Chicago Booth Essay Topic Analysis 2013-2014

by on July 20th, 2013

Continuing with our series of essay topic analyses for this year’s applications, we’re now turning to Chicago Booth’s essay questions for the 2013-2014 admissions season. The Booth adcom has made several changes to overall format of the program’s application essays. This year, the school has eliminated one essay and now requires that applicants submit responses to two short answers and one “essay/presentation,” which has been part of the application for the past seven years.

The adcom has discarded the first essay in the 2012-2013 set, in which applicants were asked to discuss their short- and long-term goals and need for a Chicago Booth MBA. Meanwhile, it has replaced last year’s two short answers of 200 words each with new questions that give applicants 250 words each to discuss their careers and changes in perspective. Overall, this year’s application has a total word count of just 500 words, down from 900 (not including the 600 word or 4-slide presentation).

Let’s take a closer look at each of this year’s essays:

1. Short Answer Essays:

Please respond to the following two essay prompts:

a. My favorite part of my work is… (250 words maximum)

b. I started to think differently when… (250 words maximum)

A new essay for the 2013-2014 season, the format of these questions mirror the short answers posted by Booth last year. However, Part A replaces the school’s request for information on a specific challenge by giving candidates the only explicitly assigned opportunity to discuss their work experiences in their essays. The phrasing “favorite part of my work” indicates that applicants should steer clear of simply discussing their greatest achievement in the workplace, tempting as this may be: Chicago Booth’s adcom places the emphasis on what applicants find most rewarding and enjoyable about their daily responsibilities. Given the tight 250-word limit, applicants should brainstorm which aspects of their current role they particularly appreciate and why and then consider which of these responsibilities can be explained succinctly. Applicants might also consider which professional skill they might want to highlight or any brief anecdotes that might evidence why this aspect of their work is their favorite.

Part B. reflects the adcom’s continued interest in how applicants think and, specifically, what causes changes in their thinking. Rather than focusing on a “fundamental” change as in the 2012-2013 season, the short answer now asks applicants to explain, using first person, what factor or factors might redirect their thinking. Applicants have a great amount of freedom when selecting their response, as influences from across the professional, extracurricular/community and personal realms could be mined for this essay in order to show a wider picture of one’s work history or personal background. The most successful answers to this prompt will both outline the change factor as well as clearly convey the ways in which an applicant’s preexisting ideas or decision-making processes alter or expand for the better as a result. Finally, given Chicago’s interest in candidates’ intellectual curiosity, leadership skills and maturity, applicants should keep those themes in mind when considering possible topics to share.

2. Presentation/Essay:

The Chicago experience will take you deeper into issues, force you to challenge assumptions, and broaden your perspective. In a four-slide presentation or an essay of no more than 600 words, broaden our perspective about who you are. Understanding what we currently know about you from the application, what else would you like us to know?

We have set forth the following guidelines:

The content is completely up to you. There is no right, or even preferred, approach to this essay. Feel free to use the software with which you are most comfortable. Acceptable formats for upload in the online application system are PowerPoint, Word, or PDF. However, we suggest converting your file to a PDF to preserve your intended formatting.

There is a strict maximum of four pages (presentation) or 600 words (essay), though you can provide fewer if you choose. All content must fit within four pages (presentation) or 600 words (essay).

The file size is limited to 16 MB.

The document will be viewed electronically, but we cannot support embedded videos, music, hyperlinks, or motion images.

The file will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise.

While certainly unusual, this approach isn’t exactly revolutionary – NYU Stern’s longstanding creative essay gives candidates complete freedom with content and medium (with a few exceptions) when choosing how to provide a “personal expression” of themselves – but it does speak to Chicago Booth’s interest in a candidate’s interests and personality. Chicago Booth has now specifically mentioned an essay option for two years in a row, and candidates should therefore first consider whether a presentation-style response or a more narrative, 600-word essay would best convey their message. Applicants might also want to pay special attention to the adcom’s directive to “broaden [its] perspective” and steer clear of information the adcom can glean from other parts of their applicants.

All of this “white space” in either 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 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 frames of a presentation/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), 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. This additional understanding of context will pay dividends when drafting Chicago Booth’s essay set.

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.

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