The Chicago Booth School of Business made a dramatic departure this application season with its innovative essay question based on a series of photographs—applicants must select one picture and explain how it resonates with their own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for them.
As Round 1 interviews get underway, associate dean of admissions Kurt Ahlm shares some insight on the Booth Insider blog about how applicants have approached the photo essay.
“The intent of the essay is to get a better feel for who you are, how you think, and the unique impact you bring to the Booth community,” Ahlm explains. “We’ve been really impressed and have seen applicants take a very personal approach with their chosen image, as well as give profound reasons for wanting to be a part of this community.”
The photo is simply a way to contextualize and personalize the response, says Ahlm.
Michael Scichili, a Booth applicant featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article about the trend of unusual MBA essay prompts, said he thought the concept was “a little weird” at first.
He ultimately chose to write about a picture of Cloud Gate, the bean-shaped sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Scichili told the WSJ his essay focused on how the sculpture “distorts reality a little bit and makes things seem as though they’re not the way they are,” a reminder that in solving business problems, “you have to make sure you’re cognizant of your own bias.”
We’ve advised clients to think strategically about this question and chose a photo which resonates most specifically with them. You have the freedom to express who you are in words, images, graphics or some combination.
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.
The Booth admissions dean says that, “At the end of the day, we are looking for you to bring a new element about yourself into the essay, something that you haven’t already shared in other sections of the application.”
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