What Happens When You Apply To Booth

Chicago's Booth School of Business

Like many business schools right now, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is in the midst of the heavy season for making admit decisions on its second round candidates. In two days, on Feb. 16th, Booth will begin notifying second round applicants and will wrap up all its second round decisions by March 16th.

Evaluating the quality of an applicant pool is more art than science, more of a subjective process by people than an impartial algorithm. The numbers in the game look like this: last year, 4,299 people applied to the Booth School of Business (the peak year for apps was 2001 when Chicago received about 4,800 applications). Slightly less than half–just under 2,100 made it past the first screen—two readers of their applications—to get an invite for an admissions interview. About 44% of those interviewed candidates were eventually admitted to Chicago, accounting for just under 950 people. Some 61% of those applicants then chose to come to Booth and be part of the 575 or so students in the entering class in the fall of 2010.

This year (2011), with the first two rounds done and only one remaining, applications are running about even with last year’s total. But there is one very positive difference: Applicants accepted in Booth’s first round, which had a deadline of Oct. 13th, have until Feb. 25 to tell the school they plan to enroll in the fall and send a deposit against their tuition. “We are running way ahead in terms of deposits,” says Stacey Kole, deputy dean of the full-time MBA program. “We are up over 40% on where we were last year. And we’ve had the largest number of attendees ever for our Admit Weekend program which kicked off on Friday.”

Right now, the admissions office is in the midst of an applications flood. Typically, 30% of the applicants make the first round deadline. Some 60% of the applications flow into the second round, while the remaining 10% will make the third round cutoff, which is April 13th this year.  The vast majority of those applications—more than 80%–usually arrive within the last 24 hours of any deadline. Chicago insists that no applicant has either an advantage or disadvantage in any round, though it stands to reason that first round applicants are applying when every seat in the incoming class is still open.

So what exactly happens when you apply to Booth? Once you push the button on your online application, it pops up in a computer queue of MBA admissions on the first floor of the Charles M. Harper Center (the first suite of offices to the left at the main entrance to the building). Inevitably, an admissions clerk will open the file, record it, and then print it out in paper form.


At Chicago, every single application that comes in is read and reviewed. “That is different from other schools,” maintains Kole. “At some schools, there are cutoffs. An application can be put aside if the GMAT score is too low. We don’t do that.”

  • PDS

    It means that the scale is same. Booth conducts a blind interview, so the interviewer would not have seen any thing other than the resume.

  • Robert

    What I admire about Booth is its candid approach, which HBS arrogantly denies to follow. I have sent so many queries to HBS Admissions. One should see their reply. Extremely arrogant people… as if we’re sheep.

  • Kate

    1. You don’t say.
    2. See the current Forbes 2013 rankings
    3. Are you crazy or just trolling with a fake account?

  • Katie

    Procedural question – do all interview requests go out for Booth “on” the interview decision date or “by” the interview decision date? I applied R2 this year and am in the middle of the waiting game…

  • Navin

    Can’t really comment on the fair/holistic nature of the admissions committee, but I just wanted to say that I met Kurt Ahlm while he was hosting Booth’s InfoSession in Thailand and was an absolute pleasure to talk to. He answered questions that were not only about academics but also the student life, sports etc. [That man knows his sports, and as a sports enthusiast, it was very refreshing!]

  • Boothapp

    Great article – very insightful. One clarifying question: The article mentions the interviewer “uses the same one to six grading scale.” Does that mean they also read the entire application after the interview? Just curious.

  • Buffy

    Unfortunately this article doesn’t unveil anything surprising about the admissions process. Adcom throwing in words like “sparkle” (what?) and “fit” are vague terms that read like horoscopes – applies to everyone, but still doesn’t give you the info you need. I still believe that all top schools’ adcoms utilize a lot of “tried-and-true” techniques but are unwilling to admit to, for instance, high gmat, gpa, blue-chip work experience, as opposed to the fluctuating qualitative and soft methods they are preaching.

  • tea

    Why does Booth have such a low yield %?
    How does it compare to other top schools?
    Why do so many admitted students not want to go there?

  • Jeff

    >> versus schools that were straight-up numbers lovers (and I really want to use
    >> a stronger word there)

    Ha ha… I know exactly the word you want to use there! 🙂

  • Jeff, I suspect you’re right; however, having knowledge of the law school admissions process, and seeing schools that actually did consider the totality of your app (assuming that your LSAT score met a certain standard of credibility) versus schools that were straight-up numbers lovers (and I really want to use a stronger word there), I wonder if a similar dichotomy exists for b-schools. I assume that it does, and I’m curious to know which schools. Who wants to pay $250 if it’s a waste of time, you know?

    Oh why can’t b-schools exist in a market with perfect information? (Sad face goes here.)

  • Jeff

    From what I’ve seen, every school claims that they use a “holistic” process, and that OTHER schools use cutoffs and other blunt tactics. No admissions officer wants to admit that they don’t spend an hour on an application when someone submits a GMAT score of 580, but it’s hard to imagine that they really give that application as much attention as the one with a 780 GMAT score…

  • Great piece, very helpful. Makes me wonder, of course, which schools use more “holistic” admissions processes, and which mostly just care about whether you’ve hit their target GMAT or not.