Create a Winning MBA Application for Chicago Booth
If the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is on your MBA shortlist, you’ll want to bookmark today’s post. As regular readers know, SBC’s consulting team includes former admissions officers from all the M7 and top European MBA programs. Two ex-senior associate directors of MBA admissions at Booth—Meg and Kim—share the inside scoop that can help anyone working on their MBA application for Chicago Booth. They’ll spill intel on:
- Unique elements of Chicago Booth
- Common misperceptions about the school
- Insights into the MBA admissions process
- Essay and interview advice for future applicants
If you want to create a solid Chicago Booth application, read on for expert tips Meg and Kim originally shared on SBC’s B-Schooled podcast.
Are you curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school like Chicago Booth? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.
To get started, please give us more context about your Chicago Booth admissions committee roles.
Kim: As a senior associate director in admissions, I oversaw the strategy and prospective and admitted student events, as well as led a subgroup of admissions fellows, which are current Booth students who help organize and execute the events. I also read, evaluated, and made admissions decisions.
Meg: I was also a senior associate director and had the pleasure of evaluating candidates for fit and traveling around the world (pre-Covid). In addition, I oversaw student recruiting along with the rest of the team.
I helped with event and curriculum planning and the ultimate execution of the Summer Business Scholars program, a unique three-week immersive program for current or very recent undergraduate students who think they might want to pursue an MBA someday.
What is unique or special about Chicago Booth?
Meg: The “Chicago approach” is unique to Booth and sets it apart from any other business school in the world. It aims to give students a deep foundational knowledge in a handful of disciplines. These include economics, statistics, accounting, psychology, and sociology, so that they can approach business problems with the utmost confidence.
This framework allows them to ask better questions, break down problems into manageable pieces, and ultimately get to the best possible solution. In addition, Chicago Booth delivers classroom content in diverse ways, such as labs, lectures, and case-based and experiential learning opportunities. And then students can also take classes at two campuses in the city during the day or at night. So, Booth is unique in that sense.
Kim: Three specific areas stick out for me. The first is Booth’s flexible curriculum. Students can choose the classes they want to take, when, and at which level to take them. That means Booth students can skip taking classes they don’t want. There’s only one required course over their two years. This flexibility also allows students to get more from the business school experience and investment.
Another attribute specific to Booth is its pay-it-forward mentality or culture. I’ve seen second-year students helping first-years with class elections, interview prep, and even getting acquainted with the city of Chicago. I’ve also seen students lend each other a blazer or suit jacket for a last-minute on-campus interview. As the saying goes, they would literally take the shirt off their back for a fellow student.
Lastly, we have to mention Booth’s faculty and the Nobel Prize-winning professors. Megan and I worked at Booth when Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in 2017, and that was a fantastic experience. Booth faculty includes experts who are also genuinely committed to teaching and mentoring their students.
Are there any misconceptions about Chicago Booth you can address and clear up?
Meg: One of the first is that Booth is where “Fun goes to die”—that’s a common misconception. Another one is that they’re just a finance school. Sure, they’re strong in finance, but they’re also incredible in entrepreneurship, marketing, and technology.
Another one is that it’s an individualistic place that can be highly competitive, and everyone is just out for themselves. As Kim mentioned, they will take the shirt or the coat off their back to help one another. So, Booth culture is the complete opposite of that.
They have a saying that the best ideas have multiple fingerprints, and I love that because they know that a group of people will come up with a better solution than just one person alone.
Booth values the diversity of thought and doesn’t want a classroom full of people who think alike. They want tension in the classroom in the best kind of way. When the debates and discussions get intense, that’s the best environment for learning and growth.
What do Booth students do outside of class? How integrated is the campus with the surrounding Chicago community?
Kim: One of the cool things about Chicago is that it has many smaller neighborhoods within the bigger city. So, each community has its own culture and vibe, and there’s something for everyone. One of the things I always loved was the Midwest heartland culture and values seen throughout all these neighborhoods.
