Applying to Chicago Booth

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business (formerly The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business) has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance over the past few years, thanks in part to Edward Snyder, who assumed the Dean’s position in 2001. Snyder and his administration have worked hard to promote the Booth’s strengths while addressing some perceived weaknesses.

Its strengths are impressive, including a roster of Nobel laureate faculty members – six as of last count, more than any other school – its high number of well-placed alumni, its strong international brand name, and its top-flight reputation with recruiters. As for weaknesses, for years the school had a reputation as a top-flight MBA program, but one that tended to turn out grads who were quant-heavy and not as well-rounded as grads from Chicago’s peer schools. The school has also faced a perception that the Booth students are somewhat less involved in the school than those at other top programs, partly a result of the school having to compete with all that the city of Chicago has to offer.

The school has improved its reputation on all fronts, partly through curriculum changes and partly because of a beautiful new facility. A grade-nondisclosure policy, put in place in 2000, has taken the edge off of grade competition. Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD), a mandatory course for first-year students, helps students develop their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. The school has also branched out beyond finance, emphasizing the strength of its marketing and general management programs, among others.

The school’s Charles Harper Center (formerly the Hyde Park Center), opened in 2004, has become the center of the school’s full-time MBA program. Chicago has done a lot of work to encourage its students to hang around, and it shows. Students love the new facilities, which include a number of public spaces and group meeting rooms. The schools realize that facilities only go so far, however, and that the most important ingredient for a cohesive student body is the students themselves. Given that, the admissions office will continue looking for applicants who demonstrate a willingness to get involved with meaningful extracurricular activities. This is something to consider if you are looking closely at Chicago.

One part of the school’s reputation that is unlikely to change is its rigorous academic program. No matter what type of student Chicago tries to attract, it is unlikely that it will lessen its emphasis on hard finance and quantitative skills. Finance is still the most popular area of concentration out of the 13 offered. One noteworthy aspect of the school’s curriculum is its flexibility. LEAD is the only required course in the entire program, with students choosing from a menu of courses to satisfy their core curriculum needs. This level of flexibility truly sets Chicago apart from other business school learning models. Keep this flexibility in mind as you think about how you might fit with the Chicago program.

One area that has received greater academic emphasis in recent years is entrepreneurship. Started in 1996, the school’s New Venture Challenge (NVC) has grown to become an annual tradition. Teams of student entrepreneurs work on business plans over a six-month period and three rounds, with the entrants also taking classes and workshops on the subject of new venture development. The winning team is granted $50,000, as well as one year of support in ARCH Venture Partners’ business incubator. If you are interested in entrepreneurship, the NVC is a great chance to get hands-on experience as well as extensive coaching.

Insider Information

As Chicago has climbed to the top of business school rankings again, it has attracted a broader applicant pool, some of whom may not be a great fit with the school. The obvious benefit is that the Chicago admissions office can choose from an even stronger, more diverse pool of applicants. But the school’s challenge is to figure out who really belongs at Chicago, as well as whom really wants to attend. This is evident in the school’s main essay question, which explicitly asks applicants, “What or who influenced your choice of schools, and how specifically will Chicago help you succeed?” Don’t take this question lightly. First, be honest with the admissions committee (and with yourself) about why you are considering Chicago. Then, be sure to demonstrate your fit with the program and how you will contribute to the school’s community.

What Makes Booth Different?


Application Essays

  1. Essay: What are your short- and long-term goals, and how will an MBA from Chicago Booth help you reach them? (500 words maximum)
  2. Short Answer Essays: (200 words maximum each)
    a) What has been your biggest challenge, and what have you learned from it?
    b) Tell us about something that has fundamentally transformed the way you think.
  3. Presentation/Essay: The Chicago experience will take you deeper into issues, force you to challenge assumptions, and broaden your perspective. In a four-slide presentation or an essay of no more than 600 words, broaden our perspective about who you are. Understanding what we currently know about you from the application, what else would you like us to know?

All school information appears courtesy of Your MBA Game Plan and is used with express permission of the authors.

An Insider's Guide to the Top Business Schools

Veritas Prep’s Essential Guides were written and edited by our MBA admissions experts, incorporating unique insights from current students and recent graduates. We’ll show you what type of student thrives in each program, what life is really like in the classroom, which professors students love, how the job hunt works, and more. In each report we also highlight “hidden gems” at each school, as well as areas where a school isn’t as strong as it may seem.

Learn About Other Top Business Schools

Business Schools
Chicago (Booth) Columbia Dartmouth (Tuck)
Duke (Fuqua) Harvard INSEAD
Michigan (Ross) MIT (Sloan) Northwestern (Kellogg)
NYU (Stern) Penn (Wharton) Stanford
UC Berkeley (Haas) UCLA (Anderson) Yale

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