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Booth 2016 Essay Topics

Last year, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business introduced an “essay” question like no other—one that we imagine gave some applicants serious pause. Candidates were presented with 16 photos depicting life in the Chicago Booth MBA program and asked to choose the one that best correlated with their opinion of why the school was right for them. Chicago Booth has chosen to maintain this photo-inspiration approach this year, but with some key tweaks. First, applicants have ten pictures from which to select, rather than 16. Although the school does not offer a reason for this scale-down, we can posit several theories. Perhaps several of the photos inspired very similar essays, so only one such picture was needed this year. Or maybe some images were chosen by a very small number of candidates, so Chicago Booth felt they would be superfluous this time and streamlined the options by cutting them. The school may also have wanted to focus applicants on specific aspects of the Chicago Booth experience and therefore did away with any pictures not related to those elements. A second big change is that this year’s photos include captions describing the depicted scene. This could add a layer of complexity in that an individual may be strongly drawn to one particular scene, but the associated caption in some way alters his/her initial interpretation of it. Third, and most importantly, the school now asks applicants to select the picture that “best resonates with you” (italics ours) rather than with the candidate’s belief that Chicago Booth is the “right fit.” By broadening the prompt’s scope this way, the school is allowing applicants to select from a wider range of possible themes and present a more rounded picture of who they are as individuals. Do not let this unorthodox question intimidate you—our analysis will help you navigate these potentially challenging waters.

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

  • 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.

In a June 16 post on the Chicago Booth Admissions blog, the school’s director of operations and evaluation says of this rather unusual essay prompt, “The exercise is about showing us something we cannot learn elsewhere in the application. There is no wrong way to approach this. The question and moments are yours to answer and yours to interpret.” If you are feeling nervous about this essay, we hope this quote helps calm you a bit. Every MBA program’s essay questions share a common purpose—to help the admissions committee learn about you—and this is just a very pure and creative way of approaching the issue. Chicago Booth is not testing to see whether you will choose the photo that it deems “right” or “best.” It is offering a rather unique way of starting the conversation about something you feel is fundamental about you, something you want the school to know about who you are, where you have been, and/or where you want to go in the future. The photos provided are very malleable, so do not get too hung up on which one to choose. And with ten picture options, you should be able to find one to which you feel a genuine connection.

You might pick an image that connects with or recalls an important event from your past that had a significant impact on you and colors the person you are today. You could instead opt for a photo that relates to your aspirations as a Chicago Booth student or in your career. Another option is to select a picture that elicits a more emotional response from you and correlates with one or more of your core values or beliefs. In the end, letting the photos decide for you might be the best approach. With this essay—as with all application essays, of course—being sincere is crucial, so you will likely be able to craft your most compelling response when you feel a genuine attraction to the photo you choose. And do not merely identify an attribute in a photo and riff for a thousand words on what you feel are your most impressive accomplishments; instead, really get to the heart of how and why the image speaks to you personally. If you truly own your experiences and provide sufficient detail in showcasing them, your message will come across as authentic.

You can choose from multiple format options beyond the traditional essay for your submission, which no doubt adds to this prompt’s intimidation factor for some applicants. We offer no recommendation with respect to whether a written essay, a PowerPoint presentation, or any other format is “best” in this case. Opportunities are certainly available in both traditional and creative approaches, depending on where your strengths lie. We do, however, recommend that if you choose to write an essay, you limit yourself to no more than a thousand words.

Optional Essay: Is there any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? If so, please address in an optional essay. (300 words maximum)

Chicago Booth’s optional essay prompt is rather open-ended in that it does not specify that you discuss only problem areas in your candidacy, though it does restrict you to just 300 words. Nevertheless, this is still your opportunity to address—if you need to—any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a low GMAT or GRE score, a poor grade or overall GPA, a gap in your work experience, etc. Do not simply try to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you. And however tempted you might be, this is not the place to reuse a strong essay you wrote for another school or to offer a few anecdotes you were unable to share in your required essay. But if you truly feel that you must emphasize or explain something that would render your application incomplete if omitted, write a very brief piece on this key aspect of your profile. For more guidance, see our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, with multiple examples, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your application.

