- The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is ranked No. 3 for MBA programs in the country by US News & World Report and No. 8 in the world according to education specialists Quacquarelli Symonds.
- Delano Saporu graduated from Booth in 2018, and credits his personal essay for helping him stand out and land a spot in their MBA program.
- Saporu shared with Business Insider the exact, unedited essay he wrote in 2016.
- In addition, he advised candidates to do their research and talk to alumni before writing, and get someone to review their work to make their essay shine.
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The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business was one of just two MBA programs in the US to avoid an applications downturn in 2019. Poets & Quants reported this month that this fact “allowed the school to do something most other elite schools couldn’t: lower its acceptance rate.” Only 22.5% of applicants to Booth’s program got admitted to its MBA program in 2019 — which is ranked No. 3 for MBA programs in the country by US News & World Report and No. 8 in the world according to education specialists Quacquarelli Symonds’ 2020 Global MBA ranking.
And these odds are quite similar to those that Delano Saporu faced when he applied to Booth in 2016 (a 23% acceptance rate, according to Poets & Quants).
Saporu beat the odds and got in, graduating with his MBA in June 2018. One major factor that he pointed to as having “played a large part” in greasing the wheels to receive that coveted acceptance letter was writing a strong personal essay, which he has shared below, in its entirety, exclusively with Business Insider.
“I think the biggest thing that helped me gain acceptance was being authentic [in my essay] as well as providing a realistic story for next steps in [my] career,” Saporu told Business Insider.
He didn’t take the process lightly. “Essays are essential to really frame your story for the admissions committee about who you really are and what you know about the program. Really doing introspection and putting it all on the page is important,” said Saporu, who today is a founder and financial advisor at New Street Advisors Group, a newly launched financial advising firm based in New York City that has partnered with Charles Schwab as the custodian for client assets.
Saporu admitted that he was “conflicted at first” about what to write for this critical part of his MBA application.
“I wanted to cram all my thoughts into one essay, especially because this was my dream school,” he recalled.
But after toying with “many iterations,” he finally settled on conveying three main points:
- What he “was about” and what motivated him
- Why he really wanted to attend Booth
- What he planned to do with his acceptance
When crafting his personal essay, Saporu remembered feeling “anxious … and excited” because Booth was his top choice school, and he was determined to put his best foot forward.
“I knew the essay was a huge part of my admissions package, so I was as open and honest as possible,” he said. “I was also humble but honest about my ambitious aspirations.”
Saporu recalled that the toughest part of the entire essay process was “just starting.”
“When you have so much on your mind and so much riding on one essay, you tend to overthink everything,” he said. “It’s great that they have a deadline because it makes you get going! Once I was able to let the thoughts flow, it was easier to organize them into a coherent essay.”
Saporu advised applicants looking to get into any competitive MBA program to do some research before starting the essays to learn as much as possible about the school from people who already know the program well.
“A lot of applicants will have great profiles and stats, but what do they plan to do with the degree? What can they add to the community? How interested are they in [the] school and how much research did they do? The essay is a great way for applicants to ,” Saporu suggested.
To that end, he recommended that applicants talk to as many alumni and current students as they can to get a sense of the school’s culture and other insider details that aren’t on the school’s website, so that they can weave these insights into their personal essays.
Saporu also mentioned the importance of coaching and fellowships for extra support during the application process — including essay review — which he received from Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a minority fellowship aimed at helping prospects gain admittance into top MBA programs.
“For [MBA] hopefuls, it is important to get as active as possible with groups, fellowships, and events that help bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be,” said Saporu. “It helps materialize the dream.”
Booth’s 2019 – 2020 essay topics, which the school refers to as “Application Questions,” are available on the business school’s website. These require applicants to answer two questions in essay format with a 250-word minimum word count, entering their answers directly into a textbox provided in the online application. (There is also an additional optional question with a 300-word maximum word count.)
But the essay topic for prospects who were seeking to enroll in 2016 — the year that Saporu applied — gave students “a great deal of latitude,” Clear Admit reported in 2015, in how they might choose to respond to the prompt.
