Three Misconceptions about the Chicago Booth School of Business

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The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is one of the top MBA programs in the world, boasting several Nobel laureates and holding a spot among the elite “M7” schools. Yet despite Booth’s strong reputation, many applicants are often surprised when they investigate its MBA program. Here are three common misconceptions about Chicago Booth…

1. It is not just a finance school. 

Chicago Booth has become synonymous with finance. Its reputation in this space is undoubtedly well deserved; Booth’s finance faculty members, which include Nobel winner Eugene Fama and Fischer Black Prize winner Raghuram Rajan, have made significant contributions to the field of finance. Booth itself even claims on its site, “There is no better business school in the world to study finance than Booth.” But does that mean Booth should be known only for finance? We always recommend that applicants investigate for themselves the career outcomes and resources available. Looking at Booth’s employment report, you will find that 32.6% of its most recent class (Class of 2023) entered the financial services industry. That means that approximately two-thirds of the class accepted positions in industries such as consulting, technology, health care, consumer products, and real estate. In fact, consulting is so popular that 38.6% of the Class of 2023 (more than 190 Booth graduates) accepted consulting jobs, making the school one of the top programs for consulting placements. 

Another popular and sometimes overlooked focus at Booth is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is the most popular concentration at Booth, which makes sense given the school’s experiential lab courses and the robust resources offered by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The Startup Summer program offers incoming students the chance to work for a Booth-led start-up the summer before they start their MBA courses. And the school’s popular New Venture Challenge is a top start-up accelerator, helping launch more than 370 start-up companies over the past two decades. 

What is the takeaway here? Booth should undoubtedly be on your list if you are interested in finance, but if not, definitely do not count Booth out. It is more than just a finance school.

2. Flexibility means freedom to explore. 

Booth has also earned a reputation as the most flexible business school, with only one required course that everyone takes (called LEAD). Indeed, Booth students have more freedom than students at other programs do in that they are not required to pick a concentration (though most do), and they can choose their courses, electives, and professors right away in the first quarter. You can design your course load to match your recruiting timeline. And you can even take up to six courses outside Booth at other University of Chicago schools. 

Most find this flexibility empowering as they challenge themselves beyond classes in subjects they already know well or mix and match courses tailored to their needs as career changers. However, this reputation for flexibility can be misleading. Booth’s curriculum has more structure than many expect. For example, in the full-time MBA program, students must choose one course from three foundation areas—Financial Accounting, Microeconomics, and Statistics—and at least one course from seven of eight categories, which include Marketing, Decisions, Society, and Strategy. But what is different about Booth is that within these areas, students can opt for the basic course, such as “Business Statistics,” or a more challenging one to satisfy their foundational requirements, such as “Machine Learning” or “Data Mining.” Rest assured that Booth has track suggestions, career advising resources, and second-year students to guide you.

Perhaps where most applicants misjudge Booth is thinking that flexibility applies only to course selection, when in fact, it extends to the entire Booth experience: which student clubs you join, the teams you form, where you live, and so on. The school does not assign you to a learning team to collaborate with a preselected group of fellow students, you do not take multiple classes with the same cohort of students, and you are not required to live on campus. Booth truly supports the freedom of each individual student to make their own choices and believes that this freedom best prepares students to navigate future ambiguity and complexity. 

What is the takeaway here? Flexibility is core to Booth, but this does not mean you will miss out on opportunities or have zero guidance or support. Think of flexibility as more opportunity to explore.

3. The community is cohesive but not always on campus.

As mentioned earlier, Booth does not dictate where students live. Although the campus is located in a diverse neighborhood called Hyde Park, just south of downtown Chicago, most students opt to live in Chicago’s vibrant downtown, in an area known as “The Loop.” In fact, a recent student shared that most students live in one of three apartment buildings right next to each other. This off-campus proximity creates an incredible social scene, with regular dinners at Chicago’s many eateries and popular weekly “TNDC” (Thursday Night Drinking Club) events at local bars. In addition, Booth students who live in The Loop have an easy train ride down to Hyde Park and enjoy all the benefits of urban living, with modern apartments and easy access to restaurants, shopping, museums, and Chicago landmarks. 

When students are on campus, everything at Booth is housed within one building, the Charles M. Harper Center. The heart of the Harper Center is the Rothman Winter Garden. This six-story atrium serves as a gathering space for events and a common area for students, faculty, and staff to connect throughout the day. Fun fact: the Harper Center also houses an impressive contemporary art collection of 500 works by more than 120 global artists. 

While Booth students are free to choose from a wide variety of student clubs and activities, the school facilitates regular social interaction through weekly events for all types of students and lifestyles. Further afield, Boothies (yes, they call themselves that) rave about the two annual ski trips and student-organized Random Walk trips abroad. 

What is the takeaway here? Booth’s community is not fully centralized on campus, but the school and students still cultivate a thriving social scene. At Booth, you will not find a completely campus-centric culture like you will at its neighbor Northwestern Kellogg, nor does Booth have a dispersed metropolitan culture like that of Columbia Business School. 

Between the career opportunities, curriculum, and community, Booth offers a plethora of chances to explore. So, you must ask yourself, Will you relish in those choices or feel daunted by them?

I hope this post has given you a better understanding of Booth. For even more in-depth information on the school, download a free copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Booth School of Business or watch our video on How to Get into the Chicago Booth School of Business.

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