Chicago Booth MBA录取过程全解析(下)

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Once assessed and graded by an Admission Fellow, an applicant’s entire file then goes one of six associate directors of admission for a second review. Typically, the students will spend one and one-half hour to two hours on each application. Admissions officials may give the typical application another half hour or so. The big decision at this point is whether an applicant should get an interview. If the student and the admissions staffer agree, the applicant is invited to an interview.


What’s the biggest difference between the first two reviews? Each admission director is seeing a much larger part of the applicant pool because eight students report to each director. So they can more easily compare and contrast candidates with similar backgrounds. Even so, says Ahlm, “it’s amazing how well correlated they are. They each see things just a little differently. The students bring a different lens to it; they have their own perspective living the day-to-day life of a student. It’s rare that I see dissonance. It’s great because I get two very clean perspectives on it. And when there is a disconnect, it gives me a great way to dig deeper and find out what the real issues are.”

If there’s conflict between the student reader and the admissions director, it can go to another associate director. If the decision is to deny, then the application file immediately goes to Ahlm for a final decision. “We look at all aspects of the application,” says Ahlm. “We want the full story from everybody. Before you would go through a deny process or not be invited to interview you are at least going to be reviewed by three people—an Admit Fellow, an admissions director, and finally me.”

“Kurt is going to craft the class from what he reads,” says Stacey Kole, deputy dean of the full-time MBA program. “What is great about having multiple readers is you get to see if one reader scored someone really low and another reader scored someone really high, we’re not just going to look at the average and say that someone who got two threes are the same as someone who got a five and a one. Kurt is going to take all of that information and make sense of it.”

The scoring process serves other functions. For one, it can help to inform the subsequent interview. So an interviewer might follow up on an area of concern exposed by a low grade on a specific category. For another, a low grade can serve as a flag. “You’re also using the system to identify a potential deficiency in an accepted student,” adds Kole. “If we took someone who is older and has been out of school for a long time, the score might tell you this person is riskier because you don’t know how they will acclimate. That gives us a flag that when this person accepts, we want to make sure we support them when they come to the school. So academic services gets keyed in.”

Booth claims there are no general quotas that guide admissions. “But we have some sense of what keeps the community vibrant,” says Kole. “If a group is below a certain percentage, they are likely to feel as if they are tokens. Once a group passes the 30% threshold, it has critical mass. There are threshold levels that we really look at.” For the Class of 2012 that entered last year, 35% were female and 33% were international.


Is there a secret in filling out the application and writing your essays? Yes and no.  “We look for sparkle,” says Kole, “and it comes in lots of different forms. A number of years ago when we moved into this building, we had an essay question that asked applicants for proposed mascots. We got a lot of tigers and elephants. Often, the answers didn’t demonstrate any insight into the institution or the person applying, but we did get some that were amazing. One person suggested an explorer, a mountain climber. Why? Because he said, ‘Booth will take me above the clouds, allowing me to reach vistas to see what I have never seen before.’ I can’t quantify that in a number. But that was sparkle. We had another question one time that asked, ‘If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be and what would you do on that day?’ One guy wanted to be the Pope. He wanted to wander into the archives of the Vatican, examine all the art there so he could decide what should be shown to the public.”

This year’s questions seem more straightforward. Applicants are asked to write 300-word maximum answers to the following:

* Why are you pursuing a full-time MBA at this point in your life?

* Define your short and long term career goals post MBA.

* What is it about Chicago Booth that is going to help you reach your goals?

Then, you’re asked to write up to 750 words based on the following statement: “Chicago Booth is a place that challenges its students to stretch and take risks that they might not take elsewhere. Tell us about a time when you took a risk and what you learned from that experience.”


And finally, there is the four-page Powerpoint or PDF that is a required part of the application. Purposely, there’s little guidance on what to do, merely this vague statement: “At Chicago Booth, we teach you how to think rather than what to think. With this in mind, we have provided you with “blank pages” in our application. Knowing that there is not a right or even a preferred answer allows you to demonstrate to the committee your ability to navigate ambiguity and provide information that you believe will support your candidacy for Chicago Booth.”

It was Ahlm who had the idea for this portion of the application. He jokingly says it came to him when he hit his head on the bathroom sink in his home. “This is an exercise that very much captures the essence of what Booth is about,” he says. “Having an ambiguous problem with many moving parts and being able to come up with a strong compelling solution. It was designed to allow someone to bring an application to life. The Powerpoint adds a lot of color, texture and depth to the application.”