Meg: Well, I’m a Midwestern girl. I grew up in Michigan, so being close to Lake Michigan is vital for me. And that’s one of the best parts about Chicago. The Lake Michigan shoreline is incredible. It goes from Indiana north, with 26 miles of lakefront along the city.
There are bike paths, parks, beaches, and tons of other outdoor activities you can do. Then there are food and film festivals and, of course, incredible sports teams. The city has two baseball teams, hockey, basketball, soccer—you name it, there’s a sports team for it. So, lots to do in Chicago.
Moving on to admissions now, what is the Chicago Booth admissions committee looking for overall?
Kim: They’re looking for so much, but we’ll focus on some central areas. Booth is looking for resilient people. They’re looking for individuals who have demonstrated leadership and a strong work trajectory, meaning several promotions attest to this.
When you work on your MBA application for Chicago Booth, remember that Booth is looking for thoughtful post-MBA career goals. They want to understand your thought process of why now, why an MBA, and why Booth. And the “why Booth” part is very important. Booth doesn’t want to feel like your backup school. Sometimes, that comes across in the application, and they can immediately spot that.
Meg: They’re also looking for academic horsepower—GMAT or GRE and GPA and the kind of undergraduate institution you attended. All of that adds up. Kim talked about leadership and work experience, whether you’re engaging with people regularly and leading others or if you’re an individual contributor who keeps themselves.
Let’s get into the essay questions within the MBA application for Chicago Booth. What is the admissions committee looking for that they can’t get elsewhere in the application materials?
Also, Booth states a minimum word count for essays instead of the usual word limit. Why?
Meg: In that first essay, they want to see you connect the dots for them. How do your prior experiences, in combination with a Booth MBA, connect you to your short-term and long-term goals? They want to see and feel that you’ve done your homework.
And I don’t just mean surface level. Have you reached out to students, staff, and alums? Did you get as much information as possible to deeply understand what Booth is about and then drop personal and authentic connections to your passions and goals?
This is not the place to list the classes you want to take! You’ll have to go much deeper than that to convince them that you understand the ethos of Booth. Then there’s that second essay, which is open-ended for a reason.
The AdCom wants to see what you find impactful about your background and whether you can tell a story powerfully and concisely. They don’t want you to tell them everything from your first memory as a child to the present day. Rather, they want authenticity and an understanding of who you’ll be as a community member. They’re looking for intellectually curious people, people with grit and resilience.
Take a deeper dive with SBC’s 2023-2024 MBA Essay Tips for Chicago Booth
Regarding the word count, a colleague of mine put it this way: separate your need to tell them from their need to know. That means every word should count, and it certainly doesn’t hurt if you leave them wanting to learn more about you.
Again, the goal is to tell them a concise and great story in no fewer than 250 words. But can you tell it in a powerful way that doesn’t take 2,000 words?
How does Chicago Booth handle interviews, and what is it looking for during those discussions?
Kim: At this point, they’ve taken a first pass at the applicant’s quality, and they feel like you’re a good fit from an academic and professional standpoint.
The interview is to test out more of those intangibles through questions. They’re looking for someone’s true interests and ability to communicate those interests, goals, and skills.
Current students and alums typically conduct interviews for Booth. An AdCom will rarely conduct an interview. Booth’s admissions team knows that the current student body and alums’ perspective on whether the applicant is a fit is often dead right. They lived through this themselves, and AdCom knows their perspective is invaluable.
Current students and alums only receive the applicant’s resume. They have not read essays, never seen a GMAT score or GRE score, and never seen your transcripts.
And from what we’ve heard from our clients at SBC and students in the past when we were at Booth, the interviews are very casual, warm, and engaging. It’s a great conversation with someone who shares many of your interests.
How much does someone’s interview performance affect the admissions decision? If an applicant had an off day or felt like they bombed the interview, are they doomed?
