Chicago’s Booth vs. Northwestern’s Kellogg School

by John A. Byrne on

The central piazza of the new Harper Center at Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Photo by John A. Byrne

Outside of Boston, which can boast Harvard and MIT, there’s pretty much only one other major city in the world that can lay claim to a pair of world-class graduate schools of business: Chicago. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business are close to each other in several respects. Their full-time MBA enrollments are roughly the same size, while they both offer sizable part-time and EMBA programs as well. Both schools also frequently rank rank near each other in some of the most influential rankings. On the other hand, these are two vastly different schools in their approach to business education. Historically, Chicago has been a quant school that has placed nearly half of its graduates in finance jobs. Kellogg is a general management school, with a strong reputation for marketing. These two schools are highly competitive with each other. When Kellogg MBAs won a Real Estate Challenge competition against their Booth counterparts in June of 2010, Kellogg actually issued a press release on the victory, noting that Kellogg had beaten Booth for the second year in a row. One other similarity? Both schools have new deans. Kellogg is now led by Sally Blount, who had been dean of New York University’s undergraduate business program, while Booth’s new leader is  Sunil Kumar, who had been an operations professor and associate dean for academic affairs at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. In some ways, Kumar has the tougher job because he has taken over from a highly popular dean in Ted Snyder who championed more progress at Chicago than any leader in recent memory.

The most dramatic differences between these two MBA educational giants?

Geography: You’d think that the University of Chicago would be in the center of Chicago. It isn’t. It’s in Hyde Park, about a 20-minute train ride to the edge of Chicago’s downtown. Public transporation isn’t ideal, and a crime-infested neighborhood separates the campus from downtown Chicago. Nonetheless, Hyde Park–where President Obama used to live–is a pretty and relatively comfortable place. Kellogg is in Evanston, Ill., about a 30-minute train ride into the heart of Chicago. It has the look and feel of a typical university town such as Ann Arbor, Mich., or Madison, Wis. In either case, you have immediate and quick access to one of America’s greatest cities. As the third largest city in America, Chicago is an exciting place to be, with a thriving music scene, first-class restaurants and bars, and awesome cultural attractions, including the world’s second largest art museum, the Art Institute. It’s a gorgeous place, with 31 miles of lakefront, including nearly 19 miles of bike paths and 33 beaches. The one very big downside: the winters can be absolutely brutal.

Size: Chicago and Northwestern have the largest MBA programs in the world. Chicago has a full-time MBA enrollment of 1,185 students, while Kellogg is slighly larger, with 1,241. At either place, there’s a lot going on, from part-time MBA and Executive MBA programs to significant executive education programming. Indeed, Chicago has more part-time students (1,700) than it has full-time students. Chicago, in fact, offers five full-time and part-time MBA programs, including EMBA programs in Chicago, London, and Singapore, as well as evening MBA and weekend MBA programs in downtown Chicago at its Gleacher Center. Then, there’s a PhD program with about 130 students. Kellogg’s offerings are just as broad: With 1,100 part-time MBA students, the school has both week night and Saturday part-time programs in Wiebolt Hall in downtown Chicago as well as Evanston, along with three different EMBAs, including a program in Miami, Fla., and an equally large PhD program. What all this means is that at both Chicago and Kellogg the faculty is spread awfully thin because it’s stretched across all of these obligations.

