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Chicago Booth Essays: Tips & Strategy

Chicago Booth requires two essays, with an optional opportunity to provide extra information.

Every year, as you might expect for a top-ranked school, Chicago Booth receives thousands of applications from great candidates with consulting, finance, and accounting backgrounds. However, the school also welcomes applications from candidates with nontraditional backgrounds. Teachers, nonprofit workers, military officers, and media professionals all find a home at Booth. As former Chicago Booth Associate Dean (and Booth alum), I can affirm that Booth aims to create a well-rounded, diverse, and unique class, and is looking for individuals who like to challenge conventional wisdom.

Given that most students enter the program with business, economics, or engineering undergraduate backgrounds, the essays represent a valuable opportunity to distinguish yourself from other high achievers with similar profiles.

The Booth application includes  two required essay questions, plus an optional opportunity to explain anything on the application form that requires clarification. There is also a video question for those invited to interview. Read on for tips and advice on how to tackle Chicago Booth’s MBA essay questions.

Chicago Booth MBA Essays: Decoded

Essay #1.

How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 word minimum)

Booth’s first question cuts to the chase, asking you to connect your compelling and coherent career vision to how the Booth MBA, in particular, positions you to achieve your greatest aspirations. It’s a version of an old favorite, ‘Why an MBA and why this school’ — and significant self-reflection is key to delivering an essay that’s both persuasive and sincere.

Your ability to articulate clear goals — even if they evolve throughout the MBA journey — show the Admissions Committee your confidence and maturity. The critical element here is to think deeply about your goals, interests, strengths, and passions. Your “story” should indicate both self-awareness and an understanding of where you’ve been, where you are going, and they key elements to get you there.

It also requires a deep understanding of Booth’s values, culture and what makes it special. Without a nuanced appreciation of its unique community and program offerings — gained by thorough research, thoughtful networking and, whenever possible, a visit to campus — the admissions committee may not see you as a good fit. Acknowledging the specific things that stand out about the school and why they are important to you is key. Pay particular attention to the school’s overview and the letter from the Dean. Booth prides itself on its distinctive “Chicago Approach” to business education and you’ll want to make sure that you understand that approach and why it is good fit for your own learning style.

Booth is really looking to learn about the skills you have gained in your career thus far and how those will propel you into your MBA program. What specifically about Booth stands out to you? Professors? Classes? Student Organizations? Using your newly minted Booth MBA degree, what are your short and long-term career goals? The important thing here is to clearly identify your long-term goal and describe how your short-term goal will help get you there.

Note that Booth also asks similar short-answer questions in its online application form: 

  • What is your immediate post-MBA career goal? (250 characters max)
  • What is your long-term post-MBA career goal? (250 characters max)

With a minimum rather than a maximum word limit, the essay gives you more room to go deep and explore the “why” behind your goal and tie it firmly to the Booth community and culture. (Although there’s no limit, Fortuna coaches suggests between 500–650 words, and absolutely no more than 1000.)

Obviously, these answers must be consistent, but take care not to repeat yourself. Rather, explain clearly: What is it you want to do and how is Booth going to get you there? For a question like this, the why behind the goal is as important as the goals themselves. Think of your long-term goal in terms of impact — personal, organizational and social/community wide — not just in terms of a position or role. Why is this goal important to you? What led you to it? Think about the legacy you want to leave or the problems you want to solve. How are you going to make a real difference in your organization, industry, or community?

View the MBA Admissions Essay Masterclass for more on tackling the MBA Essays for Chicago Booth, CBS, MIT Sloan, and Kellogg. (Booth begins at minute 7:20). 

Essay #2.

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. (250-word minimum)

The second question is an appeal to share something much more personal, beyond your professional achievements, test scores, and transcripts. Booth is mining for a glimpse of who you are above and beyond a shining track record of excellence. Booth admissions can glean your professional journey and goals from your resume, letters, and first essay. Now, in this essay, they are looking to find out about what motivates you outside the workplace. They really want to get a sense of what makes you “interesting.” There is no right or wrong answer here and it is a mistake to try to provide an answer that you think the committee is looking for.

Think of it this way: Similar to Wharton’s MBA essay pairing, the first Booth question wants to know what you’ll get out of Booth, while the second asks what Booth and its community stands to get out of you. However, it’s not quite as direct as Wharton’s question. Booth has always been the home of “interesting” students with wide and varied interests. This question seeks to learn what makes you “you” and how that has led to the decisions you’ve made and the directions you’ve chosen. It also seeks to understand what would make you a fun and engaging member of the community. Again, the “why” behind your answer is often more important than the particular interest itself.

Booth recognizes that we are not linear people and both our work and personal lives inform who we are. Try to focus on an overall theme in your personal life and how that has led to your pursuit of extracurricular activities. Perhaps you had a unique upbringing? Or you have volunteered at a particular organization with a mission that resonates with you? These stories will help color in the areas of your application and help the admissions committee understand who you are and what makes you tick.

This is a chance to talk about something that is of real importance to you. It should not only provide an insight into what motivates or interests you, but make the admissions committee say ‘wow’ or ‘interesting!’ The first essay is designed to assess whether you have a well thought out career plan and have a solid sense of what Booth is and does, but it doesn’t provide a lot of opportunity for you to showcase how you are different from other candidates. Essay 2 is your chance to make the admissions committee want to know you better.

It can be tricky to know where to start, and an intimidating question if you think that your story isn’t unique. Start by reflecting on milestones and moments that defined your personal journey and get introspective about what might set you apart from others — even if it doesn’t seem relevant at first.

You should also think about what gets you most excited, where you spend your time, or what you talk about when you aren’t talking about work. Travel, hobbies, sports? Your favorite band or your current TV binge? Why are those things important to you? How did you get involved? Booth isn’t looking for anything in particular here; they really do want to get to know you. Therefore, if it’s important to you, it will be a relevant topic for your essay. It’s a chance for your personality to shine through and demonstrate that you would be a great addition to what is sure to be an accomplished, diverse, and occasionally quirky class.

To reiterate, do not try to anticipate and respond with what you think the Admissions Committee wants to hear. Be yourself and show your enthusiasm – authenticity is essential.

7 Tips to Get Started with Your Booth Essays

  • Get introspective.
  • Link future goals with past experiences and explore all facets of the business school experience.
  • Understand Booth’s culture and vocabulary as well as the programs, faculty, and experiences that are particularly relevant and interesting to you.
  • Convey what you bring to Booth and its community.
  • Tap into your passion and share your enthusiasm.
  • Remember that in both essays, you are telling a story. It needs to capture the interest of the committee and keep them engaged. Essay editing and polishing are critical.

“Booth looks for candidates that know what they want and will make the most of their two years there,” says Fortuna’s Julie Ferguson, former Chicago Booth Senior Associate Director of Admissions. “The essays give applicants the opportunity to show that they’ve thought through this major life step, and that Booth is the perfect place for them.”

Let’s Get You In.

Fortuna Admissions is a dream team of former MBA Admissions Directors and Officers from 18 of the top 20 business schools, including Wharton. With our unparalleled collective expertise, we are able to coach you to develop a clear vision of your goals for business school and beyond. We work closely with you throughout the application process and provide expert guidance at every stage to maximize your chances of admission to a top school.

Our free consultations are consistently rated as the best in the industry. To learn more about Fortuna and assess your chances of admission to Wharton and other top programs, request a free consultation.

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Bill Kooser, Fortuna AdmissionsBill Kooser is a MBA Admissions consultant and Director at Fortuna Admissions, a Booth alum, and former Booth Associate Dean. With over 30 years of experience, Bill has been responsible for nearly every business school function. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation

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