Go to a better blog!

You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

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

September 17, 2009

Chicago Booth Fall 2010 MBA Essay 1

This is the first in a series of five posts on the University of Chicago Booth's MBA application essays for Fall 2010 admission. The parts are Essay 1, Essay 2, Slide Presentation, Optional Essay, and Overall Plan.

As is usual, Chicago Booth has again changed Questions 1 and 2.  I have taken the questions from the Booth website.  I suggest reviewing the tips from the Booth website before reading my analysis.  You might also want to read the first part of my Kellogg analysis where I discuss why location matters as it is a comparison between Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago is a very intellectually serious place.  Booth reflects that culture. Not everyone who goes there is an intellectual, but most are quite smart.  Your objective is show you understand yourself, understand what you want to do in the future, and understand why Booth is right for the fight school for you now. If you can do so, it is quite possible that you will part of the Class of 2012.

The question:

1. How did you choose your most recent job/internship and how did this experience influence your future goals? What about the Chicago Booth MBA makes you feel it is the next best step in your career at this time? (750-1000 words)

The question actually breaks intro three parts, so we will look at each piece. (Note: If you have been reading my analysis of other schools' questions, while you see some parts of this analysis are not unique to it, I have fully modified my entire analysis to fit this question.  That is why it took me quite while to write it.) 

"How did you choose your most recent job/internship?"
I think without being explicit about it, Booth is engaging in a bit of behavioral questioning here. Behavioral questions (See my analysis of MIT for more about this topic) are based on the idea that past behavior is the best guide to future behavior.  By understanding your rationale for taking your most recent job/internship, Chicago can gain some insight into how you make choices. If they can understand how you make choices about jobs and internships, they gain some insight into how you make other kinds of choices; About your career goals, why you want an MBA, and why you want one from Booth.  To provide an effective answer you need to explain what motivated you to take your current position.  Multiple motivations are fine.  The important thing is that you provide an explanation for your decision, not a summary of all your professional experiences.    
Bad answers to this part of Booth's question will either take the form of general summaries of past professional experience or even an overall interpretation of one's past experience (see for example, Kellogg 1).  Booth wants an analysis of your decision, not an analysis of all of the wonderful things you have learned from your past work.  Of course you will likely need to refer to a position (or positions) prior to the most recent one, but that does not mean that you should summarize those positions.  You would discuss such experience(s) only in order to explain why you chose your most recent position. 

How did this experience[your most recent bob/internship] influence your future goals?
Last year, Booth asked "Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career?" That rather general question has been replaced with something that provides the applicant with significantly more structure.  The "Why now" aspect of the question is not explicit, but consider that Booth's tip for this question is to answer "How have your decisions made you ready to apply to an MBA program?" Clearly doing that requires knowing why you want an MBA now. 

In this part of the question you need to think about about the relationship between your most recent job/internship experience and your goals.

To answer this section effectively you need to know what your goals are. Lets address that issue at some length.

The advantage of the following method is that it will make you systematically think about how your goals relate to your recent experience.  I suggest using my GAP, SWOT, AND ROI TABLE FOR FORMULATING GRADUATE DEGREE GOALS for this purpose (see below). . I think Gap, SWOT, and ROI analysis are great ways for understanding what your goals are, why you want a degree, and how you will use it. (Click here for the Forbes Business School Calculator. Click here for a GMAC report on MBA ROI. )

(To best view the following table, click on it. )

How to use this table:

Step 1.
Begin by analyzing your "Present Situation." What job(s) have you held? What was/is your functional role(s)? What was/are your responsibilities?

Next, analyze your present strengths and weaknesses for succeeding in your present career. REMEMBER:WHEN YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESS DON'T ONLY THINK ABOUT WORK, THINK ABOUT OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE. In particular, some of your greatest strengths may have been demonstrated outside of work, so make sure you are accounting for them.
Strengths: What are you good at? Where do you add value? What are you praised for? What are you proud of?
Weakness: What are you bad at? What are you criticized for? What do you try to avoid due to your own limitations? What do you fear?