Kellogg’s Don Jacobs Center at Northwestern University. Photo by John A. Byrne

Culture: For years, Chicago was known as a haven of sorts for quant jocks. By and large, the finance geeks dominated the student culture, while a formidable and highly acclaimed faculty ruled the academic roost. “It’s not that Chicago is all about finance and numbers,” says Sarah McGinty, a member of the Class of 2010. “It’s about thinking quantitatively, not being quantitative.” Departing Dean Ted Snyder has noted that the faculty culture “collided” with the MBA culture. The result: a great business school noted for its academic rigor (six present and former Nobel Prize winners) and some of the most distinguished professors in the business but little sense of true community. Some of this has changed somewhat over the years, particularly with the opening of the Harper Center. But the school purposely lacks core cohort groups and has no residence halls for its MBAs, factors that make it harder for real community to occur. Some Chicago students say the school still lacks the camaraderie you’ll find at many other b-schools, especially Kellogg, and that some students graduate from Chicago with only a handful of people they would call friends. Kellogg, on the other hand, has a strong student culture of involvement and collaboration. Despite its much larger size, Kellogg has managed to create a smart and down-to-earth community that is nearly as close-knit as Stanford or Dartmouth. There are many reasons for this difference but probably the most influential one is the fact that Kellogg interviews every single applicant. The result: the interpersonnel skills of Kellogg students are extremely high and get greater attention here than Chicago or many other schools. Put highly intelligent, yet friendly and outgoing people together, and you’re going to get a strong culture that approximates a sense of family. It was and still is a big part of the secret of Kellogg’s success (See profile on and video interview of legendary Kellogg Dean Don Jacobs for more insight into the interview policy). Corporate recruiters and MBA admission consultants generally say Kellogg grads are simply “nice,” certainly among the most open, accessible and damn pleasant MBA students in the world.

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  • Questioning

    Correcting the mistake in the name…

  • MBAer

     I would avoid calling the school “Kellogg’s” in your app, as that’s a cereal brand :)

  • Undecided

    Great article! I did not see P&G listed for hiring at either school. Can anyone tell me which MBA school has the best relationship with P&G; highest recruiting? I assume Kellogg, but just want to check. Thank you for your response.

  • kk

    Can someone shed light on the Booth EMBA in Singapore? I am interested in this program. Is there value in doing this? Will there be learning? And does the alumni network make it worth its while?

  • Keg

    @jbyrne:disqus Hi John,  As a current Kellogg student, Most of what the article says is true, but I wish to emphasis one big change that has happened in Kellogg.  Kellogg is more likely a ‘Strategy’ school as it is known for ‘Marketing’. This is the lesser known truth. Reasons 1) Most students go into Management Consulting or Corporate strategy or Strategy management programs than going to Marketing roles or in comparison with any other top schoolBCG, Mckinsey, Bain and Booth have almost have permanent stall at the school during the recruiting periods!2) Most students get a Strategy major than a marketing major (stats)3) The faculties are as stellar in Strategy department as the Marketing department and more faculty including the dean Sally have a strategy consulting background.4) Even in the non-profit arena Kellogg students help non profits in their strategic decision making with programs like  Kellogg Board fellows and have also known to have won major case competitions.

    Kellogg is no more just a number 1 marketing school but also a number 1 strategy school.

  • Aaron_mow

    I suppose he is right, even considering the number of alumni in consulting and strategy related backgrounds (checked via Linkedin) Kellogg seems to have the most number in Strategy related fields (includes corporatestrategy, M&A etc)

  • Jk_doin

    I agree Kellogg has a large number of students going to Consulting and Strategy related career, but is the % higher than Harvard, Stanford and Tuck?  @673a8c4b06d41b4b016f18bcd8bb8e31:disqus  Can you please clarify this.. which is the number one ‘Strategy’ school.. Lets leave the general management part here, which I am sure Harvard leads…

  • Ha

    I’d actually say INSEAD beats kellogg as a general management/ strategy school and in their grauate placement in consulting etc.

  • JohnAByrne

    Sure. I can clarify. There is no U.S. school that sends more MBAs into consulting than Kellogg. Last year, for the Class of 2011, 39% of Kellogg’s grads went into consulting, versus 24% at Harvard, 27% at Stanford, 29% at Wharton, and 33% at Tuck. INSEAD and Kellogg last year were tied at 39%. 

  • JohnAByrne


    As the stats cited above show, you are wrong.

  • Ha


    Kellogg sent 34% while INSEAD sent 39% to consulting. So I think I am correct. Not wrong.

  • JohnAByrne

    That is NOT what the 2011 employment reports for Kellogg and INSEAD show. And many of INSEAD’s consultants were already consultants going to INSEAD to get their ticket punched in a year. So they are in and out and back to their same respective firms as sponsored MBAs.

