Founded in 1898, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business is the second-oldest business school in the United States, following The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Over the last 120+ years, Booth has established both traditions and practices that make it a sought-after school for undertaking an MBA. However, the school’s reputation doesn’t only stem from its historical relevance. Booth also has more associations with Nobel laureates in the Economic Sciences than any other business school in the world.
They also offer an incredibly flexible curriculum, as well as a wide range of extracurricular opportunities to their cohort of MBA students. For these reasons, among many others, Booth ranks high on most prospective MBA applicants’ lists of top-choice schools.
Maintaining such a high rank and stature for as many years as Booth also comes with high stakes. Each year’s cohort becomes the face of a century-long reputation. Booth wants to maintain the prominent standing that they have earned over the years, and the only way to do that is to sift through each year’s pool of applicants with careful attention to detail when it comes to potential; Every applicant to Booth’s MBA program is held up to rigid standards and expectations.
However, one opportunity that you have to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression is with the Booth MBA essays, which are an integral part of the application process. If you are interested in finding out more of what these essays consist of, or if you’re eager to learn what Booth’s admissions committee is looking for when dissecting your essays, then read on.
Purpose of the Booth MBA Essays
Booth’s Application Process
Booth’s MBA application process doesn’t differ much from those of other business schools. The necessary documents that they request from their applicants are fairly standard, but gaining a spot at this coveted school requires you to meet some exceptionally high standards.
Their website describes their approach to MBA applications as “holistic.” To apply, you must submit a professional resume, two letters of recommendation, unofficial educational transcripts, and valid GMAT or GRE scores, as well as IELTS, TOEFL, or PTE scores for international applicants. This portion of your application is what the admissions committee will comb through to assess your academic skills.
Booth has high expectations when it comes to academic excellence and work experience. On average, their admitted applicants have five years of work experience and have an average GMAT score of around 730. Booth also places interview performance high on their list of priorities regarding applications, so acing your interview will significantly increase your acceptance chances.
However, before you can crush your interview, you must be invited for one. The application essays are an opportunity to increase your chances of receiving such an invitation. The intent behind them is to create a window for Booth to look “beyond [your] demonstrated brain power.”
The open-ended essay prompts allow you to highlight qualities that make you an ideal candidate for Booth’s cohort, which can include your personal and professional goals as well as outstanding qualities and attributes that you may possess.
A Competitive Program
Booth’s admissions committee receives an average of around 5,000 applications for their MBA program, although only about 600 spots are available for the taking. Most of the students that enter the program do so with an undergraduate background in business, economics, and engineering.
If you belong to this group, it is easy to be clumped together among a homogenous cluster of other applicants and, without highly exceptional academic achievements, you could be easily overlooked. However, you may use the essays as a way to set yourself apart from other applicants with similar profiles to your own. Booth values a candidate’s ability to clearly and effectively communicate and the essays are a chance to prove that you possess these skills.
What are the Booth MBA Essays?
An Essential Part of Your Application
As part of the application process, all candidates must submit responses to two questions that Booth has posted on the application portal of their website. There is also a third essay prompt that they have posted, which is optional, and a fourth essay prompt is only meant for students who are reapplying to the program.
Along with the topics for the essays, Booth typically states that there is a minimum word count requirement of 250 words. With an approach contrary to most business schools, they’ve also recently added that there is no maximum word count for either essay. Thus, applicants are encouraged to write as much as they feel necessary for their responses.
Essay Topics and Expectations
Booth subtly changes the questions for the essays every few years, but the themes that they are based upon generally remain the same. The essay’s overarching purpose is to allow Booth’s admissions committee to become more acquainted with you.
To know precisely who you are and why they should be interested in you, Booth typically asks questions that demand self-reflection. The general focus of these essays is your personal and career goals, personality, interests, values, and past experiences that you have had which are relevant to any of these domains.
Top Tips for Crafting the Booth MBA Essays
A Fairly Straightforward Essay
It can be a daunting experience to construct an essay that carries as much weight as this one does when it comes to your future. Knowing that responding in one way versus responding in another could mean the difference between getting accepted into Booth’s program or not is intimidating.
