About a month ago, I was invited to interview at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. And while it is still a mystery as to whether I’ll end up admitted, dinged or on the wait list, what I know for sure is that a strong application strategy is what got me to the point of an interview in the first place.
If you follow my blog even somewhat regularly, then you probably already know that the advice, blog posts and forum comments of Booth ’14 Cheetarah1980 played a big part in making sure that I hit the mark. There was another “secret weapon”, however, that helped me submit a strong app; the Clear Admit School Guide for Chicago Booth.
So here’s the interesting thing about Booth. Despite its multiple (and consecutive) #1 rankings in BusinessWeek and consistent top 5 rankings in US News, it still manages to be one of the more underrated elite business schools. In fact, the data that I’ve cited viewed within the context of its popularity compared to that of its most direct competitors (H/S/W, Sloan, Kellogg, Columbia, Tuck, Haas, Stern, Yale) only bolsters my point that much more. Simply put, Booth is a fantastic school that tends to be a bit off of the radar of many quality applicants (unless they are looking to go into finance or get a masters in econ; then there’s no question–those people know without a doubt).
When I first began researching Booth, I did so sheepishly. I had been told that the school was a strong fit for my goals, but I still understood it to be a finance/econ powerhouse as opposed to an entrepreneurial one; however, that was before I found out about the $200M+ in VC funding that Booth students have raised for their ventures within the past 3 years. It was also before I realized that some of my favorite start ups like GrubHub and BrainTree (especially BrainTree) came out of that program.
Once I took the time to really look into Booth, I quickly transformed from a casual onlooker to a ferocious suitor. I began to see myself fitting in there and submitting a stellar application immediately became a high priority.
So what makes a stellar application?
Well, I don’t claim to be an expert on that. I”m neither an admissions consultant who’s seen thousands of applicant profiles (and their results) nor a member of anybody’s ad com. I also have yet to know my own final results; yet, what I do know about is the common thread that was present in the two apps that have gotten me interview invites thus far: Booth and Wharton.
The common thread in those two applications was how detailed and rigorous I was in expressing my unique fit for those schools. Some of that had to do with the fact that both schools gave me a lot of room within which to express that fit (i.e. Booth’s PowerPoint essay and Wharton’s “what would you do during a work-free afternoon” essay; MIT’s video essay and Stanford’s “what matters most” essay provide a similar opportunity). At the same time, you won’t be getting an invite to interview if you fail at taking full advantage of that opportunity. And that’s where Clear Admit’s guide for Booth came in–at least for me (I can’t speak for anyone else).
It provided me with a wealth of information on the unique attributes of Booth. In turn, I was better equipped to pull from my own introspection and communicate how I fit into Booth’s tapestry with skill and clarity. It also didn’t hurt that the guide was easy on my wallet–a special consideration when you think of how quickly pre-MBA expenses add up (GMAT materials/classes/exam, app fees, school visits/travel/lodging/food, consultants, interview travel/lodging/food, deposit deadlines looming on the horizon, etc.).
Again, I can’t speak for anyone else. There are tons of people who are successful in getting interview invites at their top choice schools without such a guide; but I didn’t want to risk it. I wanted as much information that I could get my hands on that might give me an edge given that ~70% of everyone who applies is qualified. I was lucky to have friends that helped a great deal. And Clear Admit’s school guide for Booth helped a great deal as well.
Best of luck to all Round 2 applicants for turning in apps that get you interview invites!