Chicago Booth to Eliminate PowerPoint Essay Question

MBA AdmissionsA new BusinessWeek article titled Business Schools Revamp the Application investigates how some schools are breaking with tradition and exploring new approaches to the MBA admissions process. In some cases it’s a matter of moving deadlines earlier or accepting the GRE in addition to the GMAT, while in others cases some schools are replacing traditional written essays with audio and video responses.

All interesting stuff, but what we actually found most intriguing was the fact that Chicago Booth will drop its PowerPoint question this coming admission season (2010-2011). This questions had been a staple of Booth’s application for the past couple of years, but apparently it wasn’t doing what the school had intended, so they put it out to pasture.

According to the article:

For the past few years, Booth has asked candidates to provide a PowerPoint presentation to show another side of themselves to the admissions committee. Although the committee has decided to eliminate the PowerPoint presentations starting with applications for the 2010-11 academic year, a new component — as yet undisclosed — will likely be in place this summer, says Rosemaria Martinelli, associate dean of student recruitment and admissions at Booth. The new addition to the admissions process may be something that MBA applicants will have to do after they get through an initial screening process, says Martinelli.

The PowerPoint slides didn’t work, Martinelli says, because they became rote and entirely too easy to predict, They didn’t showcase the applicant’s personality and help the admissions committee determine who is and isn’t a good fit, she said, adding that she hopes the new application procedure will do just that. “It’s hard for us, especially when so much of the applicant pool is admissible,” says Martinelli. “It comes down to who fits the life, spirit, and culture of an institution.”

When a school adds or changes or deletes an essay question, it’s a sign that the admissions office isn’t quite getting what it needs. When reviewing every application, two main questions that goes through an admissions officer’s mind are, “How well does this applicant fit with the school?” and “What about this applicant makes me want to choose him over other, similar applicants?” If a question generates similar answers from hundreds of applicants, or doesn’t add anything new to most applicants’ stories, then it’s not getting the job done.

We suspect that many applicants’ PowerPoint slides were nothing more than recaps of the rest of their applications, offering not much in the way of personality or useful information. This definitely wasn’t the case for everyone — some of our clients got into Chicago Booth this year with terrific PowerPoint slides — but odds are that not enough applicants took full advantage of the medium, so Booth will move on.

Still, kudos to the school for trying something new. Also, we’re very intrigued by the “may be something that MBA applicants will have to do after they get through an initial screening process” comment… The natural move would be for Booth to follow schools such as UCLA Anderson and offer a video or audio component. But, maybe it will be something else entirely, and maybe it will be something used as the admissions interview is used — to get to know an applicant better after the school likes what it initially sees. We’ll find out this summer, when Chicago Booth releases its application for the 2010-2011 admissions season.

For more advice on getting into Chicago Booth and other top business schools, download our Annual Reports, 15 guides to the world’s top MAB programs, available for purchase on our site. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!