Rick Weiland started the Executive MBA Program in 1978, about a week after he got married. Fortunately, his wife Karen was in the middle of nursing studies, so they spent their nights cozying up to his Micro Economics text and her Gross Anatomy book. Rick also holds a BS from The University of Michigan (Math & Communication Science) and an MS from UChicago (Information Sciences). He spent his career in a variety of technical, managerial, and executive roles mostly at a software consultancy that transformed into a starter of new technology businesses, including two that ended up traded on the NYSE. Now retired for 10+ years, Rick volunteers at Chicago Booth and the Art Institute of Chicago, attends guitar classes at the Old Town School, and travels for fun both domestically and abroad. He and Karen have three grown sons and make their home in Evanston.
CRAFTING YOUR ADMISSIONS ESSAY
Even successful mid-career professionals can be daunted by the sight of a blank page on which they have to write an essay to help get them admitted to the Chicago Booth Executive MBA program. The purpose of this blog posting is to give you helpful hints and strategies and some friendly encouragement for getting those essays (a) started, and (b) finished.
In this post, we’ll mainly be talking about the required essay: “Why are you seeking an MBA from Chicago Booth and what do you hope to contribute to the program?” We’ll talk about the Optional Essay briefly at the end.
THE REQUIRED ESSAY
Helpful Hint #1: Relax.
The reason you’re writing the essay, as with most aspects of the admissions process, is to help you and Chicago Booth determine if you are a good fit for one another. There’s nothing sneaky or mysterious about it. So take it seriously, but don’t let it paralyze you!
Helpful Hint #2: Remember to answer the whole question!
In my experience, a lot of draft essays devote almost all of their time and space to answering the first part of the question (Why are you seeking the Executive MBA from Booth) and give little or no attention to the second part (What will you contribute). Don’t forget to explain why other students will find it interesting and useful to have you as a classmate.
Helpful Hint #3: Minimize the applesauce.
There is no need for you to devote space to heaping praise on Booth and telling the Admissions Team how wonderful Booth is; they already know. There’s no need to sell them on this, and you don’t want to sound like you’re piling on flattery. On the other hand, it is a good idea to spend a few sentences discussing why you and Booth are a good fit to one another.
Helpful Hint #4: Keep it simple!
Short punchy sentences made up of short punchy words will always be better than long, learned sentences filled with lots of adjectives. Disable the semicolon key on your keyboard.
Compare “Keep it simple” to “Invariably maximize the simplicity of your written utterances, thereby effectuating successful communications.” See what I mean?
Helpful Hint #5: Start from an outline.
Writing an outline helps you organize your sequence of thoughts. It helps you make sure that all the things you want it to say get included, and the things you don’t need to say stay out. An outline makes the blank page a lot less scary. Key information for your outline could include:
A summary of your experiences, as well as your medium and long-term objectives
How the Booth Executive MBA Program will help you achieve your goals
An overview of what you bring to the program
Helpful Hint #6: Refine your essay, and don’t be shy about getting some assistance.
Once you’ve written your essay, put it away for a day or two. Then come back and try reading it like it was written by someone else and see how it strikes you. Fix what you don’t like. Read it out loud and see how it sounds. (This is a great catcher of overly complicated or unclear sentences.) Have someone else read and critique your essay. Make sure this person will be frank and up front with you. Have them read it out loud to you.
If English is not your first language, find a native speaker to review and, if necessary, help you smooth the English.
Helpful Hint #7: It’s a challenge, but don’t leave your essay to the last minute. Try to get it done early in the process. Besides helping you avoid last minute panic, having the essay done early gives you another chance to read and reconsider it before you submit.
THE OPTIONAL ESSAY
The optional essay is an opportunity for you to tell the Admissions Committee things you think are important, but that didn’t fit anywhere else in the admissions process. Most particularly, if there are soft spots in your background, this is the place to address them. If your previous academic record is spotty, or if there are holes in your employment history, this essay provides the opportunity to provide an explanation, including what you’ve learned from difficult situations and how you’ve moved forward from them. On a more positive note, this essay is also a good place to talk about special interests or accomplishments whose description didn’t fit in elsewhere.
If, on consideration, you don’t see the need to write the optional essay, no worries—it’s optional!