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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

July 23, 2008

Chicago GSB Fall 2009 Optional Essay & an Overall Plan

11/9/08 Note: "The Chicago GSB" is now called "The University of Chicago Booth School of Business."

This is the fourth post in a four part series. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Before discussing an overall plan for addressing the Fall 2009 University of Chicago GSB's MBA application questions, we need to look at the optional essay.

The University of Chicago GSB's MBA application for the Class of 2011 also includes space for an optional essay. I have taken the tip below from the online application. The question and the tip read as follows:

Optional Essay If there is any important information that is relevant for your candidacy that you were unable to address elsewhere in the application, please share that information here.

Optional Essay Tip
The optional essay is provided to give you an opportunity to explain any potential anomalies or ambiguity in your application. For example, you can explain why you did not use your current employer to write your recommendation, you might provide some clarity as to why there are significant gaps in your resume, or you may help us to understand why your grades declined in your junior year.
Please note this question is very functional in its design, it is to provide clarity on aspects of the application, not to give you an opportunity to write another creative essay.

If you read the above, it should be clear enough that this is the place to explain anything negative or potentially negative in your background. DO NOT USE IT FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE. Yes, you may have written a great essay for Tuck, Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, NYU, MIT, INSEAD, Columbia, or London Business School, but unless your objective is to tell that to Chicago GSB don't include it here. GSB gives you two essays and a slide presentation to write about all the good stuff. YOU ONLY NEED TO WRITE THIS IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING POTENTIALLY NEGATIVE TO EXPLAIN.

Finally, if you have no explanation for something negative, don't bother writing about it. For example if your GPA is 2.9 and you have no good explanation for why it is 2.9, don't bother writing something that looks like a lame excuse. This is more likely to hurt than help you. In the same vein, don't waste the committee's time telling them that your GMAT is a much better indicator than your GPA (the opposite is also true). They have heard it before and they will look at both scores and can draw their own conclusions without you stating the obvious. That said, if you have a good explanation for a bad GPA, you should most certainly write about it.

Now that we have dispensed with the Optional Essay, let's consider a overall plan for handling this essay set.

Start with Question One

You need to effectively segment your content. Question 1 has a clear focus, so it is best to start there. In general, for any application, starting with the goals essay always makes sense because what you say in it will impact what you say elsewhere. After all you want to show how other aspects of who you are will support your goals.

This is really up to you. Some applicants will find it easier to start with Essay 2 and others will find it easier to start with the Slide presentation. I think given the fact that Essay 2 is partially focused on why Chicago GSB, many applicants will find it easier to write Essay 2 in tandem with Essay 1.

Write the Optional Essay if you need to. Just remember what I wrote before about it.

After you have written everything, make sure it works as part of your entire application strategy. Review your entire application and think about whether you have presented all aspects of yourself as clearly as possible. Specifically think about your application meets Chicago GSB's three central evaluation criteria: curriculum, community, and career.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.
-Adam Markus
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