June 22, 2021

Chicago Booth MBA Essay 2

University of Chicago Booth

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.) Length: There is no maximum length, only a 250-word minimum. We trust that you will use your best judgment in determining how long your submission should be, but we recommend that you think strategically about how to best allocate the space. Acceptable Formats: Submissions must be entered into the text box provided in the application.

This is a classic MBA application question, one you’ll probably see on other applications as well. Start by thinking about what makes your extraprofessional life exciting and interesting. What do you do that most people around you don’t? What extraprofessional activity do you do better than most of your peers in your company, industry, or country? Make a list of those exceptional activities.

Note the emphasis on things you DO. Statements of fact “I am Indian-American” or opinion “I like to watch golf” are not what the adcom is looking for here. The strongest versions of this essay will show the adcom “who you are” by portraying your actions, rather than just listing a series of traits that you have.

To illustrate the power of this approach, imagine the adcom asked a friend of yours this same question. The friend could reply “He’s an avid hiker and skilled outdoorsman.” Or they could say “Oh, her? Let me tell you about her. There was this one time when we were stranded in the Rocky Mountains, and she jury-rigged a sled from branches, and saved all of our lives…” That second version is MUCH more compelling evidence of the applicant’s wilderness survival ability, because it provides evidence in the form of an example.

In this spirit, take your list of exceptional activities from earlier, and identify one or two specific examples or achievements for each activity. So “I play chess” becomes “I won the U.S. Chess Championship in 2018… while wearing a blindfold.” Then think about what each achievement says about you and how that relates to your MBA admissions argument.

Your post-MBA goals matter here! Say you’re getting a Booth MBA in order to create a tech startup. What skills or personality traits will you need to be successful? Persistence? Curiosity? We’ll want to emphasize those particular traits in our essay, even though we’re not talking directly about your current or future work. Pick the 2-3 extraprofessional achievements from your list that you feel most exemplify the traits needed in your target industry.

Once you’ve identified the stories you want to tell, it’s just a matter of putting it all together. This could be done a number of different ways. For example, the entire essay could be built around one trait (“determination”, “resourcefulness”, etc.), with each story showing a different time you relied on that trait. Alternatively, you could tell the story chronologically, showing how each interest led to the next, and an ever-greater amount of extraprofessional achievement. The strongest versions of this essay often do both of these things at the same time, creating a narrative where the candidate’s extraprofessional achievements build on one another and leave the adcom facing the unavoidable conclusion that this candidate has the “right stuff” for whatever career path they have chosen.

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