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Chicago / Booth Essay Topic Analysis 2014-2015

With Booth’s announcement of its 2014-2015 presentation/essay topic last week, we’re following up with some thoughts about how applicants might approach this ever-challenging task.

In a new twist on a familiar format, Booth is again asking applicants to “show themselves” to the admissions committee via an essay or a visual presentation. Perhaps the most interesting change for this season is the removal of any length restriction; whereas in previous years Booth has set forth a strict four-slide or 600-word maximum length for this element of its application, this year the adcom leaves this entirely to the applicant’s “best judgment.” While it will likely be prudent for essay-writing applicants to at least be cognizant of the word count of previous years, this change affords applicants choosing the presentation route a good deal of freedom to play with space and timing (while still being mindful of the adcom’s time and attention span, of course).

Let’s take a closer look at the prompt itself:

Presentation/Essay: Chicago Booth values adventurous inquiry, diverse perspectives, and a collaborative exchange of ideas. This is us. Who are you?

Presentation/Essay Guidelines

  • Be reflective. We’ve learned a lot about you throughout the application, but what more should we know?
  • Interpret broadly. “Who are you?” can be interpreted in many different ways. We encourage you to think critically and broadly about who you are, and how your values, passions and experiences have influenced you.
  • 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.
  • Choose the format that works for you. You can design your presentation or compose your essay in the format that you feel best captures your response. However, please consider the specific technical restrictions noted below.
  • Think about you, not us. Rather than focusing on what you think we want to hear, focus on what is essential for us to know about you. Simply put, be genuine.

This somewhat unusual and unstructured prompt speaks to Chicago Booth’s interest in the applicant’s interests, personality, and skills in self-expression. All of this “white space”—whether in essay or presentation format—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? How does that information lend itself to the formats available (essay vs. presentation)? Are you more of a visual presenter/thinker who will be very comfortable showcasing information in PowerPoint or other software, or is writing more your strength/comfort zone? In terms of organization for a presentation or an essay, are there separate topics to which you would like to devote a slide each or essay section? Or would you prefer to use the framework of your presentation or paragraphs of an essay 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 in light of their stated values), 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. You might also wish to refresh yourself on how to present your “fit” with aspects of Chicago Booth’s culture, such that taking the time to learn more about the school’s MBA program – whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Chicago Booth.

We understand that this question can seem extremely challenging, so feel free to contact us for a free consultation in which a Clear Admit Admissions Counselor can help you think through the elements of your profile and determine how to best approach Booth’s application.

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)
Whereas some reapplicant essays focus on material improvements in the applicant’s candidacy (e.g. promotions, improved leadership skills), this brief response is more focused on personal growth and changes in perspective since the applicant last applied. Specifically, this prompt seems to invite comments about ways the applicant has calibrated career goals, become better acquainted with Booth, or gained a better understanding of how an MBA will fit into a larger career trajectory. Those material improvements we mentioned before are worth commenting on, of course, but the tone of this response should be reflective, with a focus on how the events of the past months or years since being denied fit into a larger plan and understanding.

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Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

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