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Chicago Booth Essay Topic Analysis 2010-2011

Continuing with our series of essay topic analyses for this season’s applications, today we’ll take some time to think about the 2010-2011 Chicago Booth application essay questions.  The overall format of the program’s prompt is similar to last year; the school requires that applicants submit responses to three “essays,” one of which is – in its fourth year running – a four-slide presentation.  As for noteworthy changes, the adcom has discarded last year’s second essay in which applicants could choose to discuss a mistake or surprising feedback, and replaced it with a mandatory question about taking a risk.  Let’s take a closer look at each of this year’s essays:

Essay 1
The Admissions Committee is interested in learning more about you on both a personal and professional level. Please answer the following (maximum of 300 words for each section):
a. Why are you pursuing a full-time MBA at this point in your life?
b. Define your short and long term career goals post MBA.
c. What is it about Chicago Booth that is going to help you reach your goals?
d. RE-APPLICANTS 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?

Unlike last year, this year’s applicants are not required to discuss their career history, but instead asked to focus on describing their career goals and how obtaining a Chicago MBA at this point in their lives will help them achieve these goals.  A fairly standard career goals essay, the structure does pose some challenges, as candidates will need to unpack in 300 words a topic that they might have covered in a single sentence for their applications for other schools (i.e. the “why now” issue), while distilling their discussion of short- and long-term career goals and interest in Chicago’s program to the same length.

In order to respond to this essay effectively, applicants will need to be able to identify certain programs and courses that are relevant to their goals and stated interests.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Chicago Booth – will pay dividends here.

Essay 2
Chicago Booth is a place that challenges its students to stretch and take risks that they might not take elsewhere. Tell us about a time when you took a risk and what you learned from that experience (maximum of 750 words).

New to the Chicago application, this essay has flexible parameters, allowing applicants to discuss a risk they took in their personal lives or professional or academic careers.  In addition, applicants can discuss a risk in which their efforts succeeded or failed.  Regardless of the situation you chose to discuss, the most important thing is that you can show that the risk ultimately had a positive outcome in that you’ve learned something important.  You will need to explain why the lessons you’ve learned are significant by detailing the positive impact they have had, e.g. how you have improved in your professional or personal life.  In addition, to clarify how you have benefited from the experience, it will be helpful to demonstrate that what you’ve learned will lead you to success at Chicago and in your future career plans.  Based on the first sentence of this prompt, you may also want to indicate that that you are open to taking further risks and that you value them as important learning experiences.

Essay 3
At Chicago Booth, we teach you HOW to think rather than what to think. With this in mind, we have provided you with “blank pages” in our application. Knowing that there is not a right or even a preferred answer allows you to demonstrate to the committee your ability to navigate ambiguity and provide information that you believe will support your candidacy for Chicago Booth.

Guidelines (for a full list of Essay 3 Guidelines, go here):
1. The content is completely up to you. Acceptable file formats are PowerPoint or PDF.
2. There is a strict maximum of four pages, though you can provide fewer if you choose.

This is the fourth consecutive year that this unique task has appeared as part of Chicago Booth’s application.  While certainly unusual, this approach isn’t exactly revolutionary – Stern’s usual Essay 3 asks for a  personal expression that gives candidates complete freedom with content and medium (with the exception of edible/perishable personal expressions) – but it does speak to Chicago Booth’s interest in a candidate’s interests and personality.  Unlike last year, Chicago gives applicants complete freedom over the content of these four slides.

All this “white space” might be daunting to some, but an easy way to approach this process is to ask oneself a few simple questions.  What new and important information about yourself can you introduce to the adcom through this slide presentation?  In terms of organization, are there four separate topics to which you would like to devote a slide each?   Or would you prefer to use the four frames to create a sense of progression through a current activity, past experience, “day in the life,” etc.?  We’re hesitant to provide too much guidance given the free-form nature of the task; the best advice we can offer is to think about who you are (and how this might be of interest to the Booth adcom), consider how you could translate this into words and images, and then give it a try.  Showing the initial result to someone who knows you well could be a great way to determine the effectiveness of a working draft.

We understand that this question can seem extremely challenging, so feel free to contact us for a free consultation, in which we can help you think through the elements of your profile and determine how to best respond to this prompt.  In addition, Rose Martinelli, the Associate Dean for Student Recruitment and Admissions at Chicago Booth, has offered some important advice on how to respond to these essays in a recent blog post.

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Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis

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