U Chicago / Booth 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis
Following up on the release of the University of Chicago / Booth MBA essay topics for 2015-2016 last week — and our interview with Associate Dean of Student Recruitment and Admissions Kurt Ahlm — we wanted to offer some guidance to applicants as they prepare to tackle this potentially challenging new prompt.
Booth has sidelined its personal expression prompt, which had appeared on the Chicago MBA application for seven consecutive years, and has introduced a task that differs from the previous format in an important way. Rather than simply having applicants to introduce themselves to the admissions committee, the program now presents candidates with 16 images that capture life at Booth; applicants are asked to choose one and explain why it resonates with their fit with the MBA program. This is a bit of a marketing exercise on the part of the program, similar to other schools like CBS and HBS, which ask applicants to view a video as part of the essay task. It’s also a bit of a projective test (think “inkblots”), as an applicant’s choice of image may in itself lead the adcom to draw some conclusions before even reading the candidate’s response.
As was the case last season, applicants have the option of writing an essay or developing a PowerPoint and PDF response. And, as was the case last season, there is no word, page, or PPT slide limit listed, meaning that the length of the response is left to the applicant’s judgment (and the 16MB maximum file size). These format options allow both verbally and visually oriented applicants to draw on their strengths in answering the prompt, and offers a bit more breathing room than the program’s original 4-slide PPT-only formulation of the personal expression essay.
Let’s take a closer look at the Chicago / Booth MBA essay for 2015-2016:
Required Essay: 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 provided, tell us how it resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you. (See our post announcing the Booth essay topics for the full set of guidelines)
Booth presents applicants with quite a range of images, depicting everything from solo study to social celebration, from community service to icy adventure, from a famous Chicago landmark to a study abroad scene, from classroom conversation to a outdoor collaborative. As Associate Dean Alhm mentioned in our interview, the adcom is looking for applicants’ authentic reactions to the photographic stimuli, so we recommend that candidates begin by reviewing the photos and identifying the 4-6 to which they are most drawn on a gut level. It might also be worth making some notes about why each one resonates with you and seeing whether there’s overlap in the aspects that draw you to each, as these core points of connection could be valuable to incorporate into your response, no matter which of the photographs you ultimately select.
While a sense of automatic resonance is a good starting point, it’s also important to be strategic and to select the photo that will be the best vehicle to discuss your fit with the Booth MBA program and community. For this reason, we recommend that you set your top 4-6 photos aside and reflect on what you most want to convey about your candidacy, career goals, and fit with the Chicago MBA. This might involve completely pausing the process of developing your response while you learn about the school, as Associate Dean Ahlm hints in our interview that becoming very familiar with the Booth experience is essential to an effective essay. We therefore recommend that applicants review the program’s website, reach out to students and alumni, digest the Clear Admit Chicago Booth School Guide, and consider attending an information session or visiting the campus before they begin working in earnest on their responses. The admissions committee is looking for students who have really synthesized and internalized the Booth program, and who have a good understanding of their fit with its offerings.
Once you’ve identified the essence of your fit with Booth — in terms of what you would gain, what you would contribute, and how your values are aligned with those of the program — we suggest revisiting your top photo choices with an eye to which one most resonates with your message. You may even choose to review all 16 options again, in case your research on the program has changed your perspective. Attend to what’s happening in the picture, as well as how it makes you feel, as you’re making your selection. And, on a final strategic note, keep in mind Associate Dean Ahlm’s comment that the photos were chosen with an eye to highlighting the collaborative side of what is often perceived as an individualistic program. While there are no wrong choices, some selections — like abstract architecture or a woman studying alone in an (admittedly beautiful) room — might make for more challenging responses than others.
