Booth Is a Good Fit for You If…
You’re a quant. The wealth of expertise at Chicago Booth puts it among the top three choices of most candidates interested in finance; the school’s data-driven approach extends across the curriculum into areas like marketing and entrepreneurship.
You fall on either side of the work experience distribution. Chicago Booth has been known to be somewhat more open to younger applicants, though not generally those coming straight from university. The Chicago Booth admissions office states that usually one and a half or two years in the workforce is recommended before you’ll be ready for the MBA experience. (The only exception to this policy is the Chicago Booth Scholars Program, in which undergraduates from the College at the University of Chicago may apply in their senior year. Much like the 2+2 program at HBS, Booth Scholars are granted a two- to three-year deferment before starting the MBA program.) On the other hand, Chicago Booth also tends to be open to “more experienced” (i.e., older) applicants; it’s not unheard of for a class to have a number of students with more than six years of experience.
You want to stay in the Midwest. The majority of top American MBA programs are on the coasts. Chicago Booth is one of two top-10 schools in the middle of the country (along with its cross-town rival, Kellogg). If you don’t mind the cold—and the wind—Chicago is a dynamic city with plenty of urban attractions and diversions to occupy you when you’re not in class. (And in all honesty, the weather really isn’t worse than most major cities in the Northeast.) Most recruiters who come to Chicago Booth also go to the other top schools on the coasts, but if you plan to stay in the Midwest after business school, then Chicago Booth is an obvious choice. In fact, almost a third of the Class of 2015 stayed in the Midwest.
You know what you want to do, and you’re a self-starter ready to design your own education. The amount of flexibility in the Chicago Booth curriculum is truly unprecedented, which is great for someone who is ready to hit the ground running. However, this can be a bit of a double-edged sword for those students with a less-clear direction on their future goals. It is unfortunately possible to experiment your way all the way through Chicago Booth and end up without the strongest career options when you graduate, due simply to a lack of focus. And if you anticipate needing a lot of hand-holding during business school, Chicago Booth might not be the best choice for you.
You’re a career changer. The freedom of curriculum design at Chicago Booth means that career changers can target their first-year experience to gain not just the standard MBA skills of economics, statistics, and finance, but also begin to develop the specialized training they will need for their post-MBA career—before their internship. At Chicago Booth, a well-planned first-year program can potentially result in a more meaningful summer internship experience and dramatically accelerate your progress in your new field, making you more attractive when you compete against candidates from other programs.
You appreciate fewer students in the classroom. Although its graduating class is at the upper end of the range of business school programs, at more than 580 full-time students, the actual class size at Chicago Booth tends to be a little smaller than at other schools, particularly in the core classes. This is because of that flexible curriculum again: Instead of being assigned to a cluster that might be up to 90 students (the extreme end, at HBS) and at least 65 (the average at Kellogg, Columbia, and Wharton), Chicago Booth first-years choose how to satisfy their core requirements from a variety of options. The incoming class naturally scatters out to pursue the core subjects at their appropriate level of difficulty, resulting in fewer than 60 students per class. Electives at Chicago Booth generally have fewer than 50 students. You might still get “lost in the crowd” given how large Chicago Booth is overall, but the classroom experience might be marginally less intimidating with fewer people in the room.