Inquiry, Insight, Impact – Booth’s MBA adcom uses those “three I’s” to express Booth’s approach and culture. Taken together, in that order, they also represent a process:
• from inquiry,
• one gains insight,
• and applies this insight to achieve impact.
To put it another way, insight is the bridge, connecting the intellectual dimension, inquiry, and the practical dimension, impact. Now, there’s good and bad impact. You don’t want just any impact! (The impact of texting while driving is you-know-what). But impact resulting from thoughtful insight based on serious inquiry, you do want. While Booth, and University of Chicago broadly, are known as intellectual hothouses, Booth, being a business school, is ultimately focused on practical, real-world … yeah, impact.
Let’s break it down as Booth does:
• INQUIRY: The Booth website characterizes inquiry as “rigorous” (naturally) and exploring and understanding “fundamental disciplines that underlie how organizations function.” The program seeks not only intellectual elasticity, but a hunger for thorough understanding that starts from the ground up, through all the layers and facets. Inquiry is the foundation of the program’s “educational philosophy.”
• INSIGHT: Within this educational philosophy, insight is derived not only from rigorous inquiry but also from the willingness to put aside preferences and assumptions to go where the data lead. The enthusiastic embrace of objective debate, examination, analysis, etc. shapes the program’s culture.
• IMPACT: This “Chicago Approach” prepares you to have impact in any industry and function, at any time – it’s deeper than learning content about a given topic; it’s a process and approach that frees you, ultimately, to lead in a landscape of unknowns and ambiguities.
Given this “Chicago Approach,” how do you show fit with the program?
• Don’t explain how you pursue inquiry, gain insight, and act on it to achieve desirable impact.
• Do show how you pursue inquiry, gain insight, and act on it to achieve desirable impact.
Anybody can say they do these things. Showing that you do them makes it credible. And, because showing will necessarily involve detail and anecdote, it will also make your application interesting. Finally, because only you will have that specific experience, showing will also differentiate and distinguish you from other applicants, even those from similar geographic, industry, and functional backgrounds.
Keep in mind, your application should show your fit with this Chicago Approach holistically. You don’t have to – indeed shouldn’t – apply it like a formula. Some aspects may emphasize one or the other elements. Here are some practical tips for integrating the Chicago Approach into your application naturally:
• Your resume should identify results, a synonym for impacts. Also, if you discuss research (academic or as part of a work project), you might also weave in a phrase about your insights or findings.
• In your main essay, in selecting and conceptualizing your topic, look for something that centers on and illuminate experiences that reflects the “Chicago Approach.” Build your case with anecdote and example. Each anecdote and example need not reflect the whole cycle of inquiry-insight-impact; they might well reflect one or two of these elements. They key is that the essay overall reflects these elements.
• If your recommenders welcome input, discuss with them this Chicago Approach so that they can select points that will align with it.
In your interview, discuss your fit with the Chicago Approach directly if/when asked why you want to attend Booth. If you are asked about your goals, you might also explain how they necessitate the approach that Chicago employs. Also, find opportunities to weave in examples and stories that reflect elements of the Chicago Approach.
Good luck with Chicago Booth! Having worked with many successful Chicago Booth MBA applicants, I would be glad to help you craft an application that brings out your unique fit with this great program.
Cindy Tokumitsu has advised hundreds of successful applicants, helping them gain acceptance to top MBA and EMBA programs in her 15+ years with Accepted. She would love to help you too. Want Cindy to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!