Want to Get Into Chicago Booth School of Business? Be Yourself.

Recently, Businessweek reporter Francesca Di Meglio conducted a live chat event with Kurt Ahlm, senior director of admissions at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, as well as a second year Booth student. The live chat participants raised concerns that I see every day working with clients: Am I too old for b-school? Am I too young? Is it even worth applying in the third round? Here are some highlights from Ahlm’s responses that are worth keeping in mind whether you are applying to Chicago or elsewhere.

Know yourself.
Applying to business school is a long process of introspection, and Ahlm points to the importance of taking this hard work seriously, saying, “The best advice I can provide is to know yourself and have a strategy on how you want to convey that sense of self through the application.”

Apply at any age, but know why you’re applying now.
When a 36-year-old marketing professional asked if he “stood a chance” getting into Booth’s full-time program, Ahlm answered, “We recruit people of all different ages and experiences. What is more important for us is why now is the best time in your career to pursue an MBA.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Ahlm said that the number of students applying directly after completing their undergraduate degrees is on the rise. He encouraged these students to have “some familiarity with the professional world, be it through internships, starting your own business, etc.”

Don’t be afraid to apply in the third round.
Some applicants believe that waiting until the third round is a surefire path to rejection, but according to Ahlm, “The rule of thumb is to apply when you are most prepared. If you need to apply in the third round, that is fine.”

Be honest.
Applicants are often tempted to mold their career goals to what they think the admissions committee wants to hear, usually to the detriment of their application. For example, one live chat participant wanted to know if admitting he was interested in private equity in the current economic environment would put him at a disadvantage, as he thought this sounded less realistic than other career goals.

Ahlm’s answer: “No. We want you to be honest about what it is that you want to achieve…. The important thing for you in the application process is to help us understand why PE is your goal and what it is about Booth that can help you realize it.”

The discussion also tackled the unique attributes of the Booth community, the classroom experience, and lots of other great advice that is well worth checking out.

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