Admissions 101: The Rest of the Story

Last week the Chicago Booth MBA admissions team posted helpful advice for applicants who are rushing to meet the school’s Round 1 deadlines, on October 12. They present some very helpful tips, but — as is often the case — many of the the tips they share can be misconstrued or taken too far. It’s just like dieting: Make sure you don’t overdo it with the fats… but cutting fat out of your diet completely isn’t a good idea. Or investing: Stocks historically have represented your best chance for long-term gains that outpace inflation… But you don’t necessarily want a portfolio that only contains stocks.

With that in mind, we dig into a few of Booth’s tips and present the rest of the story where it’s appropriate. Again, we think the advice they provided is quite helpful, but here’s more for you to chew on before you click the “submit” button on your application:

Booth says: Articulating fit is important.
We say: You bet it is. That’s why it needs to be woven throughout your application.

Too often, applicants sketch out an essay outline that ends with a brief paragraph along the lines of, “[School] is a good fit for me because I am interested in [insert the academic discipline the school is best known for]. I am especially eager to study [name of a course the applicant found on the school’s website] and I look forward to leading [name of a club found on the website].” You have to do much better than this. Your fit with the MBA program should be so self-evident that you don’t need to spell it out so explicitly in this awkward paragraph.

If you’ve done your job, admissions officers will want to read on, because your essays will literally be page-turners… They’ll know you are a good fit for the school because of your past achievements, your personality, your beliefs, and your potential, and they’ll want to know more.

Booth says: Have someone else read your essays.
We say: But don’t let too many cooks into the kitchen.

Letting too many people read your essays — and, more crucially, weigh on on what you say and how you say it — can turn your essays into a grey scramble that ends up not sounding anything like you. One client of ours had several friends read her essays, and was told that she sounded too young, that she sounded too stiff, and that she sounded too ambitious. “Okay,” she thought, “I need to make myself sound like a less ambitious, more laid-back, older person.” You can imagine how well that went. You absolutely should have another pair of eyes go over your essays, and if someone who knows you well says, “Hey, this doesn’t sound anything like you,” then that’s definitely a red flag. But remember that a committee isn’t writing your essays. YOU are.

Booth says: Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!
We say: Yes! But mistake-free essays are just the cost of entry.

This is where having someone else proofread your essays can be especially helpful. But, remember that it’s your candidacy on the line, not your friend’s, so if a mistake still slips through, it’s 100% your fault. And yeah, accidentally tell Booth that you want to go to Wharton, and you can be sure that Booth will be happy to make your decision easier (i.e., not admit you). Get it right, period, or you pretty much can cross that school off your list. Admissions officers aren’t tyrants, but they see so many great applications that they don’t have much reason to make allowances for sloppy ones. We’d like to think that this advice is so obvious that applicants don’t need to hear it, but the fact that top MBA programs bang this drum every years tells you all that you need to know.

For more advice on getting into Booth, download our Essential Guide to Chicago Booth, one of 15 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own candidacy for Booth or another top MBA program, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!