This is the first of a series four posts on the University of Chicago GSB's MBA application essays for Fall 2008 admission. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.
While I know everyone wants to know about Question 3, the PowerPoint (not Power Point or power point) question, I will begin with the basics. As I will explain in the forth post in this series, the other questions are best answered after writing Question One. This first essay topic is a very standard question. It is also a slightly more simplified version of the question that Chicago used for 2006 and 2007 and a variant of a question that Wharton has been using for years.
1. Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? Describe your personal and professional goals and the role an MBA from the University of Chicago GSB plays in your plans to reach these goals. (1500 word maximum).
Before answering this question, please keep the following advice from Rosemaria Martinelli, Associate Dean, Student Recruitment & Admission, University of Chicago GSB, in mind:
1) Self-reflection – Know why you are applying for an MBA. Know your strengths, weaknesses, and why you think an MBA will prepare you for the future. Know your goals and be able to communicate how you think you can achieve them.
2) Understand fit – Every school is different in terms of culture, courses and extra-curricular offerings, so make sure you know what makes an MBA from a specific school so important for you to achieve your goals. If you know yourself and you know how each school can help address your needs, you can make a compelling case in the application. If you do not fully understand or reflect on either of these points and rely solely on your credentials to carry you, chances are you will fall short in a very competitive application process.
Her advice directly relates to answering Essay 1 effectively. It is also great advice that can be applied to other schools.
Regarding goals in general, please see my posts, A Method For Formulating Goals and ARE YOUR GOALS HOT?
Next, let’s take this question apart. Unlike in the last few years, Chicago has simplified this question into less components, but I don’t think that makes it easier. Actually, you need to take these bigger questions and break them down to make a truly effective answer.
Lets begin with the first part of the question: Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? Actually this question is one that Ms. Martinelli previously asked when she was the Admissions Director at Wharton. Wharton still includes this same question in its essay set:
1. Describe your career progress to date and your future short-term and long-term career goals. How do you expect a Wharton MBA to help you achieve these goals, and why is now the best time for you to join our program?
Notice something very different between these two questions? Chicago asks At this point? at the very beginning. While both schools clearly expect an answer to Why now? and not next year or last year, Chicago is emphasizing that this is the critical question to answer.However you structure your essay, you had better focus it on answering this critical question. Getting an MBA is not obvious. It is something one does because it fits into an overall plan for one’s career and life.
Why is now the time? Explain both analytically and with examples (stories) why you need an MBA now. To answer this part of question you clearly need to think about the past. After all, if now is the right time, what has led to it?
Here a basic way to structure this part of the question:
1. NOW IS THE RIGHT POINT TO PURSUE AN MBA because
Argument 1: RELATED TO YOUR CAREER DEVELOPMENT. Discuss your career up to this point. Explain why now is the time. Write about your present, your goals, and the gap between them.
Argument 2: RELATED TO YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. Discuss the intellectual and/or experiential reasons for wanting to do an MBA. Write about your strengths & weaknesses, your intended future. and the gap between them.
Argument 3: RELATED TO THE WIDER WORLD. What opportunities and threats exist in your present and intended future that an MBA can support (opportunities) or mitigate(threats)?
If you use the "GSR Table" that I presented in a prior post, Argument 1 relates to a Gap Analysis and Argument 2 and 3 to a SWOT analysis. If you want a version word of the table, please email me at adammarkus.com.
In the second part of the question- Describe your personal and professional goals and the role an MBA from the University of Chicago GSB plays in your plans to reach these goals.- you need explain your expected ROI from attending Chicago GSB.
We can break this down into two components:
1. Explain how an MBA from Chicago GSB will specifically contribute to your professional goals.
2. Explain how an MBA from Chicago GSB will specifically contribute to personal goals.
For each of these components you could address such topics as
1. How an MBA from Chicago GSB will lead to the next phase in my career based on the skills I acquire.
2. How an MBA from Chicago GSB will enhance my professional knowledge base to find new opportunities.
3. How an MBA from Chicago GSB will allow me to mitigate risk from future threats in my intended career path.
4. How an MBA from Chicago GSB will allow me to overcome my professional weakness in…
5. How an MBA from Chicago GSB will help me develop a network for my professional and/or personal goals.
6. How an MBA from Chicago GSB will enhance my personal life.
Now most applicants may not be able to get all of this into 1500 words. You have to pick and choose carefully what topics you need to address. Just make sure that your show how Chicago GSB will deliver great ROI to you personally and professionally.
To really answer this question you need to know about Chicago GSB. Given that GSB has great online sources available for this purpose, even if you don’t visit, you can learn about it. Start here. In particular take a good look at Chicago GSB Dean's Student Admissions Committee (DSAC) blog.
I also strongly suggest listening to the GSB podcast series. This a great series of podcasts that should help get you thinking about business at the kind of intellectual level required for success at Chicago GSB.
Japanese applicants should most certainly visit the MBA J-Book.
The University of Chicago is one of the most intellectually vibrant places on the planet. Anyone who wants to go there had better figure out how to make full use of the vast financial, economic, and management scholarly resources that it offers.
Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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