June 20, 2017

Chicago Booth MBA Essay 1

University of Chicago Booth

View this collection of shared Booth moments. Choose the moment that best resonates with you and tell us why.

Presentation/Essay Guidelines:

  • Choose the format that works for you. Want to illustrate your response visually? Submit a slide presentation. Like to express yourself with words? Write a traditional essay. Use the format that you feel best captures your response, the Admissions Committee has no preference.
  • Determine your own length. There is no prescribed minimum or maximum length. 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.

Technical Guidelines:

  • File Size: Maximum file size is 16 MB.
  • Accepted Upload Formats: Acceptable formats are PDF, Word, and PowerPoint. We strongly recommend converting your piece to a PDF file prior to submitting.
  • Multimedia Restrictions: We will be viewing your submission electronically and in full color, but all submissions will be converted to PDF files, so animation, video, music, etc. will not translate over.

The 2017 Chicago Booth essay question is the same as last year’s version, which had been a significant departure from previous years, where the famous Powerpoint prompt seemed to leave things even more open-ended. This year, they’re asking you to engage with a series of photos, and then explain your connection to one of them, specifically around the idea of resonance. That’s what the prompt says, anyway.

Resonance, yes. But… to what end? If a pic of their resonates with a 96-year old infirm gentleman moments before he passes, it may be a wonderful moment for the admissions committee, but it doesn’t exactly do them much good. Or if this were to resonate with a 13-year old because some aspect of one of their photos struck a deeply emotional chord. It might make for a tearjerking story, but… if that kid doesn’t end up becoming a businessman through the Booth program, improving from it, and improving others along the way, none of it matters. See what we’re driving at here? Don’t let the wording distract from the fact that you need (as with any MBA application essay) to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are destined for success. Period.

So, once again, the best response to this prompt comes down to one thing and one thing only: proof of future success.

First, let’s dig into the idea of proof itself. This is where visual media can be incredibly useful in helping you support your claims more effectively than through the written word. Imagine an artist (painter) telling you about his work. However good his descriptions may be, will it ever be as convincing as actually showing you the actual work itself? Or even better, imagine a chef describing what his best dish tastes like, in an essay. Wouldn’t the most effective delivery method be to taste the actual food? Or a musician, extolling the virtues of a song in a speech, rather than… playing the song. You get the idea.

For this particular essay, you should consider yourself an artist. Or a chef. Or a musician. You’re about to make some kind of claim about what makes you marked for success, and to then take it a step further to show exactly how your potential for success is heightened somehow by Booth specifically. But, remember, if they can’t see, or taste, or hear your argument, it won’t weigh much.

So let’s dig into the meat a little more. Three pieces to this thing:

Piece 1 = What you’re all about.

Piece 2 = Why Booth complements that unusually well.

Piece 3 = Why these things combine ultimately to spell success in your future.

Which part to attack first? Your instincts may tell you to start with Piece 1, but we’re gonna recommend otherwise. First, do your homework on Booth. Research. Read. Poll alums. Investigate. Follow the careers of professors. Read their work. Dig into clubs, Booth-specific offerings, course list, the latest happenings on and off the campus. At some point during this research, you’re gonna come across something that resonates with you. Something you find appealing. Something that makes you say to yourself “I want that for myself.” Your brain is unusually adept at filtering out the stuff that’s common to all programs, all the overlap. Trust those raw instincts when you sense something that’s somehow… “Booth.” Your brain will latch onto something that generates a gravitational pull toward Booth and Booth alone. “I wanna be around THAT.” “THAT looks fun.” “I wanna experience THAT.” “That thing is right up my alley.” “That thing captures me perfectly.” Make a note, and try to articulate (to yourself, or in a note) what it is about the article or picture or finding that appeals to you. See if you can find a few of these. This is a great starting point.

Now, get your Freud on. Take a look at the stuff you found appealing about Booth, and see what it says about who YOU are. What are you made up of such that those aspects were appealing? See how that works? It’s reverse engineering at its best. Let’s say, for example, that there’s some kind of team building culture at Booth that inspires you. Great, now turn inward and recognize that you THRIVE in team-based environments. Now, here comes the tricky part: It’s not enough for you to recognize that trait and then just… claim to have it. You have to now find the EVIDENCE in your background and “prove it.” Maybe it’s through photographs. Maybe it’s through creative flowcharts. And maybe it IS through a compelling written story. Whatever the medium, your goal is to demonstrate a clear understanding of certain appealing aspects of Booth, at the same time as you sell your connection to those aspects.

But now comes the icing on the cake. If you only demonstrate an understanding of Booth, and manage to show a connection to YOU, but don’t quite paint a picture of how those two things spell success in your future… you haven’t quite cinched it. In order to scorch this “essay,” you need to crush all three. So that’s your challenge throughout the process. Am I delivering clear, compelling proof about what makes me tick? Am I connecting that to something specific about Booth? And finally, have I suggested that when those two things combine, it serves almost like a product guarantee that I (product) am gonna succeed?

(Use the photos as a jumping off point. Go after essences and don’t take the pictures too seriously or literally.)

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