, analyze the environment you work in right now. What opportunities exist for your growth and success? What threats could limit your career growth?

Step 2.
Now, do the same thing in Step 1 for your "Post-Degree" future after you have earned your graduate degree. IF YOU CANNOT COMPLETE STEP 2, YOU HAVE NOT SUFFICIENTLY PLANNED FOR YOUR FUTURE and therefore you need to do more research and need to think more about it.

Step 3.
If you could complete step 2, than you should see the "Gap" between your present and your future. What skills, knowledge, and other resources do you need to close the gap between your present and future responsibilities, strengths, and opportunities?

Step 4. After completing Step 3, you now need to determine how an MBA will add value to you. It is possible that an increased salary as a result of job change will be sufficient "ROI" for the degree to justify itself, but you should show how a degree will allow you to reach your career goals. How will the degree enhance your skills and opportunities and help you overcome your weaknesses and external threats? If you can complete Step 4 than you should be ready to explain what your goals are, why you want a degree, and the relationship between your past and future career, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. THIS STEP WILL HELP YOU ANSWER THE WHY BOOTH PART OF THE QUESTION.

The above table will also help you answer such common interview questions as: Where do you want to work after you finish your degree? Why do you want an MBA (or other degree)? What are you strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your goals? Thinking about these issues now will help you to develop a fully worked-out strategy for how you will best present yourself both in the application and in an interview.


Simply being being able to state what your goals are is not sufficient. Even being able to explain them is not.  Your goals have to justify why you want an MBA, BUT ARE YOUR GOALS HOT?
Making career goals exciting requires thinking about whether your goals are compelling. Admissions committees ask applicants to write about their goals after graduate school, but can applicants actually know what will be on the cutting-edge in two or three years? While many applicants will be able to successfully apply with relatively standard goals ("I want to be a consultant because..."), can you do better then that?  I think going beyond standard goals is critical if you are trying to compete against people who are not only applying to Chicago, but also to HBS, Stanford, and Wharton.

HBS, Stanford, and Wharton Set the "Goals" Bar High
As I pointed out in my analysis of Wharton's Essay 1, "Wharton has copied the more abstract and awe-inspiring language of "HBS ("career vision") and Stanford ("career aspirations"), so now your Wharton goals need to be discussed within the language of "commitment."  On the other hand, Booth uses the routine language of "goals."  Words like vision, aspiration, and commitment are bigger.  They are about dreaming great dreams and making them real.  The best applicants to those three schools will make that happen in their essays.  Many of those individuals will also be applying to Chicago (and Columbia, Kellogg, NYU, Duke, Haas, Tuck, and MIT).  It is unlikely that they will be changing their visions/aspirations/commitments for Chicago. Of course, they had better use the word "goal" as to use one of the three aforementioned words is to signal that you are not customizing for Chicago (As in all things, fit is shown in both large and small ways.)  Bottom line:  If you have big goals, you will have advantage over those who simply have routine ones.

Be informed. Chicago admissions needs to believe you know what you are talking about. If you are changing careers, no one expects you to be an expert, but you should come across as having a clear plan based on real research into your future. If you are planning on staying in your present industry, you should be well informed not only about the companies you have worked for, but also about the industry as a whole. If you are not already doing so, read industry related publications and network. 

Those who are changing fields should most certainly read industry related publications in their intended field. Additionally I suggest conducting informational interviews with at least one peer level and one senior level person in that field. Conduct a peer level interview to get a good idea of what it would be like to actually work in that industry. Conduct a senior level interview to get the perspective of someone who can see the big picture and all the little details as well.

Don't know anyone in your intended field? Network! One great way to start is through LinkedIn. Another is by making use of your undergraduate alumni network and/or career center.

