The two required application essay prompts for the University of Chicago Booth School of Business complement each other well, allowing candidates to offer insight into both their professional lives and their personal lives. The school also offers applicants significant leeway in how thoroughly they want (or feel they need) to respond to the questions by stipulating a minimum word count of 250 but no maximum. That said, the admissions committee does include a “response guideline,” in which it encourages applicants to “think strategically” about how long their essays ultimately are. No doubt Chicago Booth is interested in learning more about you and your story (that fits the given question, of course) but is simultaneously not interested in learning absolutely everything you can think of to share. Our full essay analysis follows.
Chicago Booth 2023–2024 Essay Tips
Response Guidelines: 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.
Essay 1: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (Minimum 250 words, no maximum)
If this essay prompt seems rather simplistic and straightforward, that is because it is. Chicago Booth is requesting very fundamental—yet incredibly important—information and really just wants you to provide it so the school can understand your motivation for pursuing an MBA from its program and where you expect to go in your career afterward. Be as specific as possible in your description of where you see yourself after graduation and several years down the line, from the industry and role to any additional details about which you currently feel confident (perhaps specific companies or responsibilities that appeal to you in particular). Explain what has brought you to this point in your professional life, not only your career progression to date but also what has inspired you to earn an advanced degree as a vital tool in moving forward. And ideally, take the extra step of noting which of the program’s resources you believe will be most helpful to you in your pursuits. To be effective, this needs to be more than a passing mention, so do your research on the school and draw a clear picture for your admissions reader as to how and why the particular offerings you have identified relate directly to your needs and how you intend to apply them.
This essay includes some of the most elemental components of a traditional personal statement essay. We therefore encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, in which we provide much more in-depth guidance on how to consider and respond to these sorts of questions, along with numerous illustrative examples.
Essay 2: An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are… (Minimum 250 words, no maximum.)
As we have seen, Chicago Booth’s first essay question focuses specifically on candidates’ professional paths and aspirations, and with this prompt, the admissions committee is very explicitly directing applicants to discuss their personas and lives, separate from the workplace. The school is essentially asking for whatever information or insight you believe it needs to understand you more fully as an individual and to be able to evaluate you thoroughly and fairly.
The admissions committee will already have a lot of information about you that it can and will use to get to know you better, including your resume, extracurricular activities, recommendations, short-answer question responses, and academic transcripts. You should therefore approach this essay by first thinking about what these portions of your application convey about who you are. Whatever you discuss should complement that information and help provide the school with a more well-rounded impression of you. Do not use this essay to pander to the school or make a general pitch for your candidacy or why you need an MBA. The focus needs to be on you and on giving the admissions committee a new window into your profile. Consider elements of your personality that you feel are particularly revelatory of who you are as an individual (e.g., values, hobbies, skills) as well as significant instances from your past that illustrate something about you or influenced the person you are today (e.g., accomplishments, excursions, milestones). The ideas about which you feel most enthusiastic are likely your best options and should also be the easiest to write about.
You might also consider giving some thought to which elements of your persona or background mesh best with the Chicago Booth experience. (Dig deeper into what life at the school is really like by reading student blogs, perusing discussion boards, catching up on press releases from the school, watching videos on Chicago Booth’s YouTube channel, and downloading a free copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Booth School of Business.) If you are struggling to decide among several topic options, selecting one that aligns with Chicago Booth’s character or with specific offerings could help to illustrate your fit with the program.
In the end, as with all application essays (no matter the school), what you want to convey most is authenticity. Do not get caught up in trying to say what you think the admissions committee wants to hear or writing in a way that is incongruent with your natural communication style. And avoid just indiscriminately relating as much information as possible about yourself in hopes of stumbling on the “right” answers. Writing with sincerity and letting your true self shine through will make your essay its most compelling and memorable.
Optional Question: Is there any unclear information in your application that needs further explanation or additional details you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? If so, please use this section to clarify. (Maximum 300 words)
Chicago Booth’s optional essay prompt is a little quirky in that the admissions committee uses the word “unclear,” which to us says, “Don’t share additional information just to ‘sell’ your candidacy. Use this space only to address a problem area.” So let us be especially clear: however tempted you may be, do not simply submit a strong essay you wrote for another school or offer a few anecdotes you were unable to include in your required essays. This is 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. 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, along with multiple examples, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your application.
Reapplicant Question: Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (Maximum 300 words)
With this essay question, Chicago Booth is testing your resolve and your reasoning. We surmise that the admissions committee 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 might 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 updated goals 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.
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 Guides to spur you along! Download your free copy of the Chicago Booth School of Business Interview Guide today.
To learn more about the essays for other top business schools, visit our MBA Essay Tips and Examples Resources Page.