Yet, the thing to keep in mind here is that there isn’t a cut and dry, black and white answer that Booth is looking for in applicants’ responses to their questions, since there are no truly right or wrong answers to the open-ended questions that they are asking.
Rick Weiland, who helped form Booth’s Executive MBA program, likes to remind potential Booth applicants that there is “nothing sneaky or mysterious” about the prompts that the school provides; they want you to “[k]eep it simple.” However, some things should be kept in mind when tackling these essay topics, which may help improve your chances of success.
Weiland also suggests that applicants keep in mind the importance of “remember[ing] to answer the whole question” as Booth’s essay topics are often two or three-part questions. If you spend most of your essay answering one of these questions, rather than balancing your responses amongst all the topics to be covered, you are doing yourself a disservice.
Immediate and Long-Term Goals
One of Booth’s recurring questions for their application essays is centered around how their MBA will “help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals.” You might have the urge to focus your answer primarily on the specifics of your goals themselves, but this question places just as much emphasis on why Booth is going to be an integral stepping stone for reaching these goals.
To fully answer this question, it would be a good idea to start by mentioning a specific position that you hope to hold upon graduating from Booth’s MBA program. This could be as simply put as mentioning a job title, or if there are some organizations that you are eager to work for, this would be the time to reference them.
From there, you can branch out further and describe your longer-term plan, which could mean mentioning your aspirations for the next 5-10 years. When describing this part of your plan, it is crucial to focus on more than just a mere role that you hope to occupy.
Rather, Booth is interested in knowing what kind of an impact you envision yourself making once you hold the position you hope to have. It is also crucial that the goals that you put forth walk a carefully balanced line between ambition and realism. Setting overly ambitious goals for yourself will only reflect poorly on you, which is not what you want.
Once you’ve established your goals and your intents, discuss why you feel that Booth’s MBA will help facilitate your progress towards these objectives. This is also an opportunity for you to show the admissions committee how thoroughly you’ve researched the MBA they are offering.
It is a good idea to speak with current or past Booth MBA students or attend an info session to gather some information on the curriculum, faculty, and extracurricular activities available at Booth. It would be ideal if you can make a relevant connection between what is being offered explicitly at Booth and what you’re looking for to help propel you towards your ultimate goals.
Booth recognizes that “an MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development,” so they also typically include a question that allows you to dig deep and share some more personal details about who “you [are] outside of the office.”
These kinds of questions provide you with a chance to let your personality shine through so that the admissions committee can really get to know you and subsequently decide if you will be a good fit for a cohort of MBA students that has been described as “an accomplished, diverse, and occasionally quirky class.” As important as work experience is for any MBA applicant, these questions require that you reach beyond your office experiences, go deeper into who you are at your core, and share what makes you tick.
Think back on any important experiences or accomplishments that may have been defining moments for you. Booth loves to see community involvement, so if you have volunteer experiences, this would be the perfect opportunity to draw upon them. Try not to get caught up with thinking about telling Booth’s admissions committee exactly what you think they might want to hear.
The Optional Essay
The third essay topic, which is the optional one, is the most open-ended of them all. This prompt simply allows applicants to clarify “any unclear information in [their] application that needs further explanation.” Unlike the other two essays, this essay does have a maximum word count of 300 words.
If you would like to address an element or two of your application that you could see potentially being a cause for concern, you should take this essay as a way to explain this briefly. This explanation may be concerning a low GMAT or GRE score, lower than average undergraduate grades, or limited work experience, among other things.
In this way, you can potentially turn things around or simply frame them in a more favorable way, rather than leaving them to be taken at face value by the admissions committee. If you are going to explain something that may be viewed by the admissions committee as a red flag within your application, try to avoid using baseless excuses and instead provide context for the committee to understand these pitfalls of your application in a different light.
An Opportunity to Share More
However, this optional essay doesn’t just have to be used for mere purposes of explaining potential shortcomings. Keep in mind that all of the essays are essentially the first steps towards a dialogue between you and Booth about why you are an ideal candidate for their program.
