University of Chicago (Booth) Essay Analysis, 2011–2012

1. What are your short- and long-term goals, and how will a Chicago Booth MBA help you reach them? (600 words)

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 more information on the defining characteristics of the MBA program at Chicago Booth (or one of 14 other top business schools), please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.

1a. Reapplicants 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)

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement or taken on a personal challenge of sorts, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. The school wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so because a Chicago Booth MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.


2. At Chicago Booth, we believe each individual has his or her own leadership style. How has your family, culture, and/or environment influenced you as a leader? (750 words)

In your response to this question, you can freely provide more personal background information than most MBA application essays typically allow. Understanding just how much of your personal life is appropriate to share can sometimes be challenging, but a simple test is to ask yourself whether you would feel comfortable sharing the information you are considering putting into your essay with a stranger the first time you met him/her. If so, you should feel confident proceeding as planned; if not, you will need to put more thought into your topic before continuing.

If you discuss your family background, you do not need to present an idyllic or Rockwellian picture, but should focus on illustrating the cause-and-effect relationships between the values you learned from your family and your subsequent leadership style. Conversely, if your developmental years were arduous and marked by negative input, you can reveal how you have become inspired to create a better atmosphere for others. Of course, as the question states, you can also (or instead) discuss the effect culture —which can include religion and ethnic background, or the broader environment, meaning quite literally the nature and values of the society in which your personality was formed — has had on you and particularly on your view and embodiment of leadership. For this essay to be effective, you will need to be introspective, showing self-awareness about both the past and its impact on the present and future.

3. Considering what you’ve already included in the application, what else should we know about you? In a maximum of four slides, tell us about yourself.

At mbaMission, we really welcome this creative approach to self-expression. Chicago Booth’s unique PowerPoint/PDF presentation question truly offers candidates a blank slate and thus presents an incredible opportunity for applicants to differentiate themselves by creating an entirely distinct concept. What is great about this option is that in a traditional essay, your task is to set yourself apart from other applicants using only your content, but in this presentation, you can showcase your unique attributes through your content while also captivating your audience with your creativity, represented through your chosen design/format. (We are not suggesting that the slide presentation is an artistic competition, but we do believe it has the potential to engage and hold the reader/viewer in a unique way and is therefore an opportunity that should be seized to maximum effect.)

Because the slide presentation leaves so much room for creative interpretation, rather than offering advice on how to approach this for all candidates indiscriminately, we would need to collaborate directly with applicants to devise a personal strategy for each one individually. As a general rule, however, we recommend starting with a thorough brainstorming session and fully considering the range of content available—after all, this is a unique opportunity to tell the admissions committee what you feel is most important about you. Then, devise a design that will allow you to communicate this information in the most unique and compelling way. Take care to give equal thought to both your content and your approach so that both are optimized. You do not want to make the mistake of choosing a presentation method that is distinct and captivating but that limits your ability to fully tell your story, nor do you want to include so much “weak” information about yourself (or worse, repeat information already provided elsewhere in your application!) that your otherwise compelling presentation approach is rendered clunky and ineffective. Fully understanding and crafting your content first will prevent either of these scenarios from happening and will start you on the right track.

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