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What makes an application to business school competitive? Applicants often worry about having the most relevant information on their resume, including a high-profile recommendation or having a strong test score. It’s important to note that Chicago Booth takes a holistic approach when evaluating applications for admittance. This means that no one piece of the application is more important than any another. Knowing that, there are a few tips I am happy to share that will help you submit your best application. 

1. Think about your goals and articulate them.

Before you even start an application, consider your rationale. Why are you pursuing an MBA? What do you hope to achieve—and how will Booth get you there? Start by writing down your motivations for doing an MBA and be sure to align those to concrete goals, whether that means career advancement, exploring a new field, expanding your skill set or launching an entrepreneurial idea. 

2. Do your research.

Research all aspects of a program, from curriculum to community, to understand why a particular program is the best fit for you. Register for events, talk with current students and alumni, or try to visit a class; these will all provide valuable insight on the Booth experience.

Do you want a global experience? Is the time commitment realistic for you?? What are the other students like? What kind of elective courses are available? These are all important questions to address before you apply to business school. The admissions committee will evaluate how your objectives align with the institution, but not before you’ve also had a chance to do the same from your side.

3. Get your materials in order.

Resume and Essay

Your career milestones and educational background help us to understand your previous experience and the value you will contribute to the classroom as well as your readiness for the Executive MBA Program. To help us assess, we look to your professional resume as a summary of your career achievements. Instead of listing out your job duties, focus on leadership and impact—what have you done to drive real outcomes in your organization or industry? If you can quantify that impact, that’s even better.

You can also share details that shed light on who you are outside of the office. If you sit on a board, participate in civic organizations, or speak at conferences—include those activities. Be sure to make these specific and highlight how the experiences can add additional perspective to your MBA cohort.

The required application essay helps us understand who you are, your self-awareness, and your aspirations for the future. We want to know why you’ve chosen Booth for your MBA and how the program is going to help you achieve your goals. Rick Weiland, an Executive MBA alum who volunteers with our admissions team, has written a great post on crafting your essay that can help.

In addition to the one required essay, we also have three optional, short-answer questions. While responses to these questions are truly optional, they offer you space to share more information about yourself with the Admissions Committee, and we welcome your added insights. In the first question, you are able to provide further details or deeper context around certain aspects of your application (relevant contributions from your background, gaps in your resume, low grades, etc). The second short answer question highlights our commitment to diversity and allows you the opportunity to share anything you believe conveys how you will contribute to this diverse learning environment. The final short answer question can be used to communicate one or two key considerations when scholarship decisions are made.

Transcripts and Test Scores

Chicago Booth is an academically rigorous institution, and we want to ensure you can handle the coursework and pace. Your standardized test score, coupled with your academic transcripts, provides us insight into your academic abilities. Although these are just two components in your application, we use both to evaluate your capability to succeed and thrive in the program.

Transcripts are required for any postsecondary courses you have completed. When reviewing transcripts, we are looking for course names, credits, marks or grades, class rank (if applicable), and your dates of enrollment. As a global admissions team based in Chicago, London, and Hong Kong, we are well versed with educational systems outside of the United States. A few low grades is no reason to panic, but if your overall academic record is not strong then you may want to address this in the short answer section and bring additional focus to other aspects of your application.

Many Executive MBA candidates have not taken an exam in years. Because we require a test score, we strongly recommend setting aside time to prepare. We accept scores from one of three standardized tests: Executive Assessment, GMAT, or GRE. For those less familiar, the Executive Assessment is a good option for Executive MBA candidates. It was specifically developed to capture the real-world skills of executives and is more streamlined and shorter in duration than the GMAT.

Letters of Recommendation

We ask for two recommendation letters. One should be from your direct supervisor. This person can speak knowledgeably about your skill set, and it’s important to have their support. After your immediate supervisor, the next choice might be a former supervisor, someone your boss reports to, a manager from another department, or a client. We are flexible about who you choose, but be strategic—make sure that they know you and your work well.

Once you identify two recommenders and enter their contact information into the online application, they will automatically receive a recommendation request via email. It’s a good idea to notify them in advance and talk through your MBA plans as well as why you have chosen Chicago Booth.

With these steps accomplished, you are well on your way to submitting a competitive application. Feel free to reach out to our admissions team with any questions that you have along the way.