Chicago Booth Deadlines, Essays & Analysis (Class of 2012, Starting Fall 2010)
Overview: Chicago has kept the same format as last year but has made some interesting changes to its goals essay and simplified its choice essays. Chicago's signature slide presentation is largely the same, except for a small but important change in the instructions. Despite the similar format overall, I detect a subtle shift in focus in the application set towards self-awareness.
Essay Questions and Slide Presentation
Below are the Essay questions for the Fall 2010 application. The Fall 2010 Chicago Booth application will be available on the Online Application System in mid-July 2009.
1. How did you choose your most recent job/internship and how did this experience influence your future goals? What about the Chicago Booth MBA makes you feel it is the next best step in your career at this time? (750-1000 words)
Analysis: This is one of the more subtle and demanding goals essays that I've seen this year, for it assumes that something about your most recent work experience sparked your desire for a big career change. This is a great element to have in any goals essay (please see: The MBA Goals Essay), but only Chicago has asked for it so explicitly. Hopefully that "something" was positive exposure to a high-potential opportunity or challenge that you want to explore. Perhaps you managed a project in a new field and absolutely loved it, or pushed the boundaries in your current field and discovered untapped possibilities. On the other hand, perhaps you experienced something negative that revived an old dream. Whether positive or negative, first-hand experience should be driving your ambitions. In addition, you should explain clearly why you chose the job/internship in the first place, and compare/contrast your experience with your expectations so that the adcom can see the links between your past, present, and future. Chicago is also demanding unique reasons why they are your best option, so do your homework and then some. (please see: Why MBA School X?)
1a. FOR 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? (250 words)
Analysis: This question is more opaque compared to the more direct re-applicant questions of Wharton and Kellogg, for example, that ask essentially for action- and results-based improvements (i.e., higher test scores, improved language ability, more community involvement, stronger initiative/leadership in work, etc.). While there might be room for those things, Chicago seems more interested in the evolution of your thoughts since your last application. If your goals have changed, for example, then your reasons for getting an MBA and for studying at Chicago have likely changed as well. Perhaps your goals and desire for an MBA haven't changed, but you've discovered new things about Chicago that make it even more appropriate for you both personally and professionally. Tough question, but it fits the theme of self-awareness that runs through the application set.
2. Please choose one of the following (500 - 750 words):
Describe a time when you wish you could have retracted something you said or did. When did you realize your mistake and how did you handle the situation?
Describe a time when you were surprised by feedback that you received. What was the feedback and why were you surprised?
Analysis: Both of these questions require significant introspection and reflection. The former resembles a typical MBA failure essay, where you have to recognize your mistake, show your understanding of why you made it, your immediate response and, if appropriate, your long-term growth from the experience. The latter involves unexpected input from someone else that leads to the same kind of self-knowledge and growth. The two most immediate differences are that the former is self-directed, while the latter requires outside input. The latter also allows for both negative and positive feedback. In both, it is important to show not just how your thinking changed, but whenever possible, how your behavior changed as well. Talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, etc.
We have asked for a great deal of information throughout this application and now invite you to tell us about yourself. In four slides or less please answer the following question: What have you not already shared in your application that you would like your future classmates to know about you?
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 to 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.
Analysis: I've underlined the main difference in this year's slide presentation instructions above. Chicago can't be any more clear - do not repeat information that is covered elsewhere. (This is a common mistake among applicants so I'm not surprised they've included it.) The other big difference is the focus on "your future classmates" and not on the adcom, per se. In that sense, the presentation is similar to Kellogg's tricky question #3 ("...Why would your peers select you to become a member of the Kellogg community?")
There are myriad approaches to this presentation, but key to all of them is the self-awareness to match your distinctive combination of strengths, personality and potential contributions to what your future classmates at Chicago would most highly value. Teamwork and leadership have to be priorities, as are knowledge, experiences and accomplishments that would make you a fun, involved, interesting, insightful and collaborative person both inside and outside the classroom, and as an alum. Since many applicants will share similar professional backgrounds and hard skills, and since you will cover at least some of those things in the other essays, my general feeling is that you should concentrate on your personal life or at least your core qualities that have led to both personal and professional success. In terms of visual presentation, I've seen effective approaches (measured by interview invitations) ranging from simple photos and captions, to interweaving charts, graphs and hand-drawn icons that illustrated an applicant's entire life.
If there is any important information that is relevant for your candidacy that you were unable to address elsewhere in the application, please share that information here.
Analysis: This is a good place to address any glaring weaknesses in your application (low test scores, gaps in employment, poor grades, etc.) If you don’t have any weaknesses then this can be used for almost anything, but make sure your topic is adding something new to your overall application profile.