June 24, 2019

Chicago Booth MBA Essay 2

University of Chicago Booth

Chicago Booth immerses you in a choice-rich environment. How have your interests, leadership experiences, and other passions influenced the choices in your life? (250 word minimum)

Response Guidelines:

  • 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.

We’re used to variations on the question: what are your influences? You’ll see it a bunch of different ways: what makes you tick, what led you to XYZ, who or what has been most inspirational to you, etc. The knee-jerk instinct is to consider the influences that you remember easily, and then to draw some conclusions about them. That’s an okay approach, but honestly, it’s somewhat “bunny hill” for Admissionado. We prefer going straight to the double black diamond. There’s a cooler, more critical way to think about this…

And we can start with the obvious: Identifying the key influences/experiences that spun you in a new direction, or intensified your resolve. But let’s go further. The real challenge is to grapple with some of the POTENTIAL influences that were also there, but that you DIDN’T respond to. What influences did you ignore? Or disagree with? Or that you engaged with, but didn’t move the needle for you? How many of THOSE were there? The answer is many. More than you can count. In fact, on a daily basis, without even realizing it, you are bombarded with influences that you filter out, consciously or otherwise.

Here’s the key point: We are confronted with more POTENTIAL influences than ones that actually leave an impact. Why did those other ones fail to influence us when a few succeeded? What, specifically was different about the ones that landed? Let’s do THAT analysis, and see what we find.

If you’ve ever been drawn toward a particular IDEA or INDUSTRY, think about all the ones you denied, and try to determine what makes the one you chose DIFFERENT. If you simply try to describe why you chose whatever you chose, your rationale might be incomplete because you’ve unconsciously taken a lot for granted. Doing the “delta analysis,” isolating those few variables that became the “ultimate deciding factors” tends to reveal something powerful about who YOU are, and what pulled you toward (or away from) something.

This is true even with “leadership experiences.” Hopefully, you haven’t had a “just one leadership experience lifetime.” Presumably, it’s in your DNA, and on a day-to-day basis, you’re behaving like a leader, with a meter that’s never OFF DUTY. So, you’ve had hundreds of leadership experiences. And yet, probably only SOME or maybe even just ONE stands out from the rest because of some specific reason that you find yourself drawing on, over and over again. It’s the “lesson that keeps on giving.” Consider a few leadership examples, even (maybe especially) ones that DON’T particularly stand out, and then look at them together. And THEN zoom in on the one that you keep drawing from, and figure out what it was about THAT one.

Once you’ve gotten a good sense of why you make the choices you make, based on this kind of deep-dive analysis, and you’ve got the handful of GOLDEN stories you wanna tell, it’s time to organize it in 500 words or so:

  1. One way or another, the way you MAKE DECISIONS today, choose things, etc. is DIFFERENT from how it was, say, five years ago. Take us through one or two (three MAX) examples that contributed to a SHIFT in the way you used to think about something … to the improved, better, evolved way. Could be a leadership experience. Could be a passion that’s behind one of those leadership experiences. Whatever it is, take us through it, being mindful of that SHIFT from the “before” you to the “after” you. [125-175 words for each influence/experience, depending on your story or stories]
  2. What’s the take home? What did we just learn about you? Try to sum this up in a way that makes sense of your DNA. This is why I chose X and not Y. This is why I’m compelled by A but not B. This is why ROLE ABC intrigues me over DEF. This is why I measure success THIS way and not THAT way. We need to understand the significance of this, with respect to you and your career. [125 words]

You probably won’t need that many more sections here folks. This is a “learning something vital about you” essay, we don’t need a rehash of your goals (got that from Essay 1). The trick with this essay is that initial step, before you put pen to paper, of thinking long and hard about what the connection between your positive influences has been. If you do this right, you may just learn something about yourself you hadn’t quite thought of until now–––and believe it or not, that’s one of the PERKS of the business school application journey. Enjoy the ride…

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