Kim: If someone has a stellar interview, it’s tough to waitlist or reject them. Admissions knows that the interview is just one data point, but ultimately, it’s important. So, of course, you should put your best foot forward.
But again, if you bomb it, it’s only one data point in the application process. They’re reviewing your whole application in addition to this interview. And they also have a pre-interview essay question. So, they’re going to look at all of that together and make their decision.
Did you know SBC offers interview prep services? When you practice with one of our seasoned admissions consultants, we give direct and honest feedback about what you need to work on to stand out.
Can you shed light on how the Booth admissions committee ultimately pulls together its class?
Meg: The number of AdCom members reading an application is astounding—it’s easily five to seven people looking at it. And it’s done on both an individual and committee basis. So, they’re looking at every person very closely to see how that person will ultimately fit into the overall puzzle and bring that diversity of thought into the classroom.
Kim: The admissions committee at Booth wants to cover all their bases and ensure no biases are at play. They put a lot of effort into selecting the right group of people and want everyone to get a fair shot. And they believe they give everyone a fair shot. The average is an average for a reason. They love high GMAT scores but also want to think deeply about the kind of human you are.
Finally, for anyone preparing an MBA application for Chicago Booth this year, what advice would you give?
Meg: There is no amount of calculation that you can do right now before you hit submit on your application to figure out your chances of getting admitted. So work to put together the best application you can without rushing. And then you have to let it go.
Spending a lot of time right now thinking about how you compare to who else is applying, their stats, where they went to undergrad, who got in last year, how many spaces are left, et cetera wastes your precious energy and time. So, please put all that into making your MBA application for Chicago Booth the best it can be.
Kim: Make sure you, the applicant, shine throughout your application. It’s so important to come across as authentic. Be bold, take risks, lead with who you are, and expect that Booth will appreciate that.
Thanks so much to Kim and Meg for sharing their insights on this topic. We hope we’ve illuminated the path forward if you’re working on an MBA application for Chicago Booth. If you’d like a partner for your MBA journey, we’re here to help!
Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help reviewing your MBA resume. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.
Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.
Admissions Officer at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
MBA, Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
Asst Director MBA Admissions
at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
Director MBA Admissions
at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business
Admissions Officer at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
MBA, Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
MBA, Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
Minority Admissions, the GSB
Diversity Programs, the GSB
Assistant Director MBA Admissions
at Columbia Business School (CBS)
M.S.Ed, Higher Education, U of Pennsylvania
Ashley is a former MBA Admissions Board Member for Harvard Business School (HBS), where she interviewed and evaluated thousands of business school applicants for over a six year tenure. Ashley holds an MBA from HBS. During her HBS years, Ashley was the Sports Editor for the Harbus and a member of the B-School Blades Ice Hockey Team. After HBS, she worked in Marketing at the Gillette Company on Male and Female shaving ...×
Kerry is a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS). During her 5+ year tenure at HBS, she read and evaluated hundreds of applications and interviewed MBA candidates from a wide range of backgrounds across the globe. She also led marketing and outreach efforts focused on increasing diversity and inclusion, ran the Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP), and launched the 2+2 Program during her time in Admissions. Kerry holds a B.A. from Bates College and ...×
A former associate director of admissions at Harvard Business School, Pauline served on the HBS MBA Admissions Board full-time for four years. She evaluated and interviewed HBS applicants, both on-campus and globally. Pauline's career has included sales and marketing management roles with Coca-Cola, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and IBM. For over 10 years, Pauline has expertly guided MBA applicants, and her clients h ...×
Geri is a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS). In her 7 year tenure in HBS Admissions, she read and evaluated hundreds of applications and interviewed MBA candidates from a diverse set of academic, geographic, and employment backgrounds. Geri also traveled globally representing the school at outreach events in order to raise awareness for women and international students. In additio ...×