In addition to choosing which photo will inform their responses, applicants will also need to determine the best medium for conveying their fit with Booth. For those whose strong suit is writing, a traditional essay is absolutely acceptable here — though we encourage even essay-writing applicants to include a visual touch point or two, in the spirit of the prompt. A selfie on the Booth campus could do wonders to convey your excitement about the program, and a photo of your own color run/Holi experience or travel abroad scene could underscore your fit with the adventurous student spirit depicted in some of the Booth photos. As for applicants who choose a visual-heavy PowerPoint format, it will still be very important to include some text to accompany any photos you share and to spell out the reasons you feel a fit with Booth based on your chosen photo from the essay prompt. To summarize, we recommend a balance of text and imagery, with an eye to authentic expression of your sincerely felt connection with the Chicago MBA program. In terms of length, meanwhile, we recommend limiting essay responses to 750 words (plus a few photos, perhaps), and PowerPoint responses to as many slides as an admissions reader could comfortably review in 5 minutes.
As a final note on the content of this response, we encourage applicants to show the adcom who they are and to articulate why they’re a fit with the program. For some, this might involve identifying several themes that are reflected in the stimulus photo and developing a few paragraphs or PowerPoint slides around each. For others, it might involve a verbal or visual narrative of their professional journey and the reasons they see their path intersecting with the scene depicted in their chosen picture. And for others still, their response might include a treatment of their most dearly held value, as reflected in the Booth photo and other experiences with the program. What effective reponses will have in common, however, is a sincere and thoughtful treatment of their fit with the collaborative Booth community, and a genuine enthusiasm about the Chicago MBA program and their ultimate career goals.
Re-Applicant 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)
This response asks applicants about how their career plans, interest in Booth, and desire to obtain an MBA has evolved since last season’s admissions decision. Applicants should note that this prompt seems to assume that some change and growth has taken place, so it would be prudent to showcase an enhanced appreciation of the merits of the Booth MBA program and its potential to advance the candidate’s progress toward his or her well defined goals.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Booth MBA essay topics! As you work on your University of Chicago MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s offerings:
Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis
Schools: U. Chicago Booth
"Booth School" redirects here. For the defunct school in Philadelphia, see Booth School (Philadelphia).
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business is a graduatebusiness school located in Chicago, Illinois, at the University of Chicago. Formerly known as the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Chicago Booth is the second-oldest business school in the U.S., the first such school to offer an Executive MBA program, and the first to initiate a Ph.D. program in business. The school was renamed in 2008 following a $300 million endowment gift to the school by alumnus David G. Booth. The school has the third-largest endowment of any business school. The school belongs to the M7 group of elite MBA programs which recognize each other as peers, consisting of Chicago Booth, Columbia, Harvard, Northwestern Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Stanford, and UPenn Wharton.
The school's campus is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago on the main campus of the university. The school also maintains additional campuses in London and Asia (originally Singapore, but in July 2013 a move to Hong Kong was announced), as well as in downtown Chicago on the Magnificent Mile. In addition to conducting graduate business programs, the school conducts research in the fields of finance, economics, quantitative marketing research, and accounting. Chicago Booth's MBA program is currently ranked first globally by The Economist.
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business traces its roots back to 1898 when university faculty member James Laurence Laughlin chartered the College of Commerce and Politics, which was intended to be an extension of the school's founding principles of "scientific guidance and investigation of great economic and social matters of everyday importance." The program originally served as a solely undergraduate institution until 1916, when academically oriented research masters and later doctoral-level degrees were introduced.
In 1916, the school was renamed the School of Commerce and Administration. Soon after in 1922, the first doctorate program was offered at the school. In 1932, the school was rechristened as the School of Business. The School of Business offered its first Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 1935. A landmark decision was taken by the school at about this time to concentrate its resources solely on graduate programs, and accordingly, the undergraduate program was phased out in 1942. In 1943, the school launched the first Executive MBA program. The school was renamed to Graduate School of Business (or more popularly, the GSB) in 1959, a name that it held till 2008.