Reapplicant Essay: Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words maximum)

With this essay question, Chicago Booth is testing your resolve and your reasoning. We surmise that the school wants to be certain you are not just stubbornly following a path and trying to “finish what you started,” so to speak, but that you have truly reassessed your needs in the aftermath of your unfortunate rejection. We recommend that you discuss your subsequent growth and development as they pertain to additional personal and professional discovery, which validates your need for an MBA. In the interim, some of your interests or goals may have changed—that is not a bad thing, and the admissions committee will not automatically assume that you are “wishy-washy,” unless you give them good reason to do so. Just be sure that any of your goals that have changed still logically connect to your overall story and desire for an MBA. Your aspirations—new or original—need to represent a compelling progression of the growth you have achieved in the past year.

And for a thorough exploration of the Chicago Booth academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment, and other key elements, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.



Good luck to all BSers who submitted to Booth for Round 2!

 

Chicago Booth Full-Time MBA Essay Questions – Class of 2020

They’re sticking to the same prompt, just with a different, and smaller, set of photos for you to choose from.

The following is a collection of shared Booth moments. Choose the moment that best resonates with you and tell us why.


One of the best collections of modern art in the city of Chicago is found within the walls of Chicago Booth. Walking through the classroom level, a student passes by one of the nearly 500 ceonceptually challenging pieces, which inspire converastion and push people to think differently. #ChicagoBoothMoments #WhyBooth #ChicagoBooth #HarperCenter



These two Boothies remain grounded even when standing 1,353 feet above the city streets of Chicago. Investing in each other empowers Booth students to pursue their passions and reach new heights. #ChicagoBoothMoments #WhyBooth #ChicagoBooth #WillisTowerSkyDeck #1353feet #LoveChicago #MyKindOfTownChicagoIs #FlexibleCurriculum


This adventurous group of students traveled together for a fun-filled Spring Break in Central America. From learning to pitch to sharks in the boardroom to literally swimming with, well, sharks in the Barrier Reef, there are limitless ways to explore interest and challenge yourself during your two years at Booth. #ChicagoBoothMoments #WhyBooth #ChicagoBooth #BoothSpringBreak #SharkTank



A student snaps a photo of friends at a school-wide celebration organized by multiple student groups in recognition of the support and diversty within the Booth community. #ChicagoBoothMoments #WhyBooth #ChicagoBooth #TheBoothExperience #BoothBetterTogether



A student takes notes during an afternoon class. The unique perspectives and individual insights of each student play a vital role in Booth’s classroom experience-whether lecture, case-based, discussion, or lab #ChicagoBoothMoments #WhyBooth #ChicagoBooth



The central pulse of Booth emanates from Harper Center’s light-filled, six-story atrium – where it all happens. From weekly socials to Nobel laureate speeches, this is the place where lasting friendships form, ideas take shape, and Booth comes to life. #ChicagoBoothMoments #WhyBooth #HarperCenter @rafaelvinoly

EssaySnark says…. dang there are a lot of borrowed slogans going on in these photos this year! “Better Together”? “Think Differently”? And the weird Yoda-speak of “My kind of town Chicago is”?? Sorry Booth adcom. You guys should stick to your day jobs of recruiting applicants to your class. Marketing copywriting is clearly not your strong suit.

The full application requirements are available on the Booth admissions site . Our Booth essay guide has also been updated for the 2017 cycle with even more strategies for how to identify the best content and put together your presentation (and yes, a PowerPoint is recommended, instead of an essay! Our Booth application guide explains why).
 

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, PowerPoint, and Word. We strongly recommend converting your piece to a PDF file prior to submitting.

Multimedia Restrictions: We will view 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 Booth 2017 Application Guide gives you a map to developing a strong presentation for the Booth Moments and covers many other angles and aspects to a strong candidacy for the University of Chicago’s MBA program. It’s been refreshed and revised with all of EssaySnark’s latest-greatest tips for success, based on that of all the BSers who have gone before (including many admits from Snarkville in 2016 and again in Round 1!). Pick it up and get started on this critical app strategy.

Booth has also introduced an interview-invite short-answer question this year — sneaky Booth!! — where those who get the invitation for the interview will need to submit a separate mini essay in advance. The essay is not part of the interview experience per se, it’s just another aspect of you that you get to present for them to learn more about you. You get a choice of three questions and about a week to respond. EssaySnark’s advice? Choose something that’s new and different from what you did before!!

 
 

Chicago Booth MBA Application Deadlines

See their website for more details: Booth MBA Application Deadlines

  • Round 1:   This year, interview invitations came out the week of October 10th, with a mid-cycle “release” on October 14th. Then, another essay was due on October 20th!!
  • Round 2: January 3, 2018 – another right-after-the-holidays deadline. Ugh. Interview invitations and mid-cycle release are likely to be in the first week of February.

