You probably have a college friend who you haven’t seen in a long time, and who you remember as wild and wacky. This friend was someone you always thought was going to buck trends and pursue a crazy, unconventional career. However, when you finally run into each other years later, you’re surprised to see a clean-cut, buttoned-down professional who has settled into a traditional career. That’s an apt analogy for Booth’s switch from its “Moments” and “Choice Rich Environment” essay questions of the past several years to the more traditional essay questions the school is asking MBA applicants today.
Well, people change and so do admissions committees, so how is an applicant to approach these new Booth essay questions?
Remember, you still have to advocate for yourself. The key is to not duplicate what your resume, college transcript, GMAT, and recommendation letters are already communicating about you. Take the opportunity to ask yourself what those other elements won’t describe – THAT is what you need to emphasize when answering these questions.
Note that Booth hasn’t completely given up on its unconventional nature. It lists a minimum word limit for both of its essays (250 words) as opposed to the maximum limit you’ll find in other MBA applications. 250 words are not many, but if you can get your point across within that constraint, then great! However, most applicants will need more space. My guidance would be to aim for about 500 words for each essay. Writing concisely and conveying essential information is a key business skill, so keep that in mind as you compose your content.
Let’s take a look at the two Booth essay questions.
How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250-word minimum)
With our emphasis on communicating a different side of your story in mind, approach the first essay as a classic career goals essay. Two of the qualities that the Booth AdCom values most during the admissions process are a sense of personal direction as well as realistic expectations for what your MBA can do for your career prospects. Describing specific, yet realistic career goals provide evidence of your passion for your chosen field as well as your potential for success after attaining your MBA.
A compelling career goals essay will outline how your MBA will solve the important issues in your future field, the logical and realistic steps that you will take after achieving your MBA, and your strong demonstrable interest or deep personal connection to this field. As Booth also emphasizes philanthropic tendencies in their application process, it helps if the results of this proposed career path will have a beneficial social impact. However, integrity is a key aspect of this application; admissions committees can tell the difference between an actual passion and an inauthentic answer.
Lastly, remember to show off your insight and knowledge of Booth and how its programs and philosophy are going to be a great fit for you.
An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are… (Minimum 250 words, no maximum.)
Chicago Booth has chosen to shelve its “choices” essay framework from last year and make their second essay open-ended. This lack of a specific essay prompt may cause consternation for applicants wondering, “What should I write about?!” When brainstorming essay topics, it is useful to reflect on something from your past that won’t be addressed in other sections of your application. You also want to familiarize yourself with Booth’s core values and culture. Finding intersections between your background and Booth’s community and telling a coherent story of approximately 500 words can be challenging, but can be achieved with reflection and creativity.
Intellectual curiosity, the ability to challenge conventional wisdom, and a collaborative spirit are fit qualities Booth admissions officers are looking for. As you begin reflecting on stories and character development milestones from your life, don’t be afraid to draw from personal experiences or even go back to your childhood. And extra points are scored if you can tie your personal narrative to one or more of Booth’s core values in a natural way.
Did you successfully launch a student club in college to address a cause you’re passionate about? Or did you observe an issue in your community and take active steps to solve it? Were you the first person in your family to graduate from high school? Booth Essay 2 could be a perfect place to share what your family and friends consider to be unique about you!
You also may want to incorporate how you’ll continue to explore an interest you’ve had for years while at Booth – perhaps by building out your ideas through the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship or taking the reins of one of Booth’s many student organizations. You will want to show the admissions committee that you’ve done your homework on Booth.
At the same time, don’t try to squeeze too many different themes or stories into this essay; a list won’t make for an engaging read. Keep in mind that admissions officers are just everyday people like you who love a good story that persuades them you will be a vibrant addition to the Chicago Booth community.
Ultimately, admissions committees will be selecting human beings and not their resumes – so let your grades, test scores, and promotions at work speak for themselves. As you narrow down your list of possible topics for Booth’s second essay, key on the ones that display you as an interesting person to have in the class or as someone whose sense of humor will make all the hard work ahead a little less stressful.