It also apparently turns some applicants off. “It leads some people to not hit send, which is a perfect outcome,” believes Kole. “Because if they are frustrated and feel they don’t know what to do with those four sheets of paper, they are not going to do well here. If that’s too much ambiguity for them, it’s good that they find that out before they apply. A lot of admits say they fell in love with the place through that process.”

An example of successful execution? When Sarah McGinty of the Class of 2010 submitted her Powerpoint slides to gain an acceptance from Booth, each of the four pages was a visual. There were two pictures of her family, a picture of her reading, a poster from a dual-career couples’ event on work/life balance, and then she drew a see-saw with her passions—surfboarding, movies and tennis—on one side. On the other were logos of the different places she had worked.

At Booth, roughly half of the applicants are invited to interview, though this can vary according to the quality of the applicant pool. The admissions staff does little more than one percent of all the interviews. Mostly, they take about 30 to 45 minutes and are done on campus by students or off campus by alumni.  “The interviewers have a fair amount of freedom,” says Ahlm. “It needs to be conversational. We want to make sure there is an honest and open dialogue that takes place.”

Typical questions:

  • What is your motivation to obtain an MBA?
  • What do you really want from my MBA experience?
  • What can you bring to the Chicago Booth community?
  • Why is Booth the right place for you?
  • Can you clearly articulate your career plan and future goals?
  • How do you plan to use the MBA in your career?

Ahlm says the interview is the candidate’s opportunity to highlight your skills and personality in ways that a written application cannot. Be prepared to discuss your strengths and development areas, but also understand that the interviewer especially wants to get to know you as a person. He or she wants to understand how you can contribute to the Booth community. Ahlm suggests that you review your application before walking into an interview. You should show up early so you have some time to collect your thoughts, dress in business attire and bring a copy of your resume.

“Know how you will want to convey your story, your career plan and your unique goals,” he suggests. “If your goals and motivations are clear, you can expect a lively conversation and lots of good questions by the interviewer. You should also use the interview as an opportunity to learn more about Booth. There will be time at the end of the interview for you to ask your interviewer questions. You should have a few questions ready to find out about the things that are most important to you and your MBA experience.”

Interviewers grade the candidates on the same one to six scale. Once the interview report comes in, the file is then given to another admissions director who has not yet seen it. That person does an assessment of the entire file, deciding whether to admit, deny, or put the decision to a committee of the six admissions directors and Ahlm. “The committee process is an opportunity for us to all take a group of very talented people and sit down as a collective and have a discussion of the merits of the application,” explains Ahlm. The committee meets for two or three days to go over these applications, quickly rendering decisions after a full discussion of the applicant’s file.


All admit and deny recommendations go to Ahlm for final decisions. It’s rare for him to override a recommendation, but every year there are several cases where he may turn a deny into an admit or an admit into a deny. As the only person in the process who reads every application, he is now looking to craft a diverse and varied class of incoming students. “No one is denied until Kurt denies them,” says Kole. “So he never reverses a deny. He has a recommendation from several readers, but he owns that decision.”

An example of a recent decision in which Ahlm effectively overruled a recommendation? Says Ahlm: “I had a candidate that I was looking at the other day. There were elements of the application in which the story wasn’t as tightly knit together as the student and my staff would have liked, but there were elements in the application that suggested to me the candidate had great self awareness and good intellectual curiosity. Maybe the applicant didn’t necessarily understand Booth to the degree that I would have liked. But I saw attributes that jumped off of the application and made me think this person could be really successful here. At the end of the day, we not only want to get people who are very talented. We also want them to fundamentally fit with the culture here.”

What exactly is “fit?” Adds Kole, “You have to be someone who is comfortable making up your own mind and taking ownership for your decisions. That is a critical part of drinking fully from this experience.” That’s because there is only one required course at Booth. Unlike Harvard or Wharton, there is no first-year core curriculum in which you take as part of a cohort of other students. You pick and choose your courses based on your experience and interests.

Martinelli, who was admissions director for more than five years until moving to the overall university’s department of admissions last year, puts it this way: “You come to Booth as an adult. You build and leverage on your past successes. You don’t come in as good. People are like CEOs of their own experiences here. At Wharton, that core could kill you or bore you. Here, you don’t have that. You’re responsible for your education.”

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