University of Chicago (GSB) Essay Analysis, 2008-2009

Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career?  (750 word maximum).

Candidates will no doubt be relieved to find that Chicago’s previous “Why MBA?” question has been reduced by 750 words and that its scope has been narrowed. In previous years, candidates were forced to address career progress, short- and long-term goals, steps they have taken to learn about Chicago and their fit with the school. Now, ironically, by offering a far more open-ended question, Chicago is limiting the information it requires.

We feel that a successful response will be one in which a candidate anecdotally “shows” his or her growth to the reader. Rather than simply reciting any and all of your projects and accomplishments to date, you should showcase a selection of stories that best illustrate your strong career trajectory and then reveal the MBA as the clear culmination of your experience—the next point from which you will accelerate your progress.

Notably, the Chicago Admissions Committee has commented that they do not expect to identify candidates’ short- and long-term goals via this essay, but will be defer the discussion of such objectives to the interview. Still, a broad presentation of your goals is certainly warranted, as would be a thoughtful survey of the resources you will use at Chicago to move closer to ultimately reaching these goals.

While this essay does not represent the conventional personal statement, some of the “rules” of writing one still apply. So, we remind candidates that our Personal Statement Guide is available for free via our online store.

For additional information on the Chicago GSB experience, please consult the MBA Mission Insider’s Guide series.

Please select one of the following two questions to answer. (1,000 word maximum)

1a) Please provide an example of a time when you had to make a choice between two equally important obligations. How did you decide which obligation deserved your attention? b) Did you try and predict other people’s reactions to your decision? If so, how accurate were you? Why do you think you were or were not accurate in your prediction? c) Reflecting on this experience, how do you think an MBA from Chicago GSB might have aided in your decision making process?

As you contemplate this essay, you will need to carefully consider its foundation. Many candidates will mistakenly recount a time when they faced an easily resolvable choice—one in which the candidate’s ultimate selection is more or less obvious or readily understandable. Remember, you are not discussing a day when you faced a troubling but rather mundane issue, such as a timing conflict, but a moment when you had to make a difficult choice between “two equally important obligations”—likely a time when you had to choose one direction over another. You can test whether the choices you are considering discussing were truly competing obligations by determining that significant costs were associated with choosing either one. Indeed, the magnitude of this decision is everything in setting up this essay. So, the reader must truly experience and understand the stark contrast between the options and in some ways feel perplexed him/herself as he/she reads.

Of course, the manner in which you reasoned your way through this dilemma is also quite important. Again, if only limited thought went into your resolution of the conflict, then you are most likely choosing the wrong story. The reader wants to understand your thought process, the manner in which you weighed your options and considered the outcomes. Ultimately, your commitment to one obligation over the other is not as relevant as how you reached that commitment—the “how” is what will make this essay interesting, as it will offer a window into your psyche.

Finally, reflections on how your MBA from the Chicago GSB “might have aided you” should be specific to your case You must be sure to connect your developmental opportunities to the GSB’s resources in a clear and compelling way.


2a) Have you ever made a decision that caused you to go against popular opinion? Please describe that situation and your rationale for your decision. b) Did you feel at any point that people misperceived your motives? Explain? c) In retrospect, how do you think an MBA from Chicago GSB would have affected your decision?

In this essay, as in the first choice above, the GSB is trying to develop an understanding of your character and thought processes by asking you about a time when you had to make a decision that had costs associated with it. Again, establishing a strong foundation for this essay by illustrating a sharp contrast between the opposing points of view is critically important. In this case, you will benefit from revealing the overwhelming momentum of opinion in one direction and your reasoned and principled stand in opposition, preferably in the face of palpable pressure (think Twelve Angry Men). Again, in this essay, clearly explaining how you resolved this conflict—and thereby showing yourself to be persuasive and diplomatic in reaching a resolution or compromise—is key.

(Note: While presenting yourself as the “victor” in this situation is not crucial, portraying yourself as someone with strong opinions and who is reasoned in his/her approach to resolving impasses or problems definitely is. Again, as explained earlier, you must clearly convey the GSB’s potential role in educating you to better deal with such a situation by avoiding generic language and tying in the school’s resources.)

Slide Presentation

We have asked for a great deal of information throughout this application and now invite you tell us about yourself. Using four slides or less, please provide readers with content that captures who you are.

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 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 4 slides, though you can provide fewer than 4 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.

We are quite pleased to see that the GSB has changed this “essay”slightly to allow the submission of PDFs. Last year, because the slide presentation was restricted to Powerpoint, we felt that some candidates who had limited exposure to this software were disadvantaged. Now, all candidates are truly on equal footing,

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 design.

Because this presentation is so open, we would need to collaborate 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 this important content in a unique and compelling format. 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 start you on the right track.

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