This year, Chicago Booth made changes to its MBA admissions process, replacing required essay #2 and including a new pre-interview video question. That Booth preserved its first essay question related to short and long-term career goals is further evidence that the school is seeking students who can coherently connect where they’ve been to where they’re going, along with a deep understanding of how the Booth MBA, in particular, will get you there.
By contrast, the new second essay is an appeal to share something much more personal, beyond your professional achievements, test scores, and transcripts. As former Assistant Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth, I really like the evolution of the second essay question, which goes further than before to push candidates to get personal.
Think of it this way: Similar to Wharton’s 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. Booth has always been comprised of interesting students with wide and varied passions. This question seeks to learn what makes you “you” and how that has led to the decisions you’ve made and the directions you’ve chosen. So, now let’s talk strategy.
New Chicago Booth Required Essay #2: An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are. (250-word min.)
In revising its second essay question for the 2020-2021 season, Booth takes a different approach from the previous question (about the choices you’ve made) and focuses on the more personal side of your application. The admissions committee can glean your professional journey and goals from your resume, letters of recommendation, and first essay. Now, in essay #2, they are looking to find out about what motivates you outside the workplace.
Booth recognizes that we are not linear people and both our work and personal lives inform who we are. Try to focus on an overall theme in your personal life and how that has led to your pursuit of extracurricular activities. Perhaps you had a unique upbringing? Or you have volunteered at a particular organization with a mission that resonates with you? These stories will help color in the areas of your application and help the admissions committee understand who you are and what makes you tick.
“This is a chance to talk about something that is of real importance to you. It should not only provide an insight into what motivates or interests you but make the admissions committee say ‘wow’ or ‘interesting!’” says Fortuna’s Bill Kooser, former Associate Dean of Chicago Booth. “The first essay is designed to assess whether you have a well thought out career plan and have a solid sense of what Booth is and does, but it doesn’t provide a lot of opportunity for you to showcase how you are different from other candidates. Essay 2 is your chance to make the admissions committee want to know you better. “
It can be tricky to know where to start or intimidating if you think that your story isn’t 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.
“You should also think about what gets you most excited, where you spend your time, or what you talk about when you aren’t talking about work. Travel, hobbies, sports? The latest episode of the Queen’s Gambit? Why are those things important to you? How did you get involved?” prompts Bill. “Booth isn’t looking for anything in particular here – they really do want to get to know you. Therefore, if it’s important to you, it will be a relevant topic for your essay. It’s a chance for your personality to shine through and demonstrate that you would be a great addition to what is sure to be an accomplished, diverse, and occasionally quirky class.”
To put a fine point on Bill’s comments, 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.
“Booth looks for candidates that know what they want and will make the most of their two years there,” says Fortuna’s Julie Ferguson, former Chicago Booth Senior Associate Director of Admissions. “The essays give applicants the opportunity to show that they’ve thought through this major life step, and that Booth is the perfect place for them.”
For advice on how to tackle both Chicago Booth required essays, view my related blog, Chicago Booth Essays: Tips & Strategy.
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. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.
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