  • Ha

    That indeed is what the 2011 employment reports show (check here:  and here: ). I checked it twice for both schools. And INSEAD accepts ~500 students in each intake while Kellogg accepts ~484 in their yearly intake. Let’s take McKinsey for example. 

    INSEAD sent 107 to McKinsey, 61 to BCG and 52 to Bain. Excluding previous employers, INSEAD still sent 57 to M, 43 to BCG and 29 to Bain, which totals 129 to MBB. Dividing this number in half still gives ~65 per intake, which is phenomenal. That’s 13% in MBB placement for pure career/job changers from INSEAD. 

    Kellogg or any other US bschools do not even show who are going back. So your argument lacks any merit.

  • Ha

    I meant 37%, NOT 34%. Correction on my end.

  • Rustic_manu

    Ha, I think overall John is right.. Kellogg seems to be the number one Strategy school..
    lets leave General management/leadership positions..I dint goto either of the schools 
    1) if you include consulting and roles like corporate Strategy, Product strategy(tech – Prod planning/Prod managent), marketing strategy.  Kellogg clearly has the highest student going to Strategy.
    2) The number of alumni in Strategy including Consulting for over the years is much higher in Kellogg (used Linkedin search results)But for sure this John Statement is absolutely true “There is no U.S. school that sends more MBAs into consulting than Kellogg”  as INSEAD is European. 

  • MBAaspirant2015

    Guys I cant believe the “Number 1 Strategy School in US” is Kellogg..
    I always thought it was HBS or Stanford. 
    My dream place is McKinsey, I dint even have Kellogg in my applying list, sorry for just taking the word out there.. that Kellogg is marketing.
    How did a Marketing school become the best Strategy school in US?
    – John seems we need an article on this? Please break the myth for us applicants!

  • USMBA_guy

    hmm! I am an MBA applicant as well. This is an interesting conversation. The cliche is Kellogg is marketing, but number one is Strategy seems a new thing. 

     @JohnAByrne:disqus  Like to know if  “how Kellogg achieved this number one strategy” would be great.1) How many students go there to Strategy roles2) Their Strategy faculty strength 3) How come Kellogg is able to send so many students to consulting, what is the culture there?4) Do they have the most alumni in strategy?

    Overall Booth ranking seems higher, but for my preference in consulting roles I think Kellogg would be my way.

  • Rmgrad_2013

    I would say Kellogg is getting a notch better in recent times than Tuck, especially in areas like Consulting/General management, Marketing and Tech 

  • Ronety_jack

    Hands down Kellogg!, one thing Kellogg should do is to give more scholarships. which i think is one of the main reasons some of my friends took Booth over Kellogg!

  • HVSs

    The truth is that Kellogg has been strong in strategy/consulting for a long time. I think the biased view of HBS and Stanford being the no. 1 strategy school comes from HBS/Stanford’s unbeatable brand and reputation. Also, Kellogg being so strong in marketing must have overshadowed its prowess in strategy/consulting. Check out last year’s employment report. Kellogg’s no. on how many students the school sent to McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and other top consulting firms is eye popping. 

  • MBA13

     you might want to start with getting the name of the school right.

  • Chris

    Hi John,

    Thank you for the article and insight.

    I’ve been putting together round 1 applications for both schools and [not put the cart before the horse] it has been hard for me to decipher which program is a better fit. On one hand, I would enjoy a quantitatively challenging curriculum coming from an engineering background, but, on the other hand I am innately social and building relationships is one of my, if not my top, strength.

    Hopefully, I will be fortunate enough in December to get to make a choice.

  • mobiuschi

    Thanks for mentioning point #3. The author must think, black people = crime.

  • Joe

    Kellog’s. LOL

  • CurrentBoothie


    Since you’ve left this comparison on the front page for a good amount of time now, any chance you can update it to reflect the latest rankings? For instance, USN ranks Booth well above Kellogg in Entrepreneurship, Economist ranks Booth #1 overall (not #4 as listed), Forbes ranks Booth #3 (not #4), FT ranks Booth #6 (not #9).