No matter whether you are changing fields or not, learn what is hot now and try to figure out what will be hot by the time you graduate. Now, of course, this is just a plan and chances are that what is hot in your industry or field now may very well be cold in the future. The point is to come across to Rose and her colleagues as someone who is not only well informed, but has CUTTING-EDGE knowledge. Some great general sources for learning what is hot:

From the Business Schools: Feed your brain with cutting-edge ideas from the best business schools in the world. In addition to the Chicago resources I mentioned below, other great sources of information include Stanford Social Innovation Review, Harvard Working Knowledge, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School Publishing, Knowledge @ Wharton, and MIT Sloan Management Review.

You may also want to do a search on itunes for podcasts: My favorites in addition to Chicago's podcast are Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (from the Stanford School of Engineering, but totally relevant) Net Impact, and Harvard Business IdeaCast. INSEAD, IMD, LBS, and Wharton also have podcasts.

LinkedIn Answers: I would suggest that everyone join LinkedIn and make use of LinkedIn Answers. LinkedIn Answers is a great way to tap into cutting edge expertise (including my admissions advice!). Follow LinkedIn's rules and you will often be able to obtain excellent information.

Hoovers: For information about specific companies, Hoovers is just a great way to learn about key facts including competitors (a very useful way of knowing who else you might want to work for and to learn about an industry). While primarily focused on the US, Hoovers does have listings for companies worldwide.

Vault: For scope of coverage, this site is a must. Vault includes both career and admissions information. It includes both company specific and industry-wide information. 

Other sources: Read magazines, websites, and books that relate to your intended field. 

What about the Chicago Booth MBA makes you feel it is the next best step in your career?
In this part of the question you need to explain why you need an MBA from Booth now. To really answer this question you need to know about Chicago . Given that Booth 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 Booth Dean's Student Admissions Committee (DSAC) blog. To learn more about the GSB's research, see
University of Chicago Booth's Working Papers and The University of Chicago's Capital Ideas. I also strongly suggest listening to the Booth 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.

10/9/09 UPDATE: I also suggest reviewing an interview I conducted with a former client who is a member of the Class of 2010.

Japanese applicants should most certainly visit the MBA J-Book.  Japanese applicants should also read this post as there has never been a better time for Japanese applicants to apply to Booth!

Effective answers to this part of the question will establish deep and specific linkages between specific aspects of the Booth program and your goals in order to show fit.  To do this effectively requires actually writing something meaningful about your goals. If your objective is to make this essay effective, you don't want to write something that is purely generic, something anyone could write.  You need to show your specific fit.  This means analyzing your needs (See my chart above) and relating them directly to Booth.  It means showing Rose Martinelli and her colleagues that you know what you will do in an MBA program with only one required class (LEAD). 

It is, of course, fine to mention that Booth has a flexible curriculum, but everyone knows that. The point is what you will do with it?  That is always the point.  I have had clients admitted into the Classes of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 and I can say that the only thing that is consistent about them is that each had their own individual plans for how they would utilize their Chicago education.  You need to have your own Booth study plan that clearly links to why you need an MBA now.  

1a. FOR REAPPLICANTS ONLY: Upon reflection, how has your thinking regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (250 words)
Reapplicants should read my previous post on reapplication. Use this space to specifically explain what has improved about you since you last applied. You can certainly mention improved test scores, but I would not use every much of your word count for that. Typical topics include: development of a new skill, promotions that demonstrate your potential for future success, involvement in an extracurricular activity, learning significantly more about Booth, and why your goals discussed in Essay 1 now are better than the ones you presented last time.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. If you are looking for a highly experienced admissions consultant who is passionate about helping his clients succeed, please feel free to contact me at adammarkus@gmail.com to arrange an initial consultation. To learn more about my services, see here. Initial consultations are conducted by Skype or telephone. For clients in Tokyo, a free face-to-face consultation is possible after an initial Skype or telephone consultation. I only work with a limited number of clients per year and believe that an initial consultation is the best way to determine whether there is a good fit. Whether you use my service or another, I suggest making certain that the fit feels right to you.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

シカゴ、ビジネススクール, MBA留学
Real Time Web Analytics