How To Tackle Booth’s New Surprise Essay


Chicago Booth is switching things up with two new essay questions for the 2018-2019 application cycle. Gone is the quirky and creative question that asked applicants to choose among an assortment of photos and name a “Booth moment” that most resonated, and explain why. But that doesn’t mean Booth is any less interested in what inspires you.

Yesterday Booth’s admissions blog  announced that its 2018-2019 application is available, and debuted the following MBA essay questions:

  1. How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? 
  1. Chicago Booth immerses you in a choice-rich environment. How have your interests, leadership experiences, and other passions influenced the choices in your life? 

Departing from a more abstract way of eliciting your MBA motivations through “Booth moments,” Booth’s new 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.


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.

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 what inspires and drives you. As Donna Swinford in Booth Admissions emphasizes in her blog, “At Booth, passions and ambitions serve as a compass in navigating our choice-rich environment.”

Think of it this way: Similar to Wharton’s new 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.


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

As a former Assistant Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth, it strikes me as typical Booth to reframe its essay questions this way. Why? The Admissions Committee wants assurance that you have a deep understanding of what distinguishes Booth from other MBAs (including neighboring Kellogg). It also wants to curate a diverse student body where different perspectives and experiences enliven the learning environment. So this second question is a golden opportunity to reveal something beyond your day job, to investigate and articulate the currents that shape your experiences, decisions and identities and which stand to impact the future community you hope to join.

It can be tricky to know where to start, or intimidating if you think that your story isn’t so 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. Most of all, don’t try to anticipate and respond with what you think the Admissions Committee wants to hear. Be yourself and show your enthusiasm – authenticity is essential.


  • Get introspective
  • Link future goals with past experiences and explore all facets of the business school experience
  • Understand Booth’s culture and vocabulary
  • Convey what you bring to Booth and its community
  • Tap into your passion and share your enthusiasm

“Booth looks for candidates that know what they want and will make the most of their two years there,” says 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 an Expert Coach at MBA admission consulting firm Fortuna Admissions and former Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Fortuna is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 13 of the top 15 business schools.

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