Tips on Chicago Booth Admissions

Want to know more about getting into the nation's top-ranked business school? Here's a transcript of our most recent online chat

The University of Chicago business school has had a big year. Recently, alumnus David Booth gave the school $300 million, the largest gift ever given to a business school by an individual, which prompted the school to change its name to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Shortly afterward, the business school was named number one in the U.S. by BusinessWeek for the second ranking in a row.

Recently, Rosemaria Martinelli (RosemariaM), associate dean of student recruitment and admissions at Booth, took questions from BusinessWeek reporter Francesca Di Meglio (FrancescaBW) and an audience of aspiring MBA students. They were joined by second-year student Rachel Patton (Rachel), whose concentration is in strategic management, marketing, and organizational behavior. Patton interned at Dow Chemical (DOW) over the summer and will be returning there to work after graduation. Here is an edited transcript of their conversation:

FrancescaBW: Rosemaria, please tell us a little bit about the culture at Chicago Booth.

RosemariaM: Chicago is an amazing place to be at this time. Our community is actively engaged in questioning and debating the issues of our times. Students are engaged, collaborative, and supportive of each individual's personal and professional pursuits.

Rachel: One of the great parts about Booth is the supportive environment. For example, I was involved in the Corporate Management and Strategy Group, and this group was absolutely instrumental in me securing my internship. All of the members of the group did everything they could to prepare me for my internship interviews.

adi83: I have six years of experience in marketing. I want to switch to finance, especially investment banking. Considering today's economy, how can the University of Chicago help me in this transition?

Rachel: One of my classmates actually made a transition from a nontraditional background into investment banking. She was a teacher and then worked in PR before coming to Booth, and she ultimately got an internship and full-time offer from Goldman. Is it easy? No, but it's possible. She worked very hard to get that position, but the curriculum at Booth really helped her build the skill set she needed to move into banking.

crack_the_gmat_2: What's the main difference between part-time and full-time programs at Booth?

RosemariaM: The education is exactly the same—same professors and courses. The difference is in the experience. Part-time students are working professionals and therefore do not have the full immersion experience of the full-time. We all make tradeoffs—whether to continue working or to take the time off to attend a full-time program. This is an important consideration to make from the get-go when evaluating your options.

sudhir3127: How does Chicago looks at a low GMAT score (less than the mid range), if the applicant has done very well in academics?

RosemariaM: The GMAT score is just one component of many that we evaluate in your application. If you feel your score does not fairly represent your abilities, take it again (of course with preparation). If it is still below what you think it should be, don't get bogged down. Work on the other aspects of your application. You might want to write a brief note in the optional essay to state the disparity between your academics and GMAT.

booth_aspirant: I have a question for Essay 2. What are you looking for from a candidate in the essay 2 question?

RosemariaM: Question 2 is a request for you to talk about an experience in your life/career.

The second half of the question focuses on how you might have done things differently in hindsight.

jessienglk: Does Chicago's flexible curriculum mean that if I have no statistics background, I can choose to be in an introductory class, but someone with a more quantitative background can be in another more advanced class?

Rachel: That's absolutely right. As an example, I was an accounting/finance major in undergrad, so I skipped basic accounting and took Financial Statement Analysis instead. People who have had no accounting background, on the other hand, often take basic accounting.

booth_aspirant: Can you give some good examples from the past about the PowerPoint slide question? What do you recommend to focus on as one can not provide much detail in four slides?

RosemariaM: Rather than give an example, let me walk you through possible approaches. Think of your application as a combination of components where you can present information about yourself that you feel will be important for the admissions committee to know about you. If there is information that you cannot put into your application through the standard components, think about putting that content in the presentation, or highlighting things that are very important to you. Focus first on what content you want to cover, then let your mind wander about ways that you might be able to convey those messages. Creativity is not important; it's all about the content.

crack_the_gmat_2: My undergrad degree is from India. Should I just submit my transcripts or should I get help from evaluation services for calculating my GPA? What's your admission policy?

RosemariaM: Chicago does not require transcripts to be certified by a third party nor do we ask you to convert scores to the U.S. 4.0 system. We have a great deal of experience with scoring systems from around the world.

sudhir3127: I have given my GMAT twice and I am an international applicant. My chartered accountancy background and i-banking experience makes Chicago one of my top choices. As I said earlier, I feel the GMAT hasn't captured my real abilities though I have taken it twice. I have already taken it twice and want to apply in R2. Do you think I should stop worrying about the GMAT and start the work on the application?

RosemariaM: Move on and focus on the rest of your application.

jessienglk: Could you tell me more about the International MBA? How different will the curriculum be if a regular MBA student takes electives with an international focus and language classes?

RosemariaM: The IMBA is the exact same program with a few additional requirements (study abroad, internship abroad, an international studies concentration, and a non-native language proficiency). We have many students who do everything except the language requirement, so the choice is completely up to you.

jessienglk: Do we have to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in a particular language before we can apply for the IMBA?

RosemariaM: The proficiency test will come at the end of your MBA experience.

booth_aspirant: How do you perceive Essay 2 if someone wants to include a non-professional experience?

