We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:
1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?
Self awareness is the foundation by which applicants can distinguish themselves in a competitive pool. Understanding your unique history and how that has shaped your choices and plans for the future is critical in the application process. While many candidates may have similar experiences, it is through this lens of experience that make us each unique.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The essays help us understand not only how well a candidate writes, but how effectively he/she thinks and expresses thoughts and opinions. First is the importance of how well they actually address the question, and what situations they choose to highlight those answers. At Booth, we focus additionally on the "how's and whys" of their choices. While accomplishments are great, we need to understand [their] deeper meaning to the candidate.
3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weight it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
The GMAT and GPA are individual predictors of how well a student might do academically. Taken together, they are a fairly good predictor of academic success. At Booth, we will focus more on the transcript (rather than grades) to get a better picture of a candidate's academic ability. A multi-year history is typically a more reliable predictor than a multi-hour assessment test. Though for candidates with a mixed academic history, the GMAT test can help to off-set a lower GPA (along with an explanation of the variance in performance).
4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?
Since the M.B.A. is a professional degree, it is important that students have a level of work experience to build upon in the classroom as well as in their career search process. While Booth does not have any minimum work requirements, most successful candidates have at least two years of experience at the time of enrollment. On average, students with two to nine years of experience are a great match for the full-time program at Booth.
5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
Choice! The ability to design one's own curriculum and experience is unique to Chicago. While Booth does have a core curriculum requirement (accounting, statistics, economics), the order, level of difficulty, teaching method, etc. is completely at the choice of the student. This choice-centric experience puts the student into the driver's seat to design an experience that builds upon their prior experience and education to attain the tools they need to be successful regardless of career path.
6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting? Do you put much weight on letters from prominent public figures who may not know the applicant well?
Booth looks for an honest assessment of the candidate's abilities through the lens of the supervisor. It's helpful when comments are supported by actual examples. Our preference is to have the recommender know the candidate very well, rather than have a "known name" or "well titled" recommender write a note without real substance.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
Chicago Booth Admissions is proud to offer a very transparent application process. That means we communicate our timelines and requirements publicly in order to appropriately set expectations about the process.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
We orchestrate an on-campus interviewing process which facilitates some 7,000 interviews for internships and full-time positions; we post approximately 4,000 positions per year. We maintain strong relationships with prominent M.B.A. employers, many of which you'll see on campus: Apple, McKinsey, Fidelity, Kraft, and Deutsche Bank, for example. Our six-person employer development team is dedicated to establishing, cultivating, and expanding corporate relationships around the world, furthering the Chicago Booth brand in myriad industries, from banking to entertainment, from private equity to not-for-profit.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Silly mistakes like not changing the name of schools from one application to the next (or related cities, sports teams, etc.), or not answering the required questions (but prognosticating about something else entirely) are fairly common. The bigger issues are failing to understand themselves or the schools well enough to articulate fit and match.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
Chicago Booth attracts people who are fundamentally curious about the world. They rarely accept things at face value and are compelled to ask questions, dig deeper, and explore alternatives. They are not intimidated by ambiguity; they are excited by the challenge and possibility of making the unknown familiar. Booth attracts students who are proactive; people who want the opportunity to design the M.B.A. path specific to achieving their goals rather than having a path prescribed for them.