During the later half of the twentieth century, the business school was instrumental in the development of the Chicago School of economics, an economic philosophy focused on free-market, minimal government involvement, due to faculty and student interaction with members of the university's influential Department of Economics. Other innovations by the school include initiating the first PhD program in business (1920), founding the first academic business journal (1928), offering the first Executive MBA (EMBA) program (1943), and for offering the first weekend MBA program (1986). Students at the school founded the National Black MBA Association (1972), and it is the only U.S. business school with permanent campuses on three continents: Asia (2000), Europe (1994), and North America (1898).
Chicago Booth offers Full-time, Part-time (Evening and Weekend) and Executive MBA programs. The University is also a major center for educating future academics, with graduate programs offering the A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in several fields.
The program allows students to structure their own course of study subject to the constraint of a broad set of requirements, unlike some other top-tier business schools, which impose a cohort or learning team system that includes coursework to be completed in a pre-determined order. This gives students the flexibility to construct a program of study that is tailored to their needs, and can be as broad or deep as they choose. The only required course for full-time and part-time program students is LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development), which students take in their first quarter for full-time students and within the first four quarters for part-time students. This course focuses on the fundamental skills of leadership: motivating people, building relationships, and influencing outcomes. Students in the full-time program may earn an International MBA, or IMBA, by studying abroad on exchange with another business school, taking certain electives, and by demonstrating oral proficiency in a second, non-native language.
The school's Executive MBA program is unique in that students may elect to spend the required residential periods on all three of the school's campuses worldwide (London, Chicago, Singapore, Hong Kong), while also employing the cohort system. In Business Week Executive MBA Ranking 2011 the school ranked 1st.
Students in the Full-time MBA, Executive MBA, and Part-time MBA programs can concentrate in one or more of 14 areas, although some concentrations' required coursework may necessitate schedule modifications for students enrolled in the part-time program. The areas are:
Chicago Booth grants "High Honors" to the top five percent of the graduating class and "Honors" to its next 15 percent, based on GPA averages of all MBA graduates from the previous academic year.
Research and learning centers
The school promotes and disseminates research through its centers and institutes; the most significant ones are:
Chicago Booth was ranked as the #1 business school in the United States by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. The school was ranked #1 by The Economist globally each year from 2012 to 2016. It was ranked #2 in Forbes magazine's "Best Business Schools" rankings in 2013.U.S. News & World Report, in the 2017 Best Business Schools ranking, ranked Chicago Booth #2, while its executive MBA program ranked #2, and its part-time program ranked #2.
Main article: List of University of Chicago Booth School of Business faculty
The Booth school has 177 professors, and includes Nobel laureates Eugene Fama and Richard Thaler, presidential appointees, and a MacArthur fellow. Notable economists Kevin M. Murphy, John H. Cochrane, Luigi Zingales and Raghuram Rajan, and former Chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisers, Austan Goolsbee, are professors there.
Main article: List of University of Chicago Booth School of Business alumni
The Chicago Booth Alumni has a community of over 49,000 members  and is supported by 60+ alumni clubs worldwide. Alumni include Satya Nadella, Jon Corzine, Peter G. Peterson, Philip J. Purcell, Said G. Daher, Howard Marks, and John Meriwether.
Chicago Booth Review
Chicago Booth Review is a magazine devoted to business research, particularly research conducted by Chicago Booth’s own faculty. In addition to covering new findings in finance, behavioral science, economics, entrepreneurship, accounting, marketing, and other business-relevant subjects, the magazine features essays from Chicago Booth faculty and other academics. It is published quarterly in print and several times a week online.
Chicago Booth Review is the most recent of several successive vehicles Chicago Booth has used to convey its intellectual capital to an outside audience. Starting in the 1960s, the school published the Selected Papers series, a collection of articles written by faculty members or excerpted from faculty speeches. In 1997, Booth launched Capital Ideas (ISSN 1934-0060) as a separate newsletter featuring articles about faculty research. That subsequently evolved into a quarterly magazine, which in 2016 relaunched as Chicago Booth Review.
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Coordinates: 41°47′21″N87°35′45″W / 41.789144°N 87.595705°W / 41.789144; -87.595705