As such, this third essay may also be used to stretch your narrative a little further and share some additional anecdotal accomplishments or relevant stories from your past that you would like the admissions committee to know about. You could also draw upon special interests that you have or extracurricular activities you have participated in, which represent who you are as a person and Booth applicant alike.
Skipping this question will not negatively impact Booth’s decision to admit you into the program or not. Don’t feel as though you must submit an answer to this prompt unless you think that there is something you would like the admissions committee to know, which you haven’t had room to include elsewhere in your application.
Although there is room for different directions to be taken with this essay, make sure you avoid redundancy and don’t restate information or sentiments that are already present elsewhere in your application.
An Essay for Reapplicants
There is an additional essay topic on Booth’s website that is specifically for people who are reapplying to the program. If you have applied to Booth’s MBA program within the last two academic years and were either not admitted or declined an offer of admission, you are considered a reapplicant.
However, if you applied to the program more than two years ago, then you must apply as a new applicant. To reapply, you must answer the question: “Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application?”
This essay also has a maximum word count of 300, so your explanation must be kept short and concise. This means that you should not waste too much time trying to convince the admissions committee that you are now a better candidate for the program, especially since this is not what they are asking for with this prompt.
If you would like to briefly mention any improvements you may have had since your previous application, such as test scores or promotions, that is okay. However, make sure that you keep the focus of this essay on yourself and your goals. If you have furthered your learning regarding your career path, changed your long or short-term career goals, or forged new working relationships, this would be worth mentioning.
Booth MBA Essay Examples & Why They Were Successful
1. How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250-word minimum, ~500 words)
My long-term vision is to fundamentally reshape the consumer decision-making process by introducing an additional consideration – corporate stewardship of the brand. Just like how [Firm] is innovating the way investments are evaluated with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics, I want to transform the way products and services are assessed through a scalable, accessible, and effective rating system.
This sustainability rating attributed to the parent company will be displayed directly on the product packaging to allow consumers to align their sustainability preferences with their purchasing decisions.
Upon graduation, my short-term career goal is to work at an organization like [Company], a nonprofit pioneering the application of sustainability certifications to for-profit companies. Booth’s flexible and impact-oriented curriculum, along with its rich extracurricular resources, will provide me the tools necessary to develop my proficiency in consumer market behaviors while discovering the incentive structures for funding sustainable projects.
My interest in Booth’s dynamic curriculum stems from my interdisciplinary undergraduate program that allowed me to explore the intersections of sustainability and finance. This juxtaposition was critical to crafting my career ambitions while inspiring me to explore creative solutions to address societal shortcomings.
I anticipate that my academic journey at Booth will include courses like The Study of Behavioral Economics to discern the underpinnings of consumer motivations; specifically, the psychological implications, of non-pecuniary preferences like sustainability, to economics that often defines rationality solely within the bounds of economics.
What is clear to me is that we live in a world where action towards a sustainable future is of utmost importance not only to the integrity of the past but also to the well-being of the future. Booth’s rich, dynamic platform will propel my growth and development into a global leader who will work towards changing the trajectory of our world for the better.
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 minimum, ~500 words)
I had to learn how to navigate the world at a young age. I was born in [Country] to [ethnicity] parents and moved to [Country] at the age of five. I dressed differently, didn’t speak the native tongue well, and didn’t share many interests with my classmates. The first person that genuinely empathized with my struggle was my ESL teacher in elementary school – a mentor I could confide in when I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
Having gone through similar experiences struggling to fit in, “Miss B” advised me on how I should approach these interpersonal conflicts. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to be just like her.” In retrospect, her warm guidance sparked my passion for mentorship, which has evolved into a desire for broader societal impact.
Sample Body Paragraph:
I took on an opportunity to renovate an empty blacktop space in the heart of a [City] community — [Name of space]. With the approval of the local government, two fellow members and I outlined a blueprint to build five permanent public tennis courts (one full-length court, and four miniature courts) and a classroom space. The total cost was estimated at roughly $5,000.
Initially, we were planning to reallocate funding from other projects, but I suggested we should host our own fundraiser. I asked my group – why not us? We hosted a [sport] tournament with a fundraising target of $350 per player. Our group recruited 16 players, including me.
