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Booth Mba Essay Tips

You know that feeling you get when you call your mom after a long time and she asks you what you’ve been up to? After suppressing intense feelings of guilt, you foolishly try to compress everything that has happened since the two of you last spoke into a coherent summary before finally giving up. Tackling the Chicago Booth MBA essay for the 2017 season feels a little bit like that.

Approaching the Booth Moments Essay

This year, the admissions committee at Chicago Booth is sticking with their Booth Moments essay questions, and for good reason – the essay has been working for them. As it has in prior years, the Booth application asks applicants to pick their favorite “moment” from a set of images and then write an essay (or develop a PowerPoint) explaining how the photo relates to their desire to go to Booth. Your mom might be forgiving if you ramble on incoherently while answering her question, so here’s the first piece of painfully obvious advice: your mother doesn’t work in the Chicago Booth admissions office!

Fear not, though. Booth knows that its reputation as a quant-heavy intellectual powerhouse is rock-solid. They’ll use your GPA, GMAT, recommendations and resume to ensure that you can do the academic heavy-lifting if admitted. It follows, therefore, that admissions officers want insight into other aspects of you as an applicant in your essay. Heck, their intentions are right there in the essay question: “Which moment resonates with you, and tell us why?

Choosing Your Booth Moment

When it comes to choosing your Booth moment from the half-dozen images the school provides, trust your gut. I guarantee you that only one (or maybe two) will make you pause and say, “Huh, that one is interesting.” Stop right there and dig deeper. Ask yourself why that Booth moment jumps out at you. “Free associate,” as a therapist might say. Is there something in your background that might explain your reaction?

For example, if that first Booth moment of a student walking past a piece of art catches your eye, maybe it stands out because you love to visit art museums? Or perhaps you took an art history class in college that changed your perspective and inspired you to learn more?

Write those thoughts down and ask yourself if there is a connection between these experiences and the reasons why you want to go to Booth. Does the work of art remind you of the process of taking a blank canvas and turning it into something more? Could it be that you know your Booth experience will expand your perspective and expose you to ideas that inspire you, like that art class in college … see what we did there?

You can follow the same exercise with other images. In all cases, you want to use the Booth moment as a connecting thread to weave together your research on the Booth MBA program. Include information you gained from the info sessions you have attended and the students to whom you have spoken. Build the facets of Booth that impressed you most into your essay by describing how what you learned reinforced your desire to go to Booth.

At this point, some writers will forget about the essay prompt entirely — don’t forget to connect back to the image in each paragraph of your Booth essay.

Shaping Your Essay

Once you have the main ideas down, it’s time to think about the form you want your “essay” to take. Booth allows you to use any medium that you choose, so go with your natural strength — for some that may mean a traditional essay, while for others a PowerPoint presentation will work best.

If you opt for PowerPoint, then you will want to get your point across in 4-5 slides, heavy on images and light on words. If you choose the written essay format, we recommend no more than about a 500-700 word essay to avoid trying the admissions committee’s patience. Be as clear and concise as possible and you will show the Booth admissions office you are an adept communicator — a vital business skill.

And my last piece of advice — call your mother. Not only does she miss you, but you will also need her advice and support to make it through the application process!


The University of Chicago Booth School of Business is consistently rated in the top echelon of MBA programs in the United States and is known for a strong intellectual community. While Chicago has asked a version of a creative, open-ended essay for many years, this one focuses more on personal experiences with your classmates than in the past.

Senior Director of Admissions Donna Swinford says in the Booth Admissions Blog: “Please trust when I say that there is no hidden meaning in the prompt. Rather than spend time worrying about what you think we want to hear, focus instead on telling us why the Booth moment truly resonates with you.”

While Chicago highly values academics, there are many places in your MBA application to feature your academic accomplishments. Academic ability will largely be communicated through your GPA/GMAT, transcripts and other fixed data points, though intellectual curiosity can be demonstrated in the essays and the interview.

Along with academics, Chicago will be looking for demonstrated leadership, team building skills and community involvement, as well as your fit with Chicago Booth and the perspective you will share with your classmates.

If your career goals and work experience does not fit with the essay portion of the application, make sure your resume is shows progression, clearly communicates your experience and highlights core accomplishments.

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

Presentation/Essay 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, 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.

This Chicago Booth essay question provides a set of photos and text describing and depicting a range of student activities at Booth – from a student taking notes in class to a group scuba diving in Central America– and asks you to choose one that resonates with you.

Your first step is to do as much school research as possible on Chicago. Visit campus. Attend events. Speak to alumni. Read the admissions blog. Whatever you are capable of doing to experience the community for yourself before starting your application will be invaluable as you set pen to paper.

Chicago Booth’s open-ended essay format is daunting for most applicants. Whether you choose to write an essay or prepare a presentation, take a step back from the unique format and think about the question strategically. The format’s open-ended setup simply gives you the freedom to express who you are in words, images, graphics or some combination.

Keep in mind what Chicago Booth represents in the image you choose. Booth is a school with a tradition of intellectual rigor, non-conformity, and innovation. When discussing the image that resonates with you about Chicago Booth you can share almost anything from any context, from work to home to extracurricular activities.

It’s also important to explain why your chosen image resonates with you and to bring in important elements of your application strategy. Maybe the image of students celebrating diversity resonates with you because it is one of your core values that you will share with your Booth classmates as a club president. Or the image of a student walking by the modern art collection resonates with a core hobby that you want to share with your classmates.

If you decide to write an essay response, you have enough space to tell a story that describes something new about yourself. If you decide to prepare a PowerPoint in response to this essay question, refine your story to its key elements.

To keep a visual essay interesting and high-impact, consider how you will format. Can you use photos? Drawings? If you use words, keep them clear and focused. Take every point up a level, so you are communicating a vision rather than a thesis.

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)

This optional essay is a flexible question, allowing you to provide the information you need to put forward the best possible application. If you have any areas that need to be explained in your profile, such as academic issues or gaps in work experience, this is the ideal place to add more detail.

Because the essay is open-ended you can also use it to add any additional information you wanted to inform the admissions committee about. Anything from an interesting personal background to meaningful extracurricular could be relevant context to add to a successful application.

Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn more about how we can help you approach your Booth application.

This entry was posted in Application Tips, Chicago Booth Advice and tagged application tips, applications, Booth MBA, Chicago Booth MBA, Chicago Booth School of Business, Essay Tips, Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips, MBA application, MBA Essays.
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