So you’ve decided to try the presentation for the Booth MBA application. Now what?
A simple question accompanied by a blank canvas to start with can be daunting. It helps to have a structured process in place to put your ideas together, while still leaving plenty of room for creativity. When I work with my clients, I take them through a very simple process to help them think about the content for the pages that will ultimately answer the question “Who are you?”
There are two parts to the process. First, you need to determine what you want to say to the Admissions Committee? And second, figure out how you want to say it?
There are no real right or wrong answers to these two questions. Each individual will have his or her own story and style. And that is what makes this application so fun. It gives candidates the opportunity to truly be unique.
What to write:
Answering the question “Who are you?” is not easy for most people. To make it simple, I have my clients write down a list of bullet points that will act like the Table of Contents in a book about your life. If someone were to write a biography about your life, what would the main chapters be about? What would those defining characteristics and moments be that make it into your story? What are the things that are important to you and what are things that you like and enjoy? Don’t be afraid to get personal.
Once you’ve created your list, ask yourself: do those chapters accurately capture the person that you are? Few of the chapters by themselves will differentiate you, but when you add them all together, you get…you.
There are no rules about what can or cannot be included as part of your story. This simply means that you should not be limited by time or age or by things that haven’t happened yet. In other words, can your dreams be part of your story? Absolutely. Your dreams are part of who you are, right?
Who you are encompasses everything: your past, your present, and your future.
How to share your story:
While you’re coming up with your outline and your Table of Contents for your own personal story, you will need to think about ways you can present your story to the Admissions Committee.
I recommend that you try to use a ‘theme’ that is personal to you. What could a theme be? It can be anything, really. I’ve seen candidates who have used a children’s book as the backdrop to their story, their favorite magazine or newspaper, baseball cards and sports, or technology. The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination (and Booth’s minimal requirements: it can’t have animation, and it has to be under 16 MB in size).
I always recommend that my clients open this challenge up to their friends and family members. What would be an interesting, creative, and personal way to share your story? The more ideas you have from the people who know you, the greater the chances are that you’ll have a good idea that is unique to you.
Putting it together:
Once you’ve got your outline and have identified your theme, it’s time to start putting your presentation together. A few guiding principles that I like to offer to my clients:
Be efficient with your words.
You don’t want to write a lot if you’re developing a presentation. While there is no word limit, a good rule of thumb is that your presentation shouldn’t have more than 750 words in it on the high end. It’s definitely possible to have an effective presentation with more words, but it all depends on the format you end up going with (e.g., using a newspaper theme might require more text compared to a shopping catalog, for example).
Use images and visuals to enhance your story.
It’s always good to include images from your life in your presentation, but they are by no means necessary. I’ve seen plenty of great presentations that don’t have personal images but instead use hand-drawn pictures or visuals created in tools like Photoshop. Whatever you choose, try to use images that demonstrate the full spectrum of your personality, your interests, and the story you’re trying to tell.
Pay attention to the details.
The details can be a lot of fun. If you’re using a theme that would be recognizable to others, put the effort into making it as authentic as possible, and use your creativity to incorporate your own personal style into the presentation. For example, you may want to rename a newspaper to make it personal to you and Booth (for the record, I don’t recommend using a newspaper theme because you won’t be the only one doing it, but it’s an easy example to demonstrate with).
Review, review, review.
Ask your friends and family for feedback and input. You’ll be surprised by how many good ideas they will have and how willing they will be to invest in your success. The presentation is a way for you to stand out from the crowd, so make sure it is capturing the story that you want to tell to Booth.
Have fun with it.
The process of developing the presentation is often one of the most rewarding experiences for business school candidates. I have had many tell me that the Booth application was their favorite because it challenged them to think outside the box and forced them to think about questions they don’t normally think about. Many have surprised themselves by how creative their presentations ended up being, and everyone has had fun doing it. And that’s the point. This process of self-discovery and creativity is intellectually stimulating – and that’s one of the reasons you’re applying to Booth in the first place, right?
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Rich Williams is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His specialties include consulting, finance, and nonprofit applicants.