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. Color may be used.

Slides will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation. You are welcome to attach a document containing notes if you feel a deeper explanation of your slides is necessary. However, the hope is the slide is able to stand alone and convey your ideas clearly. You will not be penalized for adding notes, but you should not construct a slide with the intention of using the notes section as a consistent means of explanation.

At mbaMission, we really welcome this creative approach to self-expression. Chicago’s unique slide presentation is truly a blank slate and thus presents an incredible opportunity for candidates to differentiate themselves by creating a concept that is entirely distinct from thousands of others. What is great about this option is that in a traditional essay, your task is to differentiate yourself using only your content, but in this presentation, you can showcase your unique attributes through your content while also captivating your audience via your creativity, made clear through your design. (This is not to suggest that the slide presentation is an artistic competition, but we do feel that the presentation has the potential to engage and hold the reader/viewer in a unique way and thus is an opportunity that should be seized to maximum effect.)

Because the slide presentation leaves so much room for creative interpretation, we would need to collaborate directly with candidates to devise personal strategies. As a general rule, however, we recommend that candidates first consider their content and then devise a design that will allow them to best communicate all of their important information in a unique and compelling way. You do not want to make the mistake of choosing a method of presentation that is distinct and captivating but that limits your ability to tell your story in its entirety. Fully understanding and crafting your content first will prevent this from happening and will start you on the right track.

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