 

Chicago Booth MBA recommendations – Class of 2020

2For 2017, Chicago is using one of the two sets of standardized recommender questions — the same questions that Harvard and Columbia are using.

 

Chicago Booth Useful Links

school pages:

 

From the ‘Snark:

The standard career goals advice we’ve offered for schools like Columbia and Harvard (and others) may be helpful for you in tackling the Booth application. In addition, the suggestions about NYU Stern’s essay 3 are very relevant for a Booth PowerPoint presentation in 2017.

 
 

The SnarkStrategies Guide for Chicago Booth has been updated for 2017! Get it now and get started on your Booth presentation!


 

For Reference: Booth’s Past-Season Essay Questions

Click to view last year's question


They’re using a photo prompt again, which is great – and what’s even better is that they completely simplified the actual question you are asked to respond to. Here it is:

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

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, PowerPoint, and Word. We strongly recommend converting your piece to a PDF file prior to submitting.

Multimedia Restrictions: We will view 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.

Yay Booth! They kept the awesome and fixed the awful. This is much simpler than last year – though there’s still ways for your answer to go sideways if you’re not paying close attention to strategy in how you present yourself (and authenticity matters just as much).

This is what they said on their blog when announcing this year’s question :

We encourage you to be genuine, authentic, and not overthink the question. Consider each moment, study the captions, and select the moment with which you feel most connected. Our hope is to learn a little more about why you chose a particular moment and what it means for you in your decision to apply to Booth.

The exercise is about showing us something we cannot learn elsewhere in the application. There is no wrong way to approach this. The question and moments are yours to answer and yours to interpret.

Here’s the fun photos that you get to think about – with a handful of links to the stuff that is referenced (you’re welcome):


Fellow classmates cheer on members of TransparentC as they are announced the winners of the 2016 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge [winner announcements]. Run by @polskycenter [Polsky Center site], #ChicagoNVC [Twitter] is an experiential learning program that helps students turn their ideas into viable businesses. Celebrating its 20th year, NVC [NVC site] is recognized as the top-ranked university accelerator program in the nation [Seed Rankings site], where more than 140 companies got their start. #SeedCon #ChicagoBooth #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: It’s interesting that the first photo of the bunch is one on entrepreneurship!



A group of students travel together through Colombia. Each year, hundreds of Booth classmates have the opportunity to travel around the world, visiting destinations from Argentina to Vietnam. Interantional opportunities like Random Walks [2016 Random Walks site], the International Business Exchange Program [IBEP page], and Industry Treks [Treks page (out of date)] result in lifelong memories and lasting friendships. @BoothRW #WhyBooth #ChicagoBooth #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: Keep in mind as you’re reviewing this one that you don’t go to bschool in order to travel…



A second-year student helps the incoming class develop their individual leadership styles as a part of Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD) [LEAD page], the cohorted course every Booth student takes at the beginning of their first year. As LEAD Facilitators, second years have an opportunity to further practice those leadership skills and pay it forward to the next generation of Booth students. #WhyBooth #ChicagoBooth #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: All the schools like to hear about examples of leadership (but we’re not 100% sure about how easy it will be to present one of yours in response to this photo! #tricky).


Walking in front of the Charles M. Harper Center [Harper page], a student is captured during a quiet moment before the beginning of a day on campus. #WhyBooth #HarperCenter #ChicagoBooth #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: Hmmmm…. Talk about open-ended! This one might actually invite some interesting (or completely boring!) responses.


#ChicagoBooth faculty are thought leaders whose ideas influence markets and politics in industries across the globe. Their research delves deep into the foundations of economics and behavioral sciences that underline how markets work, businesses function, and people make decisions. #RichardThaler [Booth faculty page]#LuigiZingales [Booth faculty page]#RaghuramRajan [Booth faculty page]#NicholasEpley [Booth faculty page] #ChicagoBooth #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: Wait! There’s nine books but only four names called out. What’s up with that? Regardless, there seems like lots of possibilities here. (Just please don’t say that you want to be a thought leader when you grow up. Please please please don’t do that.)



#ChicagoBooth students visit a village in India as part of a Global Social Impact Practicum [course description] led by the Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) [SEI site]. The program explores the potential for bamboo-based power and its impact on employment in rural India. #BoothSEI supports similar efforts through #ExperientialLearning opportunities in communities around the globe. #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: There’s more than just social impact here, people!


