June 18, 2016

Chicago Booth MBA 2016-2017 Essay Guidance

Chicago’s Booth School of Business became a pioneer in the non-text-based admissions essay in 2011 when it rolled out its four-slide “What else should we know about you?” presentation prompt. The format was so effective in giving applicants an entirely new palette in which to paint the colors of their profiles that, under Booth’s admissions director, Kurt Ahlm, the ‘PowerPoint essay’ has evolved until today it’s Booth’s only essay. Last year, Booth narrowed the wide-open nature of its prompt by forcing applicants to choose one of 16 photos showing life at Booth and respond to the prompt, “tell us how it [the photo] resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you.” The purpose was to force applicants to demonstrate some knowledge of Booth’s program and then connect that knowledge to their own story.

This year, the 16 photos have been winnowed down to 10 “Booth moments” (all new this year) with the instruction to “Choose the moment that best resonates with you and tell us why.” Because last year’s photos were ‘unlabeled’ their significance was open to applicants’ interpretation. This year, Booth has added captions to the photos, in effect helping you do some of the due diligence Booth expects of you, but also hinting none too subtly what Booth is proudest of: its entrepreneurship, its global mindset, its conscience, its campus, and its thought leadership. Yes, Booth is an intellectual powerhouse, but it’s also a place where students travel globally for enlightenment and social impact and a really fun place full of flash-mob dancers, yachting alums, and foodie entrepreneurs who bring walking pizza slices to their IPOs.

Booth’s new prompt has made its intentions clearer and your job easier, but bad responses are still possible: ignoring Booth’s self-promotion and focusing only on you or focusing too much on flattering Booth and failing to show (through examples and images from your life) how profoundly you fit Booth’s community. Otherwise, Booth’s Technical Guidelines for the essay are the same as last year:

File Size: Maximum file size is 16 MB.
Accepted Upload Formats: Acceptable formats are PDF, Word, and PowerPoint. We strongly recommend converting your piece to a PDF file prior to submitting.
Multimedia Restrictions: We will be viewing your submission electronically and in full color, but all submissions will be converted to PDF files, so animation, video, music, etc. will not translate over.

And don’t forget that this year, Booth is also providing you with a 300-word optional essay for “any additional information … you would like the Admissions Committee to know.” Think in terms of things that need explaining rather than accomplishments that you couldn’t find a way to fit into your Booth Moments PDF. Have fun, folks.