In interviews, you will often hear authors say that there is nothing more daunting than the blank page.
In Chicago Booth’s essay question #3, you are presented with four blank pages; so experiencing a little anxiety about this essay question is completely natural.
Considering what you’ve already included in the application, what else should we know about you? In a maximum of four slides, tell us about yourself.
In this article, we will endeavor to reduce your anxiety by offering tips for creating an effective slide presentation for Chicago Booth.
Chicago Booth Slides Essay Question = Innovation
The Chicago Booth slides essay question is an innovation in the world of business school applications that has withstood the test of time. The question was introduced in Booth’s 2007 application and has been included every year since. Booth admissions officers say that they ask this question so they can obtain a more complete picture of an applicant’s personality, character, and problem solving skills. The slides provide a window into how the applicant’s mind works.
While some prospective MBAs absolutely love the creative, open-ended nature of this essay question, most dread it. If you are reading this article there is a good chance that you fall into the latter category, and are feeling lost. Our goal in writing the article is not to tell you how to answer the question but to provide some guidance on how to think about it. From there, it is best to let your own personality and creativity be your guide.
Adjust Your Attitude!
Our first piece of advice is to adjust your attitude. Instead of dreading the Chicago Booth slides essay, think of it as an excellent opportunity to share your personality and set your candidacy apart from other candidates. This is going to be a challenging exercise anyway you look at it, so starting with a great attitude is important.
Understanding the “givens” is the best way to begin solving an unstructured problem like this one.
Cover New Ground
The first given is that you are being instructed to cover *new* ground in this essay. Therefore, you need to inventory what they will already know about you from the rest of your application. Logically, you will not be able to identify what the gaps are until the rest of your application is pretty well on its way to completion. You may, however, assume that your resume is going to be included in your application. Our conclusion then, drawn from the first given, is that the slides should emphasize the personal not the professional.
You Are Building Slides
If Booth’s admission office wanted to read an additional four-page essay from you then they would have assigned one. The second “given” is that you are instructed to create slides. If you are a management consultant, then you are no doubt familiar with communicating in the language of Planet PowerPoint. If you don’t speak this language, then perusing a copy of an excellent book entitled “Say It With Presentations” by McKinsey’s Gene Zelazny is a fairly good primer on slides as a medium of communication. Simply put, the language of Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote requires you to communicate primarily with images and graphics and with very little text. This observation shouldn’t send you directly to the free clip-art folder on your hard drive. Consider that there are many ways of communicating with graphics and the PowerPoint clipart included with Microsoft Office is the least appealing among them.
Think About Your Audience
The third “given” is your audience. While the admissions officers are your primary audience, current Booth students and recent graduates should be included in the audience as well. Historically, Booth has included current students and recent graduates in the admissions process; so speaking to these audience members in your presentation is more than just a thought exercise. The point is that you want your audience to be engaged, informed, and entertained, roughly in that order. If you send a snooze-inducing, monochromatic slide presentation with pages blanketed in bullet points, then you might be welcomed as a cure for insomnia but not as a student by Chicago Booth.
Form Should Follow Function
Our final piece of advice is that the ultimate measure of an effective Chicago Booth slide presentation is that a vivid picture of who you are and what makes you different will emerge for the reader. To achieve this effect, you must first decide what you want to say and then how you want to say it. Many applicants get those steps out of order. They come up with an idea for cool, creative packaging without knowing what product is going to go inside the package. Then, they drive themselves crazy trying to reverse engineer a product that will fit the package. This is a frustrating and ultimately fruitless path. Instead, first decide what you want to say and then how you will say it. In the best Booth slide presentations, form follows function.
The function of the Slide Essay is to share important things about you that have not been covered elsewhere in your application. Once you know what message you want your slides to send then you can develop a clever, entertaining way to share them.