A team of #ChicagoBooth alumni compete in the 2015 Global MBA Trophy [event website] regatta in Athens, Greece. The sailing race draws accomplished alumni from top business schools around the world. Annual events such as these happen globally, bringing alumni together to connect, collaborate, and share in new moments. #sailing #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: Well you learn something new every day! This was an event that we had never heard of. Very cool! The Booth team even won one year.


On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange [NYSE site], cofounder and CEO Matt Maloney, ’10 [Matt Maloney LinkedIn], is joined by food mascots to help ring the opening bell as his company @GrubHub [prolly dint need to link that one when you use it every night] lists its initial public offering in April, 2014. Shares of the company, valued at the time at $2 billion, climbed more than 30% the first day of its IPO. @NYSE [Twitter]#Instafood [Instagram] #ChicagoBooth #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: Another entrepreneurship story??? OK whatevs. (Not throwing shade on GrubHub but all the top schools have similar bragworthy alumni success stories too ya know.) Anyway, what’s with the #Instafood tag? If you can do something (relevant) with that in your PPT, we’ll be impressed!



Students speak with Chairman and Co-CEO of Dimensional Fund Advisors [company website], David Booth, ’71 [Wikipedia], whose unprecedented donation in 2008 led to renaming the school in his honor. The opportunity for business leaders to bring insights from their careers to students is an invaluable complement to Booth’s world-class academics. #ChicagoBooth #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: There aren’t too many alumni out there with wiki pages on them! (Not that we’re suggesting that that’s what you should focus on with this one. It was really just an offhand comment. This one has much more to be explored than that.)



Nearly 100 #ChicagoBooth students put on a massive flash mob to surprise the Class of 2017 admitted students visiting #HarperCenter [Harper page] in February, 2015. The choreographed performance of the hit “Uptown Funk,” [YouTube] was organized by members of the Booth Dance Club [BDC page], one of 80 student groups on campus [Booth clubs page]. #WhyBooth #ChicagoBoothMoments

EssaySnark comment: As with the travel thing, we’ll caution you again, you don’t go to bschool to dance. Just be careful if you choose this one; stay focused on the task at hand, which is to communicate something meaningful of who you are in the context of your application to business school. Also: typo. #eek


If you’d like to see what Booth asked of past years’ applicants (including last year’s version of this assignment) you can review the archive of Booth questions.

Last year around this time, we threw out a bit ‘o advice on Twitter:

@MBA_Hopeful1908 Remember you can include text in PPT too! We often see people do a much better job sharing depth of who they are thru pics.

— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) July 15, 2015

@felipecorcuera Many of our clients are able to communicate more of who they are through slides or other visuals instead of just text 😉

— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) July 15, 2015

[end discussion of last year’s question.]


Click to view 2016 questions

Brand-new essay requirement from Booth – they mixed things up, yet not really. You still need to do a presentation (ideally, or an essay) to say how you fit with them. You just need to pivot that discussion off one of their Booth-centric images. So it’s less open-ended than before. On Sept 2 we covered the key mistakes that people are making with this year’s Booth essay and in November, we presented the simple way to handle the Booth question this year. You can also see what the Booth adcom says they saw with Round 1 applicants in 2015 .

They preserved their one main app requirement – the traditional Booth PPT, or you can make it a written essay – but you need to approach things differently from how past years’ Brave Supplicants have.

Chicago Booth values individuality because of what we can learn from the diverse experiences and perspectives of others. This mutual respect creates an open-minded community that supports curiosity, inspires us to think more broadly, take risks, and challenge assumptions. At Booth, community is about collaborative thinking and tapping into each other’s different viewpoints to cultivate new ideas and realize breakthrough moments every day.

Using one of the photos (here’s the PDF to download them all together), tell us how it resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you.

Here’s the 16 choices – most of which we recognize as images that Booth has been using on its website for awhile. You will pick just one to talk about in your response.


Wow! Talk about taking the question of “school fit” to the next level!

They’re still asking you to produce a PowerPoint or a Word file (or, you could build it in something else as long as you can save it as PDF). So to that extent, it’s the same as they have had before. And again, there are no limits – though it’s helpful to recognize that in prior years when the PPT was one of several essays, then it was limited to 4 slides total. That’s a pretty good ballpark place to start when thinking about how long you might want to go.

