Chicago Booth’s New MBA Essay – Analysis & Strategy

July 16, 2018 | by Krista McNamara

Gone is the creative and quirky Chicago Booth essay that asked MBA candidates to choose among an assortment of photos, name a “Booth moment” that most resonated and explain why.

But this doesn’t mean the school is any less curious about what inspires you. Chicago Booth is changing things up with two new essay questions for its 2018-2019 application cycle. In announcing that its 2018-2019 application is available, Booth’s admissions blog debuted the following MBA essay questions:

Essay 1: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? 

Essay 2: Chicago Booth immerses you in a choice-rich environment. How have your interests, leadership experiences, and other passions influenced the choices in your life? 

Booth’s new first question cuts to the chase, departing from the more abstract way of eliciting your b-school motivations through “Booth moments.” In doing so, it asks you to connect your coherent and compelling career vision to how the Booth MBA – in particular – will help you to achieve your greatest ambitions. It’s a version of the standard favorite, ‘Why an MBA and why this school,’ and significant introspection is critical to writing an essay that’s both persuasive and genuine. Your ability to articulate clear goals, even if they inevitably evolve during the MBA journey, convey your maturity and confidence to the Admissions Committee.

It also demands a deep understanding of Booth’s culture, values and what makes it special. Without a sincere appreciation of its unique program offerings and community culture – gained by thorough networking, thoughtful research, and, whenever possible, a visit to its campus – the admissions committee may not assess you a good fit.

The second question is an appeal to share something much more personal, beyond your transcripts, test scores and professional achievements. Booth is digging for a glimpse of what drives and inspires you. As Donna Swinford in Booth Admissions underscores in her blog, “At Booth, passions and ambitions serve as a compass in navigating our choice-rich environment.”

Consider it this way: Similar to Wharton’s new essay pairing, the Booth’s first question asks what you’ll get out of Booth, while the second wants to know what Booth and its community will get out of you.

Fortuna’s Julie Ferguson, former Chicago Booth Senior Associate Director of Admissions, offers this perspective: “The new, more direct approach asks applicants to be clear and concise about their motivations – the ‘moments’ format didn’t necessarily ask candidates to map out their whats and whys of an MBA. The flexibility of the curriculum requires students to have a firm grasp on why they need and want an MBA, so that they’re poised to take full advantage of the choices available to them.”

As a Booth’s former Assistant Director of Admissions, it strikes me as typical Booth to recast its essay questions this way. That’s because the Admissions Committee wants to know that you have a deep understanding of what distinguishes Booth from other programs (including neighboring Kellogg). It also wants to curate a diverse student community, where different experiences and perspectives influence the learning environment. As such, this second question is a prime opportunity to share something beyond your day job, to explore and articulate the forces that shape your decisions, identities and experiences, and which stand to positively impact the future community you hope to join.

It can be intimidating if you think that your story isn’t so unique, or tricky to know where to start. Begin by reflecting on definitive moments and milestones along your personal journey and explore what might set you apart – even if it doesn’t seem relevant at first. Caution: Do not try to anticipate what you think the Admissions Committee wants to hear and respond from that contrived place. Authenticity is essential –show your enthusiasm and be yourself.


  • Make time to substantively self-reflect
  • Understand Booth’s vocabulary and culture
  • Convey what you bring to Booth and its community
  • Share your enthusiasm and tap into your passion
  • Link past experiences with future goals and explore all facets of the MBA experience

“Booth looks for candidates that know what they want and will make the most of their two years there,” adds Julie. “The new essays will give applicants the opportunity to show that they’ve thought through this major life step, and that Booth is the perfect place for them.”

Krista McNamara is a Fortuna Admissions expert coach and former Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

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