    I’d also have to echo the sentiments of a number of other readers below that I don’t think you’ve accurately characterized the Booth experience.

    It absolutely baffles me that you would try to make the case that our location in the city of Chicago is somehow a disadvantage. Sure, we don’t live in dorms on campus. But if you as a 20-something had the choice of living in a quiet academic, very family-oriented neighborhood vs. in a luxury high-rise or in an awesome row house in one of the world’s most thriving cities would you? As noted in previous posts, a large majority of students live within 5-10 minutes of each other in the loop/river north, and some others live in Lincoln Park/Wicker Park (both very cool, trendy neighborhoods). You give Wharton the courtesy of mentioning that most students live downtown and could at least do the same for us. The Metra stop is located right across the street or accessible in the pedway from most of our apartments and drops us right on campus, otherwise the buses are perfectly safe. Either 600+ Boothies are recklessly endangering their lives on a daily basis, or you’re exaggerating the risks here.

    We live downtown because 1) It’s more fun – Chicago is an incredible city 2) the accommodations are nicer 3) It gives us much easier access to the major firms that recruit on campus for coffee-chats, networking events, etc. which almost always happen at a restaurant downtown, and 4) We’re a short walk from the downtown Gleacher campus (which I don’t think is mentioned at all in this article, and is where we hold a ton of study group meetings and all evening classes). While I agree that Kellogg is in a perfectly beautiful and nice suburban/college town (and that’s great for some people), it is a full hour on the train from downtown if you’ve ever done the trip (or take the time to check it on google maps), and I don’t think it’s fair to tell prospective students that if they go to Kellogg they’ll have equal access to the city of Chicago as one would at Booth.

    As far as the Booth culture, you appear to have completely missed the point. I will happily admit that Booth is not the place to go if you want to have your social calendar planned out for you from day one. That’s simply not how we do things at Booth – we don’t like being told
    what to do. While we do have a cohort system (we spend 10 fairly intense weeks at the start of school with them through LEAD), we choose to give people the opportunity to meet a broader set of people with similar academic and career interests in their classes, and then use non-academic opportunities to build those relationships further. It’s a bit of a cop-out to use your “some students say…” line as a way to bash something you don’t understand. Some people also say that Elvis is alive, but most people wouldn’t put that in print without verifying first.

    The fact is that most real friendships in business school come from the things you
    do outside of class. We have tons of opportunities for travel (2/3 of the class goes on random walks first year and an additional 100 or so lead them second year, 200+ people are going on ski trip this year, we took 100+ boothies to cabo for spring break last year, others went sailing in the BVIs, and the list goes on), student groups (epicurean/wine
    club, cultural group, or graduate business council events) social events in Chicago (restaurants, blues clubs, bars), TNDC (Thursday Night Drinking Club, which holds a very special place in the hearts of most Boothies), and any other number of other events. Add on people that you meet through recruiting, case competitions, entrepreneurial pursuits, and you have the opportunity customize the experience to create any number of ways to meet some of the most fun, outgoing, down-to-earth, collaborative people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering.

    It’s poor journalism to focus so myopically on a few elements of the business school experience and claim that because someone does it differently, it’s bad. It’s just different and that’s how we like it at Booth.

  • tofu

    Umm – NYC – Stern and Columbia?

  • Kellogg Connected

    I’m surprised the latest info for hiring companies was 2009. As the economy was still recovering at this point in time, I would probably take the hiring information with some skepticism as for instance, for 2012 graduates, I know some of the numbers for Kellogg/Booth hires has pretty much inversed – i.e. United Airlines – 1 Booth graduate, 5 Kellogg graduates.

  • Naufil Mulla

    Can’t go wrong with either school…

  • avivalasvegas

    Your comment highlights why Booth grads are generally considered avoidable by every industry that doesn’t involve financial analytics. Trashing P&Q for a fair and balanced article that actually praises Booth in parts, shows that you’re not different…you’re deficient.

