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Originally published July 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 31, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Business school makes PowerPoint a prerequisite

At business meetings the world over, PowerPoint-style presentations are often met with yawns and glazed eyes. But at one of the world's...

The Associated Press

At business meetings the world over, PowerPoint-style presentations are often met with yawns and glazed eyes.

But at one of the world's top business schools, such slide shows are now an entrance requirement. In a first, the University of Chicago will begin requiring prospective students to submit four pages of PowerPointlike slides with their applications this fall.

The new requirement is partly an acknowledgment that Microsoft's PowerPoint, along with similar but lesser-known programs, has become a ubiquitous tool in the business world. But Chicago says so-called "slideware," if used correctly, also can let students show off a creative side that might not reveal itself in test scores, recommendations and even essays.

By adding PowerPoint to its application, Chicago thinks it might attract more students who have the kind of cleverness that can really pay off in business, and fewer of the technocrat types who sometimes give the program a bad name.

"We wanted to have a free-form space for students to be able to say what they think is important, not always having the school run that dialogue," said Rose Martinelli, associate dean for student recruitment and admissions.

Online applications are already the norm, and it's not uncommon for colleges to let students submit extra materials such as artwork. Undergraduate and graduate applications also are beginning to ask for more creative and open-ended essays.

Partly that's to better identify the students with a creative spark. Partly it's to fend off the boredom of reading thousands of grinding, repetitive responses to "Why is University X right for you?"

But asking for four electronic slides appears to be a new idea.

Chicago's new requirement may provoke groans from some quarters. It could be called corporate America's final surrender to a technology that, in the name of promoting the flow of information, often gums it up by encouraging bureaucratic jargon and making colorful but useless graphics just a little too easy to produce.

Nonetheless, PowerPoint has become the lingua franca of business meetings worldwide. Its 500 million copies are used (or misused) in 30 million presentations per day, Microsoft has estimated.

Technology isn't a hurdle for most University of Chicago applicants, but "other schools might have to think about that," said Nicole Chestang, chief client officer for the Graduate Management Admission Council, a worldwide group of management programs that oversees the GMAT entrance exam.

It's also business schools that traditionally have the most boring essays, focusing on workplace accomplishments rather than passions or unusual talents, but which are increasingly interested in creativity.

Michael Avidan, a second-year Chicago MBA student, predicts some applicants will be turned off by the requirement but says it's an opportunity for clever students whose test scores and other application materials might not stand out to shine.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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