University of Chicago (Booth) Essay Analysis, 2010–2011

1. 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?

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. 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 the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

2. 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 (maximum of 750 words).

The first sentence of this essay question is what is known as a “red herring.” Chicago Booth does not actually need to be part of your response. In fact, we would go so far as to advise against tying the school into your essay. Instead, focus on the second half of the question and use your essay to discuss a time when you took a risk and explain what you subsequently learned.

For those of you who are conservative and risk averse, do not worry if you have not yet taken a significant entrepreneurial/financial risk. Instead, you might have taken a risk in choosing one career track over another or in championing a project that stretched your team skills or managerial capabilities. Maybe you stepped out of your traditional role or deviated from your usual leadership style by initiating a new project via your community endeavors. The story of an entrepreneurial undertaking is of course fair game, but few applicants will have such a story. So, do not feel disadvantaged or discouraged if the risk you have taken will not send chills down the spine of your admissions reader. The admissions committee really just wants to know that you have pushed yourself in some way.

You might want to start your essay by placing the reader in the middle of the situation that arose as a result of the risk you took, or you could begin earlier in the action, first showing how the situation evolved and then explaining how you decided to pursue one of two (or more) competing paths. Regardless of how you approach your essay, take care not to focus only on detailing the risk itself but be sure to clearly explain how you weighed your options, what factors played into your decision and what you learned in the end, whether you ultimately succeeded or failed. Your ability to reflect and discuss takeaways from the experience will be crucial.

3. 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.

Most business schools offer very little flexibility in their essay questions, and as a result, you may feel constrained—what if you have a great story but it does not fit any of the questions asked? For this essay, Chicago Booth does away with the question altogether and gives you a blank slate. This free rein may seem daunting, but it actually presents you with a phenomenal opportunity to give the admissions committee a more complete and compelling picture of yourself.

Before you even consider your approach to this blank space, however, take a step back, brainstorm thoroughly and create a kind of “life inventory.” By cataloguing your most profound experiences, accomplishments and relationships, you will ideally find yourself with a rich trove of personal stories from which to draw as you start to write. Although this essay need not be a catchall—in fact, you can focus quite narrowly on a single experience, if appropriate—most candidates will benefit from presenting a broad image of themselves, revealing a varied and unique set of experiences and accomplishments. Once you have determined which information you want to include in this essay, you can then focus on how you want to present it. As the Chicago Booth admissions committee notes, though, this is not an exercise in graphic design, so you should not fret or hire someone to work on your presentation if you do not have design skills. You can show creativity and thought, even with a basic approach!

As you contemplate your structure, keep an open mind. Look around your room or office and see what jumps out at you. That travel guide to Turkey on your shelf might inspire you to create a few pages of a travel guide to your apartment (which is in itself an inventory of your life) or to a faux country based on you. Your banged-up briefcase may inspire you to tell the story of how, where and why each scratch occurred. (Note: Do not use either of these specific ideas! You will need to find something original and personal to you.) Your approach need not be “off the wall”; it just needs to be an expression of you. Your only limitations are your imagination and your ability to execute.

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