As showcased on the Booth website, the prompt stated:
“Chicago Booth values individuality because of what we can learn from the diverse experiences and perspectives of others. This mutual respect creates an open-minded community that supports curiosity, inspires us to think more broadly, take risks, and challenge assumptions. At Booth, community is about collaborative thinking and tapping into each other’s different viewpoints to cultivate new ideas and realize breakthrough moments every day.”
After reading the above statement, applicants were then asked to choose from a gallery of 16 photo options and then use the essay format to tell the admissions committee “how it resonates with [their] own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for [them].”
Applicants were empowered to “choose the format that works for [them],” whether a traditional essay, slide presentation, or other format. Candidates could also select their own length for their essay or presentation, with no required minimum or maximum length, though the admissions committee did “recommend that [applicants] think strategically about how to best allocate the space.”
Out of all of these possibilities for approach, length, and format, Saporu honed in on Photo 1 in the gallery. Here, unedited, is the personal essay that he submitted that helped him gain admission to Booth’s MBA program:
Community is the one word that comes to mind when viewing this photo. A Community [sic] can be a myriad of different things but as Mr. Eddie Pulliam eloquently described a community is what you make it. Looking back at my past experiences that concept rings distinctly true and is the reason why I know Booth is the right community for me.
A community can fuel your passion. With the turn of the markets in 2009, I saw my father, owner of his own law firm, struggle financially as clients stopped coming in. The great recession coupled with my mothers [sic] ailing health proved to be trying times. Yet, it wasn’t the struggle that became my moment of clarity but the reasoning behind it. Here was my father, a well-educated man with multiple graduate degrees admitting to me that he knew very little about finance and this attributed to the rough patch. It was then that my short term and long term career visions came into focus. This experience taught me how to solve problems and stay focused on your aspirations.
A community can leave you wanting. This describes my feelings near the end of my tenure at the University of North Dakota. A new head coach and two consecutive season ending injuries on the football field left me feeling isolated from a community that had brought me so much joy playing the sport I loved. I no longer felt value and with my isolation other areas of my life suffered including academics. Although it was a hard decision I ultimately felt it best to leave and start fresh at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. There I revived and refocused and finished my athletic and academic career strong. This experience taught me to stay determined and look for the silver lining.
A community can be a sense of pride. Similar to the pride I felt when Jacob McDonald, the first recipient of the scholarship I created, thanked me and the rest of the board in our monthly meeting. It was not only his appreciation for what we did for his family that made me feel a sense of accomplishment but the sustained effect I knew we would have on the community. I implemented the scholarship with intentions of rewarding leadership potential, sportsmanship, and servitude. I learned the value of positive reinforcement in youth within your community.
I have been fortunate to interact with many students and representatives on campus. Through these conversations I have identified values and characteristics specific to the Booth community. Learning in a collaborative culture where diverse perspectives and experiences are valued is an important part of my business school experience. Central themes of challenging assumptions, thinking critically and sharing perspectives are entrenched within the Booth Community [sic]. I saw this play out first had [sic] during Professor Sanjay Dhar’s lecture during Booth Live. The booth [sic] community upholds a flexibility with only one required course, [sic] I can immediately take a course such as Portfolio Management. [sic] In this class I will absorb crucial skills and investment strategies paramount to my long term career goal of leading my own investment firm. While learning from a world class faculty I can bring a unique perspective as a former athlete transitioning into a career in financial services [sic] The Booth community has a reputable brand that will undoubtable [sic] allow me to make my career change. . [sic]
As a lifelong Midwesterner, there is no greater city than Chicago. I have yearned to live in Chicago since I first visited the Mercantile Exchange located right on Wacker Drive. Outside of the classroom I will have the opportunity to network with my peers in student run organizations such [sic] the basketball club. Through the experiences and relationships I will form in the booth [sic] community, I will be better prepared to be an agent of change upon matriculation into the workforce. I will take my experiences at Booth and apply them to become an effective business leader.