For many players, it was their first fundraiser, so I created a fundraising guide that explained how I was running my own fundraiser to optimize outreach and effective messaging. On tournament day, the competition was all the more enjoyable when we all celebrated our hard work of raising over $7,000.
My mindset for proactiveness was rooted in my college experience. I managed the mentorship program for [Club], a student organization that hosted workshops and allocated funding to socially innovative ventures. In matching mentors with these ventures, I became intrigued by [Organization].
This organization’s mission was to distribute surplus medical equipment to medical professionals in developing countries worldwide. I was so inspired by their devotion to the cause that I asked myself [Club] slogan, “Why not me?” I had to be the agent for the positive change I want to see in this world. This motto guided me to think of ways to bring positive systematic changes to society, a spirit I hope to bring to the Booth community as I continue to pursue my passion for mentorship.
Why They Were Successful
Both of these sample essays exemplify exactly the kinds of responses that Booth’s admissions committee hopes to see. Both of them evenly and fairly touch on each of the points being asked in the question without leaving anything out. Yet, neither of them mentions much beyond the scope of what is necessary to include, so the answers remain concise and to the point.
The first essay efficiently summarizes goals that are demonstrative of the applicant's abilities and skills, as well as their understanding of the business world. It does an excellent job of segwaying into a description of Booth and what the school offers, which shows evidence of previous research. It even references a specific course offered by Booth and briefly describes exactly why this course would be helpful in the pursuit of their goals.
The second essay does a phenomenal job of establishing a narrative that illustrates the applicant’s personal history, which had led them to a formative moment in their life. The applicant also connects their vocational realization with qualities and driving forces in their life that happen to be in line with values that Booth desires.
For example, the story about organizing community fundraising for public facilities demonstrates initiative and leadership. The applicant also clearly and effectively mentions what they feel they will bring to the Booth community.
1. How many applications does Booth receive for their MBA program on average each year?
Booth’s admissions committee receives an average of 4,000-5,000 applicants for their MBA program each year. There were 4,909 submissions in the most recent applications cycle.
2. How many spots are available in Booth’s MBA program?
The admissions committee at Booth admits just under 600 students into their MBA program each year.
3. What are the average GMAT/GRE scores for students admitted to Booth?
Those accepted into Booth’s MBA program tend to have an average GMAT score of 730. For the GRE test, the averages are 163 for Quantitative and 160 for Verbal.
4. Are there word count requirements for Booth’s MBA Essays?
Yes, Booth's two main essay questions require applicants' answers to have a minimum word count of 250 words. However, there is no maximum for either of these questions.
For the optional essay question and the reapplicant question, no minimum word count is mentioned, but there is a maximum word count of 300.
5. What are the requirements for international applicants?
International applicants must have a college or university degree equivalent to a four-year American baccalaureate degree. Booth also accepts candidates with three-year international degrees.
If English is not your native language, you’ll need to submit proof of English proficiency by taking a TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE exam. Booth has specific grade requirements for each of these exams, which you may find on their website.
6. What is the best way to connect with current students or alumni?
Although Booth does not individually connect prospective students with alumni or current students, they encourage all applicants to use their Connect with a Current Student feature on their website. There are also a variety of events throughout the year that provide opportunities for networking with alumni and students.
Booth is a fantastic school to complete your MBA at for a plethora of reasons, ranging from its reputation to its extracurricular offerings. However, it can be quite a competitive school to get into given the number of applicants they receive every year and the limited number of spots available for taking.
They get many prospective students applying with very impressive resumes and transcripts, which raises the level of competition. Booth wants to ensure that each student they admit possesses the skills and experience to keep up with their quick-paced and multi-faceted MBA program.
The Booth MBA Essays provide an opportunity to set yourself apart from everyone else and secure a coveted spot amongst the next Booth cohort. The key to being successful when taking on Booth’s essay topics is to keep things concise and to the point, making every word count.
Stay focused on the essays' ultimate goal; to help Booth’s admission committee get to know you. By showing them your best side through these essays, you can help them to visualize you as a necessary piece of the puzzle that will become their next cohort and their future alumni.