Laura comes from the MBA Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS) and is an HBS MBA alumnus. In her HBS Admissions role, she evaluated and interviewed hundreds of business school candidates, including internationals, women, military and other applicant pools, for five years. Prior to her time as a student at HBS, Laura began her career in advertising and marketing in Chicago at Leo Burnett where she worked on th ...×
Andrea served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years. In this role, she provided strategic direction for student yield-management activities and also served as a full member of the admissions committee. In 2007, Andrea launched the new 2+2 Program at Harvard Business School – a program targeted at college junior applicants to Harvard Business School. Andrea has also served as a Career Coach for Harvard Business School for both cu ...×
Jennifer served as Admissions Officer at the Stanford (GSB) for five years. She holds an MBA from Stanford (GSB) and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Jennifer has over 15 years experience in guiding applicants through the increasingly competitive admissions process into top MBA programs. Having read thousands and thousands of essays and applications while at Stanford (GSB) Admiss ...×
Erin served in key roles in MBA Admissions--as Director at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and Assistant Director at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB). Erin served on the admissions committee at each school and has read thousands of applications in her career. At Haas, she served for seven years in roles that encompassed evaluation, outreach, and diversity and inclusion. During her tenure in Admissions at GSB, she was responsible for candidate evaluation, applicant outreach, ...×
Susie comes from the Admissions Office of the Stanford Graduate School of Business where she reviewed and evaluated hundreds of prospective students’ applications. She holds an MBA from Stanford’s GSB and a BA from Stanford in Economics. Prior to advising MBA applicants, Susie held a variety of roles over a 15-year period in capital markets, finance, and real estate, including as partner in one of the nation’s most innovative finance and real estate investment organizations. In that r ...×
Dione holds an MBA degree from Stanford Business School (GSB) and a BA degree from Stanford University, where she double majored in Economics and Communication with concentrations in journalism and sociology. Dione has served as an Admissions reader and member of the Minority Admissions Advisory Committee at Stanford. Dione is an accomplished and respected advocate and thought leader on education and diversity. She is ...×
Anthony served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise. During his time as a Wharton Admissions Officer, he read and reviewed thousands of applications and helped bring in a class of 800+ students a year. Anthony has traveled both domestically and internationally to recruit a ...×
Meghan served as the Associate Director of Admissions and Marketing at the Wharton MBA’s Lauder Institute, a joint degree program combining the Wharton MBA with an MA in International Studies. In her role on the Wharton MBA admissions committee, Meghan advised domestic and international applicants; conducted interviews and information sessions domestically and overseas in Asia, Central and South America, and Europe; and evaluated applicants for admission to the program. Meghan also managed ...×
Amy comes from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she was Associate Director. Amy devoted 12 years at the Wharton School, working closely with MBA students and supporting the admissions team. During her tenure at Wharton, Amy served as a trusted adviser to prospective applicants as well as admitted and matriculated students. She conducted admissions chats with applicants early in the admissions ...×
Ally brings six years of admissions experience to the SBC team, most recently as an Assistant Director of Admission for the full-time MBA program at Columbia Business School (CBS). During her time at Columbia, Ally was responsible for reviewing applications, planning recruitment events, and interviewing candidates for both the full-time MBA program and the Executive MBA program. She traveled both internationally and dome ...×
Erin has over seven years of experience working across major institutions, including University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School, and NYU's Stern School of Business. At Columbia Business School, Erin was an Assistant Director of Admissions where she evaluated applications for both the full time and executive MBA programs, sat on the admissions and merit scholarship committees and advised applicants on which program might be the best fit for them based on their work experience and pro ...×
Emma comes from the MBA Admissions Office at Columbia Business School (CBS), where she was Associate Director. Emma conducted dozens of interviews each cycle for the MBA and EMBA programs, as well as coordinating the alumni ambassador interview program. She read and evaluated hundreds of applications each cycle, delivered information sessions to audiences across the globe, and advised countless waitlisted applicants. ×