About Chicago Booth
Chicago Booth is an institution known for its strength as a finance and economics powerhouse. While this is true, applicants seriously considering one of their top MBA programs know the value the school places on the analytical process, allowing graduates to shine in many fields. Respectful debate is a hallmark of their classroom experience, and you will often hear admissions officers tout the University of Chicago belief that "the greatest ideas have many different handprints." Booth often proclaims, "we teach students not what to think, but how to think." So what are they looking for?
With a stronger than ever pay-it-forward culture among faculty and students, Booth seeks collaborative candidates who bring not only diverse perspectives to the Booth community, but who can appreciate and thrive in one of the most flexible curriculums among the top MBA programs. Successful candidates show they are independent thinkers with enough confidence to carve their own path through the Booth MBA journey. Ideal Boothies are not afraid to challenge themselves within an open curriculum that has only one required course or all students, better known as LEAD, a hands-on self-discovery.
The evaluation process at Booth is both holistic and iterative - many different people will read each and every application, from admissions staff to student admissions committee members, to dean and faculty.
Booth is known to read each and every application, regardless of numeric markers like your standardized test scores or GPA. Each reader will make note of several key characteristics the school deems important for a successful Booth student - both while in the MBA program and during career recruiting. Applications in the first pass are read with the intent for evaluators to recommend or pass on an invitation to interview. Booth spells out exactly what they look for on their website’s admissions pages.
The Booth Essay Prompts
Each year Booth, in true University of Chicago fashion, will experiment with different prompts meant to stir your thinking and allow those willing to put in the deep work of self-reflection to shine. Booth has high expectations that applicants dig into a self-discovery journey and allow their authentic self to come across clearly in the essays specifically. This year’s questions are no different. Applicants should realize the essays are a small amount of real estate to tell a big story. Who are you? What do you care about? Why do you belong here?
How will a Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals?
An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are…
Remember to answer the questions. Recycled essays from other schools can be quite obvious to this seasoned and thorough committee. The first question is where you are obligated to not only be clear about your goals, but show you understand the Booth culture, curriculum, and community and why it might be a great place to achieve your very personal goals.
The second question is your chance to be who you and speak to the committee on a personal level. Booth is known to look for those rare candidates who have a “sparkle.” Don’t be afraid to allow this to be the place you are purely yourself. After all, Booth is very open about the need for applicants to be authentic over anything else.
Letters of Recommendation
While letters may feel like a basic requirement, Booth gives clear directions on who should write your letters. They ask for one supervisor, ideally your current supervisor, and one from a "professional contact...or someone who has worked with you in an organization or club, or on a volunteer project of your choice." While well-known recommenders may seem like a great idea, you will want to make sure they know you well enough to write a letter that speaks to your accolades and growth areas.
The Booth Interview
After all, applications go through the first round of evaluation, interview decisions are released on a specified date shared with applicants. Generally a little over half of the applicants will move on in the process and be invited to interview. Booth is very open and accommodating to inviting any candidate they simply want to know more about to interview. When it comes to interviews, they truly practice a holistic evaluation process and work hard to get all invited to an interview.
Typically applicants can opt to travel to Chicago to meet with a student, or interview in their city with alumni. Occasionally staff will travel to major cities around the world to interview candidates as well. This year, plan to take your interviewing skills virtual. This may require preparation that also includes putting care into your business attire, background, camera angle, connectivity, and more. All interviews are weighted equally and at Booth, the interview is not a make or break aspect of the admissions process. A great interview is not enough to be accepted, however, a poor interview can hurt your chance of acceptance.
The main goal for interviewees is to assess fit within the institution, communications skills, and preparedness. While it is important to prepare and make sure your in-person story is in line with your application, Booth is well known for making interviews and interview days a positive and social experience for applicants. It is expected that you will have questions for your interviewer and have taken your interview preparation seriously.
Preparing To Apply
With consistent top rankings, Booth has high expectations for applicants. Not only is it important to put your best foot forward, but it can also be valuable to your candidacy to show engagement with the program by attending live or virtual events, and reaching out to students and alumni.
With three application rounds each year, candidates should strongly consider the first two rounds, where over 80% of applications come in. When choosing between rounds 1 and 2, apply when you think your app is best. In 2023, Booth reported an acceptance rate of around 30.1%. Applications are on the rise while their average GPA and test scores for the class did not decline. If waiting until a later round means your application will be stronger, the choice is clear.
The Booth application and essay require a high amount of introspection to come out on top. For a candidate who has done the hard work of thinking about what they want from an MBA and what they can bring to the Booth community, the application and essays should flow easily. Resist the urge to focus on impressing the committee, and work on showing your authentic self. This is how to stand out in the Booth culture of intellectual curiosity and diverse perspectives.