  • Bob Marley

    Actually, his comments highlight the fact that the Booth community is like a family. If you wouldn’t defend your family you’re the one who’s deficient.

  • avivalasvegas

    Who would’ve thought the words Booth and family could go together? I suppose the next thing you’re going to claim is that Booth is a collaborative culture?

  • Bob Marley

    They do, and it is [has].

  • lol

    FYI some Kellogg stats

    90+% of students go on KWEST (random walk)

    1000 students go on ski trip

    and Kellogg consistently dominates participation in events with both schools (battle of the bands, running of the bulls), which is confirmed by people at Booth as well.

    I think when you’re talking about fun, outgoing, down-to-earth, collaborative people, you have the schools mixed up

  • Steinman

    its all as valid and credible as selling Justin Bieber as a musician and an artiste.

  • morning_in_america

    neither in same league

  • morning_in_america

    The strategy emphasis at Kellogg goes way back, was already there when I attended in the 80s. First quarter included a strategy course, so that as you studied the rest of the core curriculum you fit in the specialties into the overall picture. Much different from other B-schools at the time who saved it for the end of the first year as a summary.

  • IlliniProgrammer

    I really think the comparison is Chicago vs. Wharton and Northwestern vs. Columbia.
    Northwestern clearly deserves to be an M7 school, but I think the gap between Northwestern and Chicago is bigger than the gap between Chicago and Wharton. Both schools are also more tailored towards finance.

    Kellogg has a lot going for it. The campus culture is a huge plus. I know a lot of smart, successful people who would kill for an admission there. But if you want to land a job at a bank or PE shop (where the money is), or even at a tech firm, you want Chicago on your resume.

    Before people accuse me of being a Boothie, I did my undergrad at a Midwestern state school and went to grad school out east. I now work for a hedge fund. I guess you can argue that I have a finance bias, but Chicago grads just seem to have better careers than Kellogg folks.

    Folks, if your two best options are Booth and Kellogg, and you aren’t 100% sure you want to do marketing or consulting, pick Booth. Kellogg definitely competes in the same league as Booth, but it’s like the Cubs (Kellogg) vs the San Francisco Giants (Chicago). The only reason you’d choose playing for the cubs over San Francisco is (A) they offer you money or (B) you really like something about that team.

  • Charles

    While I’m not a student or past student of either school, I live in a
    building that most of Booth students live in and I can tell you that
    these are the most introverted students you’ll ever come across. In over
    a year of living in the same building, I’m yet to make friends with
    anyone of them either as a neighbor or as a fellow professional. After
    visiting Kellogg’s information session and making a class visit, I won’t
    think twice choosing Kellogg over Booth!

  • avivalasvegas

    If you pick a career in Finance, I would agree with IlliniProgrammer. Booth is the place to be!

    I would argue that Tech and the MMM program at Kellogg go very well together, which is probably why Kellogg sent more grads into Tech than Stanford did in 2013. Booth is strong as well but doesn’t offer a program quite a customized for Tech as the MMM program. Few schools do.

    For any other career, the two schools are pretty strong rivals to each other with the exception of Marketing, where Kellogg dominates.

    If you don’t want to go into a career in Finance or Marketing, your choice becomes harder. I would recommend looking at your potential classmates for answers – Kellogg grads are particularly approachable and are hard to beat in team dynamics. They also drink like its going out of style and will likely need new livers by 40. I find Boothies to be a bit less social, more reserved and harder to get along with. But their emphasis on analytics makes them a force to be reckoned with in the workplace, if you like that kind of intensity.

    I love Booth’s building and it was my favorite till I saw Kellogg’s recent announcement for their new facility touching Lake Michigan.

    At the end of the day, you’re not going to go wrong with either program. Just make sure you chose the right kind of culture – you don’t want to be the natural Kellogg personality at Booth or vice versa.

