Chicago Booth and NYU Stern are among the business schools that invite applicants to take a visual approach to presenting who they are to the admissions committee.
In Stern’s case, a written/test-based or five-minute audio or video presentation may be submitted, but for both schools PowerPoint or slide-based essays are a common response.
The best PowerPoint or slide-based essays are those that focus on some distinctive aspect of the applicant’s life not elsewhere discussed, and then find some creative (as opposed to gimmicky) way to link each slide through a governing metaphor. A pronounced emphasis on images, with text used primarily for page titles and captions, and an ability to create a sense of an unfolding visual story from slide to slide also works well. Don’t surrender to Booth’s invitation to support your PowerPoint with text. If your slides don’t stand on their own, they’re not strong enough.
And, as always, be strategic. Since PowerPoint slides can be used in deciding close-call cases between similar applicants use them to work against type:
• if your career is or will be in finance steer clear of the charts, text, and timelines showing career progression (let all your IB competitors work that cliché)
• if your career is or will be marketing avoid the “I’m a brand” gymnastics that your rivals will trot out—focus instead on some substantive hobby or activity (perhaps one that your bolsters the analytical, quant, or leadership parts of your profile).
Don’t get so caught up in finding snazzy visuals or devising a creative metaphor to unify your essay that you forget the essay’s purpose: to introduce yourself truthfully to the school and your classmates.