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How to Respond to the Chicago Booth Essay Prompts

Chicago Booth’s Full-Time MBA Essay Questions can be intimidating to some applicants. Here’s how to answer them to distinguish yourself from your peers.

As Chicago Booth continues to evolve from its reputation as solely a quantitative finance-oriented school, it has once again opted for an open-ended presentation-based essay question. The undetermined nature of Booth’s essay question can be intimidating to some applicants, but when approached strategically and analytically (two great qualities to show off to ad-coms!), this can let an applicant distinguish himself from his peers.

 

Presentation advice
  • Don’t lose sight of the image you’re supposed to be writing about! The ad-coms know that you have a lot you want to tell them and might feel limited by the unorthodox nature of the essay prompt. However, it’s important not to stray too far off course when developing your presentation, and not go too long without connecting your talking points to the image in a concrete way. Business schools like to feel that their essay prompts are taken seriously by applicants. Often, this is the most difficult aspect of the presentation, but embrace the challenge and pick an image that you’ll be able to write enthusiastically about.
  • Presentation quality counts! Although the Booth ad-coms will not be explicitly evaluating you on your presentation style, it’s important to keep in mind that the admissions committee members are human beings, and a visually appealing presentation will leave a positive impression on them. Take care to make sure images are sized appropriately, text is readable, and a variety of backgrounds, slide styles, and layouts are used if a PowerPoint presentation is chosen.
  • Show off your unique personality! Chicago Booth doesn’t want your essay presentation to be a laundry list of accomplishments and awards you’ve won. Keep your essay personally focused and connected to the theme of the image. If you have fun and compelling images from your most recent travels or volunteering experience, feel free to include these – just make sure to add captions so the ad-coms know who you are!
  • Don’t be afraid to fill your PowerPoint slides with text – just make sure it’s readable! These slides don’t need to be considered traditional PowerPoint slides which are short on text, and consist of high-level bullet points. A slide with paragraphs of text on it is perfectly acceptable – in fact, this will fit an applicant right into the culture of Chicago Booth, which is associated with PowerPoint decks with massive amounts of text on each slide. In last year’s application cycle, Stratus Prep advised numerous successful clients who went with this approach, some of whom were admitted with significant scholarships!
  • An effective presentation could be a PowerPoint presentation with a lot of pictures or an essay with a lot of images. Content involving Booth-specific programming are definitely a plus – particularly if you can make the connection based on the image you choose to write about. Don’t spend a lot of the essay on career goals – Booth has a separate short answer question to cover those (250 characters each for short and long term goals). Keep the essay personally focused and on past accomplishments.

 

Choosing an image

image1

Classmates cheer on members of TransparentC as they are announced the winners of the 2016 New Venture Challenge…

If you’re an entrepreneur or an aspiring entrepreneur, this could be the image for you. If you’ve started businesses in the past, feel free to share there, but keep the focus on Chicago Booth and your enthusiasm for participating in the New Venture Challenge, and collaborating with your Booth classmates. Also, this is a great opportunity to show off your knowledge of Booth and articulate other aspects of the Polsky Center that you’ll leverage as a Booth student.


 

image2

A group of students travel through Colombia each year…

If your background or longer term plans are globally oriented, this one could be a viable option. Feel free to discuss your personal experiences traveling – but don’t let the slide deck devolve into a set of postcards from your favorite destinations. Discuss what treks you’re passionate about organizing and why, and identify previous experiences organizing group trips during college, work, or professional leadership organizations.


 

image3

A second-year student helps the incoming class develop their individual leadership styles…

At the core of the world’s top business schools is leadership. This picture is perfect if you can articulate the specific leadership skills you hope to gain from an MBA program, and how Booth programming such as LEAD can help you get there. LEAD is mandatory for all incoming first-year students and relationships are formed that last throughout the program and beyond. Any specific knowledge of LEAD, along with how you’ve led in the past, and hope to develop your leadership skills at Booth, will be beneficial here.

 

 

 


image4

Waiting in front of the Charles M. Harper Center…

This image is very open-ended, and allows an applicant to approach the essay from a number of different angles. If you’re struggling with how to approach this essay question, this could be a great image to choose, as it will allow you to discuss the Harper Center, a “new beginnings” theme, or virtually anything else. Use this image to show off your creativity.

 

 

 

 


image5

Chicago Booth faculty are thought leaders whose ideas influence markets and politics in industries across the globe…

If you’ve read any of these books, are interested in the research of any of these faculty members, or are just passionate about economics theory from an academic perspective, choose this image and explain why. Booth takes its reputation as an academically rigorous and research-oriented institution seriously, so show off your intellectual curiosity here – without providing a laundry list of your academic awards.

 

 

 

 

 


image6

Students visit a village in India as part of a Global Social Impact Practicum…

Community impact is very much emphasized at the world’s top business schools, including Chicago Booth. If you’re from a non-profit background or have a lengthy history of community service, this image will allow you to detail these experiences in a very organic way. Elaborate clearly on how Booth’s Social Enterprise Initiative will help you make the impact you want to make on society, and detail how you’ll contribute with your own unique perspective.

 

 

 


image7

A team of ChicagoBooth alumni compete in the 2015 Global MBA Trophy regatta.

If you have an adventurous streak, or enjoy friendly competition, this image might be very relevant for you. A love of competition, embracing new challenges, and forming new relationships are all themes that can be emphasized through this image. If you can, talk about where you’d lead your fellow Boothies on their next trek. Selections like this should be very image-heavy in their presentation so make sure to locate all the pictures from your most recent adventure!

 

 

 


image8

On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange…

This image is similar to #1 with its focus on entrepreneurship, but also brings in themes of technology and e-commerce. If these are your interests, feel free to elaborate on them here, and articulate your own ambitions of someday launching your own GrubHub. Similar to image #1, make sure to discuss how the entrepreneurship programming at Booth will help get you there.

 

 

 


image9

Students speak with Chairman and Co-CEO of Dimensional Fund Advisors, David Booth…

David Booth’s contribution to and presence at Chicago Booth is easy to notice. If investment management, particularly index investing is your passion, this might be a great choice for you. Efficient markets and its related theories are embedded into the foundation of the University of Chicago, so if you’re a finance person, use the essay to show off your knowledge here. If you’re not a finance person, you can still try to use this image to describe how you’ll learn from Chicago Booth’s network of 50,000 alumni worldwide and benefit from their experiences.

 

 


image10

Nearly 100 students put on a massive flash mob to surprise…

The theme behind this picture is simple – a love of fun and bonding with the Booth community in unorthodox ways. An upbeat and friendly tone should be emphasized when using this image – along with how you’ve led extracurricular and personal endeavors during college and beyond. Business school is much more than just coursework and finding your next career – it’s about the bonds you form with your classmates, and this image is a great vehicle to convey that an applicant appreciates this aspect

 

 


About Stratus

Stratus Admissions Counseling is a full service admissions counseling firm distinguished by its team based, multi-step process ensuring each application is crafted for optimum impact. Our MBA counseling team has a representative from virtually every top 20 MBA program, enabling us to provide school-specific guidance.

 

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