University of Chicago Adds PowerPoint to Graduate Application

Posted on October 18, 2008 | Filed in Admissions

After a successful pilot, the highly esteemed University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business has officially accepted the PowerPoint presentation as an integral component of their graduate application. In addition to the two traditional essay questions, a mandatory four-slide PowerPoint presentation will be included as a means to better know their prospective students and attract more innovative thinkers to the university. “We wanted to have a freeform space for students to be able to say what they think is important,” Rose Martinelli, associate dean for student recruitment and admissions at the University of Chicago and key admissions officer behind the decision recently expressed in an interview with The Washington Post. “To me this is just four pieces of blank paper. You do what you want. It can be a presentation. It can be poetry. It can be anything.” Although this ambiguity may seem a bit daunting to MBA applicants, Chicago has set the following ground rules:

  • The PowerPoint presentation must be no more than four slides.
  • The presentation must consist of “static” slides, or slides that do not contain hyperlinks or video as each presentation will be printed and added to their application file for review by the admissions committee.
  • A Word document containing notes may be attached to the presentation if an applicant feels a further explanation of his or her slides is necessary.

As to Martinelli’s expectations: “I really don’t know what we’re going to get,” she recently told The Washington Post. However, after reviewing thousands of pilot presentation submissions this past year, Martinelli does know that more conservative slideshows did not fair as well. With only four slides given, a nebulous question and the desire to stand out, it may seem instinctual for applicants to immerse themselves in constructing the visual aspects of the presentation first. However, an applicant’s first focus should be finding something distinctive about themselves that would be beneficial for the Chicago admissions committee to know and was not previously addressed in earlier essays. Only after securing a sound topic should applicants “get creative” with their presentations through the use of strong pictures, legible fonts, and colors. In addition, applicants should also bear in mind that their projects will be printed out before they are judged by the admissions committee. “You could tell when someone figured out how to work with the ambiguity and really embraced that,” Martinelli told BusinessWeek, favoring the applicants who weren’t “going to play it safe and regurgitate what is in my application already.”

Martinelli later conceded to BusinessWeek that the university may “put some further context or shape around it [the PowerPoint presentation],” but for now, the former guidelines and restrictions (and ambiguity) will apply.

Below is the actual PowerPoint question you can find the Chicago GSB application.

Chicago GSB PowerPoint Presentation

We have asked for a great deal of information throughout this application and now invite you tell us about yourself. Using four slides or less, please provide readers with content that captures who you are.

We have set forth the following guidelines for you to consider when creating your presentation.

The content is completely up to you. There is no right or wrong approach this essay. Feel free to use the software you are most comfortable with. Acceptable formats for upload in the online application system are PowerPoint or PDF.

There is a strict maximum of 4 slides, though you can provide fewer than 4 if you choose.

Slides will be printed and added to your file for review, therefore, flash, hyperlinks, embedded videos, music, etc. will not be viewed by the committee. You are limited to text and static images to convey your points. Color may be used.

Slides will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.

You are welcome to attach a document containing notes if you feel a deeper explanation of your slides is necessary. However the hope is the slide is able to stand alone and convey your ideas clearly. You will not be penalized for adding notes but you should not construct a slide with the intention of using the notes section as a consistent means of explanation.

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