  • Cmoney

    Ironically, the owner of the cubs is a Booth grad

  • K-Rob

    I try to research and find answers to my questions, but the more I research the more questions I have. Is the Booth student body really that bad? Whatever school I decide to attend it’s important to me that I feel welcomed. I’m going to be coming from out of state and will obviously want to make new friends. This article and some of the comments make it sound like Booth is full of a bunch of loners. On the other hand, the Boothies that defended their school make me wonder how much weight I should give this article. Also, I believe the article was written about three years ago. From what I can find it appears that Booth is changing for the better. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I want to make the right decision for my graduate school experience. I’m considering changing careers and going into management consulting. If this is what I decide to do is it a no brainer to pick Kellogg?

  • Phil Fan

    From 141 comments so far, it has already told the difference between Booth and Kellogg: Aggressive attitude vs. humble people skill.

  • LarrySiegel

    >Booth alumni are the real enemy of Booth students

    No, I’m not. If there’s anything you’d like to discuss, give me a shout at

  • Avro

    “They can’t effectively express themselves and often lack basic common sense. If that is not enough, you should look at the weekend crowd. Ugh..”

    This is the kind of disgusting and immature attitude and disrespectful expression towards your fellow MBAs that create the perceived mistrust between people like you and the alumni. Shame on you! I am ashamed that you go to the University of Chicago – a melting pot of free ideas from people with diverse backgrounds, personal and professional situations that give them the flexibility to choose to come to a part time program and yet shoulder other responsibilities in life such as providing for their family and paying through school – that make them a complete person.

    Do you realize what kind of alumni YOU would be when you are so condescending towards the part time MBAs? That makes you one of those alumni that you are complaining about. This is exactly why there’s a perception that Kellogg MBAs have more camaraderie and Boothies don’t.

    FYI, a majority of weekend MBA students come in with Masters degrees and PhDs and solid work experience. Note that I am not comparing at all with the mettle and credentials of FT MBAs at all. Just asking you to know your facts before making these disgusting comments.

    I have provided consulting advice to the COO and CIO of GSEs in secondary mortgage, to the CFO and SVP of Taxes at AIG, the COO of a major public pension fund, among other Fortune 100 clients, BEFORE coming to Booth weekend MBA program.

    You may be Einstein in your head with Lloyd Blankflein’s pay check – but the above track record isn’t too shabby. Also, some lesser mortals than you who went to the part time program include Satya Nadella and John Corzine, et al.

    Also, agree with Larry – most of the alumni have been very helpful to me till date – and not “enemies;” your choice of words shows that you are not even mature enough to make a thoughtful comment that applies to a professional relationship between a current student and alumni – and it’s a travesty that with this level of juvenile vocabulary and immaturity and negative attitude you are part of the Admissions Committee and ridicule other people (who are MBAs from your school, by the way, that they can’t express themselves).

    Do you realize WHY Kellogg is a better MBA program, at least in perception? Simply because their AdCom doesn’t include people like you but much nicer human beings who are not insecure as you are. They are smart and secure about their achievements and intelligentsia, and consequently give credit to similar hard-working and smart individuals and willing to help their fellow MBAs without a non fact-based judgmental bias like you carry.

    Good luck with your career – please do a gap analysis after 10 years where you are in your life and career and where you wanted to be – maybe you will find that the gap is primarily driven by your condescending attitude and snobbish mentality, that totally defeats the purpose of a Masters degree from a top global University like the University of Chicago.

  • Current PT Boothie

    100% agree with you Larry

  • LarrySiegel

    They’re not introverted, they’re just working their asses off. It’s hard to tell the difference from the outside. I’m a Booth graduate.

  • fidel305

    The comment that booth is somehow relevant in tech is laughable

  • Guest1

    would love to see a comparison between tuck and duke!

  • fidel305

    Well said back office drone.

  • Billy Bob Cooter

    Kellogg is good if you want to be a corporate slave for the rest of your life. Booth is good if you want to be a slave working at a bank.

    The real question to solve this is: would you rather work for a corporation or a bank?

    Either way, you’re selling your soul at both of these schools to the man.

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