University of Chicago Booth Essay Analysis, 2015–2016

*Please note: You are viewing an essay analysis from the 2015-2016 admissions cycle. Click here to view our collection of essay analyses for the current admissions season. 

Clearly, the admissions committee at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business marches to its own beat, and this year, it has released an “essay” question like no other. We expect that the school’s “essay” prompt will flummox a lot of people (and because applicants can choose from multiple format options for their submission, we are putting the word “essay” in quotation marks). The question is an unorthodox one, but do not let this intimidate you. We will get on with our Chicago Booth essay analysis now, in hopes of ending the bewilderment…

Essay 1: Chicago Booth values individuality because of what we can learn from the diverse experiences and perspectives of others. This mutual respect creates an open-minded community that supports curiosity, inspires us to think more broadly, take risks, and challenge assumptions. At Booth, community is about collaborative thinking and tapping into each other’s different viewpoints to cultivate new ideas and realize breakthrough moments every day.
Chicago Booth Essay Analysis

Using one of the photos provided, tell us how it resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you.

Essay Guidelines

  • Choose the format that works for you. Feel free to submit a traditional essay, slide presentation, or any format that you feel best captures your response. Please use the format you are most comfortable with, 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.

Technical Guidelines

  • 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.

So much of Chicago Booth’s essay question and parameters are a sideshow from the school is really asking you, which we will attempt to paraphrase: “Examine these photos and relate one of them to your interest in the Chicago Booth community.” The good news is that a picture is worth a thousand words—or in this case, 16 pictures provide a opportunity to write less than a thousand words! With 16 pictures, you should be able to “spin” one of them in your favor. Is the photo of a man in a parka proudly standing on an ice floe and pulling a sled a representation of adventure, pride, calculated risk, selflessness (after all, one could surmise that a classmate took the picture!), struggle, resilience, a willingness to conduct field research, or another attribute altogether? The photos the school provides are very malleable, so to start, do not get too hung up on which one to choose.

Instead, start by thinking about what you know and truly appreciate about the Chicago Booth community. If you are not profoundly aware of what the community is like, do whatever is necessary to learn about it: visit the campus, network with students and alumni, and check out the Considering Booth channel on YouTube. By deepening your understanding of the school’s community, you will naturally become much better prepared to respond meaningfully to the essay question. If you have little to no knowledge of the Chicago Booth community or understand it only in clichéd terms, whatever you write or submit will ring hollow.

In discussing why the Chicago Booth community is the right one for you, you can take a very broad perspective on the concept of community—it can include class experiences, social experiences, alumni interactions, and much more. And as you share which aspects of the community resonate with you, you can (and should) by extension discuss… you! For example, if you identify “audacity” as an attribute displayed in one of the school’s provided photos and then note that audacity is a quality of the Chicago Booth community that you find appealing, you would then be wise to reference your own audaciousness. Do not merely identify an attribute in a photo and riff on your accomplishments for a thousand words; instead, really get to the heart of how you exhibit a specific characteristic, and reveal how it would manifest in experiences you anticipate having as a Chicago Booth student. In crafting this “essay” submission (whatever format you choose), be sure to simultaneously show a very deep awareness and understanding of both yourself and the institution.

Do not worry that your themes might seem clichéd; if you truly own your experiences and provide sufficient detail in showcasing them, your central messages will come across as genuine. For instance, “thinking globally” might be a challenging concept to “own,” but if you truly exhibit this perspective in a way that defines who you are, then as long as you can demonstrate and authenticate that mind-set, any semblance of cliché should slip away.

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.

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/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.

The Next Step—Mastering Your Chicago Booth Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the Chicago Booth School of Business Interview Primer today.

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