Booth – An Insider’s Guide
Think of Booth as just a ‘finance school’? Think again. Booth’s marketing and entrepreneurship departments are also fantastic. Marketing is distinguished by its focus on analytics and its recent exclusive partnership with Nielsen. The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship is recognized as a highly influential incubator. These assets and more helped Booth retain the top spot on U.S. News’ latest MBA rankings, as you may have seen earlier this week.
Read on for more insights about Booth that you won’t readily find on the website.
Booth’s main campus for its full time MBA program, the Harper Center, is located 10 miles south of downtown in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. The Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago hosts the part-time program and is available for full-time student use (taking evening classes, holding study group meetings, etc.).
Booth enrolls a sizeable class each year, with 620 full time students in the Class of 2023. Its class profile is comparable to peer schools on many metrics (3.6 average GPA, 729 average GMAT) except that it skews slightly lower on female enrollment at ~40%.
Like many top MBA programs, the application process requires two written essays and two letters of recommendation; it does not (yet) include a video essay component. Interviews are by invitation only and are typically conducted by second year students.
Booth’s tagline is that it is the ‘world’s most flexible MBA program’. There is only one required class called LEAD, which provides students with exposure to leadership and team building concepts. Each student receives candid feedback about his/her first impression, public speaking skills, ability to influence others, and many more essential leadership skills. Cohorts of ~60 take the LEAD Program together (from orientation through week 3 of Q1 classes).
Booth uses “The Chicago Approach” to business education, a theory-based, multidisciplinary framework that aims to teach students how to think as opposed to teaching them direct, rote knowledge.
Popular classes include:
- New Venture Challenge: one of the top accelerator programs in the nation, this is a class combined with a seed funding program. Grubhub and Simple Mills were both started through the NVC.
- Behavioral Economics: Chicago Booth is known for its top Behavioral Economics department (led by Richard Thaler) and this class gives students a real taste. It is structured with 10 different modules, each focusing on a different human bias (and how you can minimize the bias in your own life).
Booth has a lot of teamwork. Almost every class has students grouped into teams (sometimes voluntary, sometimes assigned) and roughly half of the assignments are group assignments. Class participation is usually a component of the grade in each class, but it’s often 10% or less.
Booth has grade nondisclosure, meaning students collectively agree not to share their grades with potential employers. Most students want to do well (B- or above) but are not too focused on grades beyond that. Each class has a 3.0 maximum average GPA, and professors grade on a bell curve (~15% of the class receive As, ~15% of the class receive Cs). The school allows each student to take up to three classes Pass/Fail.
A nuanced difference from many programs is that classes meet once per week for 3 hours, as opposed to twice a week for half that amount of time.
Culture & Student Experience
While not universally true, Booth’s academically rigorous reputation tends to attract students who are interested in the learning aspect of business school and enjoy quantitative thinking.
The culture is collaborative, with a strong pay-it-forward culture. Most recruiting prep is run by second-year students who give countless hours to help the first years. The flexibility of the curriculum allows every class and study group to have different people in it.
Most students live in downtown Chicago and take the Metra train, drive, or use Uber/Lyft to commute to classes in Hyde Park. Over 60% of students live in the Lakeshore East/Millennium Park neighborhood. Roughly 30% live in other Chicago neighborhoods south and north of the Loop (e.g., South Loop, Wicker Park, Lakeview) and the rest live in Hyde Park or the suburbs.
Chicago Booth alumni are very involved in the student experience. Each year, the school hosts a career day, where it invites alumni panelists from all different careers to present information about their job and answer questions from students. The school also invites well-known alumni back to speak about twice a month. A lot of Booth alumni are still in Chicago and are very willing to connect with current students.
Clubs are organized into career clubs, affiliation clubs, and ‘other’ clubs. The most popular career clubs are the Management Consulting Group, Investment Banking Group, Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group. Popular affiliation groups include Chicago Women in Business, Jewish Business Student Association, African American MBA Association, and Muslims in Business. Booth has an AMAZING partners club (and a sub-club for families with children). Partners can take classes on campus and are invited to almost everything.
Most students co-chair at least one club and participate in 2 – 5 other clubs, depending on the time commitment required. Joining a club can cost $20-$200 per year, depending on the club. Most clubs let students join the newsletter to hear about upcoming events for free (and join mid-year if they wish).
Other extracurricular highlights include:
- Booth Follies: a comedy club that puts on multiple shows every year
- Random Walk: pre-MBA trips to help students meet and bond with a few classmates before school starts. There are multiple location options in the US and internationally. There is also a mystery option and an option in Chicago. Random walk is voluntary, but most Boothies (~85%) choose to go.
- Ski trip: trip in the fall where skiers of all skill levels travel to a different location each year to ski and hang around the lodge.
We hope this article provided insight into aspects of the Booth experience you won’t easily find on the school’s website or in the forums. Having a nuanced understanding of what makes each program unique will not only help you decide where to apply (or attend), it will also help you put your best foot forward during the admissions process. Best of luck on your journey. If we can be of assistance, reach out to request an initial consultation.