Audio/video/etc are still not allowed, which is a bummer (especially when they do allow videos to be submitted by waitlisted candidates).

You can review the entirety of the instructions as posted on their website on 7/8/15.

The main benefit of this new question is in Booth’s favor: You will not be able to reuse anything you build out for another school. You need to create it organic to Booth. Pretty clever on their part. And, having 16 different images to choose from means that applicants will feel like they’re empowered (provided they don’t feel overwhelmed by too many options) plus it ensures that the adcom won’t get bored by seeing the same thing over and over again. It should invite more diversity in responses.

Hopefully. 😉

There is also an optional essay (only use it if you need to literally explain something that you cannot otherwise cover), and there’s a separate 300-word reapplicant essay if you’re trying again. And, lest you think that they don’t care about goals, they do; as with the prior year, they ask about them in the app.

We participated in a Twitter chat where things were discussed:

.@gbarbieB One tip we can offer: Dissect the Q, & really reflect on each noun that's included – they bring insights! http://t.co/toe8Dfw0EZ

— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) July 15, 2015

Oh yeah – that last photo? #16?

So @BoothFullTime, we really should know this, but…. Who's that in Essay Photo #16 ? Is that Mr. Booth? #BoothMBApic.twitter.com/pKNHuzE9Bc

— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) July 15, 2015

@EssaySnark That is Eugene F. Fama, 2013 Nobel laureate in economic sciences. http://t.co/cDadVnN85X#BoothMBA

— Chicago Booth (@BoothFullTime) July 15, 2015

You’re welcome. 😉

[end discussion of Booth’s 2016 question.]


Click to view 2014 questions


They had just one main app requirement – the traditional Booth PPT, or you could make it a written essay.
  • Presentation/Essay: Chicago Booth values adventurous inquiry, diverse perspectives, and a collaborative exchange of ideas. This is us. Who are you?

This was remarkably similar to the HBS question… which we have to point out, was worded quite closely to Booth’s original version of this prompt from several years back.

For Booth last year, you could write a traditional essay (no word limit mentioned) or do a PowerPoint (again, no limit; in past years when the PPT was one of several essays then it was up to 4 slides total). We’re betting they stick with something similar this coming season, too.

They recommended converting to PDF before uploading. Audio/video/etc were not allowed however this is another change they make this year – why not video submissions this year, Booth Insider? You allow them in the waitlist process. Seems ideal to front-load that opportunity for your candidates.

You can review the entirety of the instructions as posted on their website on 7/17/14.

There was also an optional essay, which they’re likely to preserve, and there’s a separate 300-word reapplicant essay if you’re trying again. And, lest you think that they don’t care about goals, they do; as with the prior year they asked about them in the app.

[end discussion of 2013 questions.]


Click to view 2013 questions

2013 Essays – EssaySnark’s Analysis

This is what we said when the two-years-ago essays came out:

Here’s the new Booth essay questions – no career goals! Interesting.

Two short-answer questions and the classic Booth presentation:

  1. My favorite part of my work is… (250 words)
  2. I started to think differently when… (250 words)
  3. The Chicago experience will take you deeper into issues, force you to challenge assumptions, and broaden your perspective. In a four-slide presentation or an essay of no more than 600 words, broaden our perspective about who you are. Understanding what we currently know about you from the rest of the application, what else would you like us to know? [that phrase “the rest of” is the only change from last year]

Those two short-answer questions make us feel like we work at Apple.

The Booth online application does in fact ask about career goals – here’s some of the questions:

  • Please select the industry that best represents the majority of your work experience to date (dropdown)
  • Proposed industry post-MBA (dropdown)
  • Proposed job function post-MBA (dropdown)
  • What is your short-term post-MBA goal? (700 characters)
  • What is your long-term post-MBA goal? (700 characters)

[end discussion of 2013 questions.]


Click to view 2012 questions


2012 questions – these are REALLY OLD
Three essays:
  1. What are your short- and long-term goals, and how will a Chicago Booth MBA help you reach them? ( but they didn’t!!)
  2. a. What has been your biggest challenge, and what have you learned from it?
    b. Tell us about something that has fundamentally transformed the way you think.
  3. The Chicago experience will take you deeper into issues, force you to challenge assumptions, and broaden your perspective… [The same 4-slide presentation or 600-word essay as we got in 2013 except that they added the phrase “the rest of the application” to the actual prompt.]

[end discussion of 2012 questions.]


 

[Index of essay questions by bschool]

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