RosemariaM: Absolutely. This question can focus on personal or professional situations.

jessienglk: Could you tell us more about LEAD? I have seen some LEAD photos. They look like team-building activities during orientation. What kind of classes can I expect from LEAD?

Rachel: LEAD covers a wide variety of topics, including ethics, group dynamics, and self-reflection. It's a great way to learn about yourself and how to interact with people who have different personalities from you do.

adi83: How competitive is R3 as compared with other rounds? To be more specific how many seats are generally being considered in R3?

RosemariaM: Round three always tends to be a bit more competitive due to the fact that we have already made many offers of admission, and we may be looking for specific types of profiles. That said, there is always plenty of room for terrific candidates.

u0388768: I am interested in the alternate energy sector. Are nontraditional sectors such as alternate energy getting enough attention among the traditional fields of business, such as finance/accounting/marketing? What opportunities does the University of Chicago provide for someone who is interested in venturing into the alternate energy sector?

Rachel: There are many people who are interested in alternative energy. We have a class here at Booth called Innovation in Energy Markets and Opportunities in Renewable Energy. Plus, there's an energy group here, and one of its big focuses is alternative energy. Further, there are some companies that recruit at Booth that have a presence in alternate energy, such as John Deere (DE) in wind energy.

crack_the_gmat_2: Can you provide more information on entrepreneurship classes and groups at Booth?

RosemariaM: Entrepreneurship is the second most popular concentration at Chicago. We have a dual focus — the practitioner and the investor (PE/VC). From our classes and student groups to the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, there are extensive offerings in this area. I would encourage you to connect with our entrepreneurship student group and visit the Polsky Center Web site for a list or resources and activities.

Rachel: I actually took an entrepreneurship class, New Venture Strategy. I loved it. It was my favorite class here at Booth, and I'm not even interested in becoming an entrepreneur. Many people who aren't interested in entrepreneurship per se take the entrepreneurship classes simply because they are so interesting.

jessienglk: I understand that we can start to take electives from year one, semester two. I'm trying to understand what a typical schedule will be from the moment we begin the Chicago program. Can you provide an example of a two-year schedule?

Rachel: You can actually start taking electives in your very first quarter if you want. We have 11 required classes (with plenty of flexibility around those) and 10 electives. Many people start with their required classes and try to get those finished early, but plenty of people start taking electives right away, too. So, for example, I took my first electives in the spring of last year, but many people start electives as early as the fall of their first year. For me, I had finished all but one of my required classes in my first year, and I will spend nearly my entire second year taking electives.

adi83: I just want to ask the same question as Joshuatarr. Has the recent change in global economy changed your application process for the coming year?

RosemariaM: The application process remains unchanged for applicants. While there may be more applicants this year, it does not necessarily translate into better applications. Our focus remains on admitting students who are a fit and match with Chicago's values.

RosemariaM: Let me add to Rachel's answer on flexibility. Chicago does have a core curriculum but allows students to take courses at the time and level of difficulty that makes sense for them (a menu approach). This means that you will be studying with first- and second-year students throughout your time at Chicago. Students have the freedom to choose the course, faculty, and day and time of the week. This choice-centric approach puts each student into the driver's seat for building his/her experience.

je220: Do you have any specific advice or additional information to offer applicants to the joint MBA-MA in International Relations program?

RosemariaM: Because the MA part of the degree is an academic degree (and a thesis will be required), applicants should approach the additional essay with a more academic focus. Since you get to choose the area of focus, you should make it clear in the additional essay why in particular that makes sense for you.

FrancescaBW: Rosemaria and Rachel, please tell us how things might be changing in light of the school's new name.

RosemariaM: We are very excited about the new gift to Chicago Booth. This gift allows us to continue to do what we've always done well — have the best faculty, great programs, expand our global footprint and attract the best students in the world. There is enormous momentum at Chicago, and I am proud to be a part of this great community (both as an administrator and a student in the executive MBA program).

Rachel: I think the new name will help to further solidify our business school's brand. I think that when people hear, "Chicago Booth," [people should] associate the name with the best business schools in the world.

je220: A follow-up to the question about the MBA/MA; Can the writing sample be from any academic discipline? Will a research-style paper from a literature course be acceptable, or should the focus be on something more relevant to international relations?

RosemariaM: It should be relevant to the program.

FrancescaBW: Do you have any suggestions about how to choose the right people to write your reference letters? If so, what are they?

Rachel: Make sure they actually know you. It's much more important to identify a person who can write a really rich recommendation letter than it is to target, say, the CEO of the company who's only met you once. You also want someone who can help fill in the picture of who you are. Your recommendation letters can help to show the complete picture of you, perhaps filling in the blanks that you weren't able to address in your essays.

FrancescaBW: Do you have any parting advice for our audience of applicants? If so, what?

RosemariaM: As we wind down our chat, I want to encourage you to come check out our resources — from our online chats and discussion forums to visit programs. Chicago is committed to providing the best support to applicants.

Rachel: Know yourself, and know why you're applying to Booth. It's very important to figure out how you fit with Booth (or any school, really) when you're putting together your applications. If you're passionate about Booth, it will come through in your essays, and that passion is important.

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