So what draws so many students to Booth? For some, it is the school’s rich tradition and academic horsepower. There’s a reason that Booth doesn’t post grades. Courses are taught by some of the best faculty and researchers in the game, such as Austan Goolsbee, the former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors during President Obama’s first term, and James Schrager, considered one of the top entrepreneurship professors in the world. Students are expected to take deep dives in the subject matter, where assumptions are picked apart with Socratic precision. In other words, you can’t coast at Booth (especially without a cohort to carry you). And this strongly appealed to Camila Fonseca Lacerda de Almeida, a Brazil native who climbed the ranks at Temasek, an investment firm, before enrolling at Booth. “I felt that the school’s philosophy and data driven approach, as well as its high quality academic experience, would be the right fit after watching engaging classes, with rich discussions between students.”
And this rigor may be one reason why the program is so popular among employers. Booth is considered by some to be the most career-centric full-time MBA programs, devoting heavy resources to helping students land jobs. As a result, Booth boasted a 97.2% placement rate for 2014 graduates within three months of graduation (at an average starting salary and bonus of $137,615). And the Class of 2015 is seemingly doing even better. 465 graduates have reported a median salary of $125,000 and a median sign on bonus of $25,000. And the numbers are even better in consulting ($140,000 and $25,000) and investment banking ($125,000 and $40,000).
Of course, Booth offers a flexibility that few schools can match. Technically, incoming students are only required to take one course: Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD). For Mei, this ala carte model adds additional value to their education. “[It] frees students up to take challenging coursework from day one and allows me to tailor my MBA learning to suit my professional aims.”
Plus, the school can tout their Chicago location, with its lucrative business opportunities, posh nightlife, and ample recreation to seal the deal. “[Booth]’s long-standing ties to the greater Chicagoland business community also appeals to me, as it provide many unique opportunities to explore careers and build strong networks within the city,” Mei adds. In fact, the Booth network came in handy when Wurzbach was evaluating her options. “The pay-it-forward culture was evident in every aspect of my trip and interactions with the students. Everyone I met wanted to know how they could help, offered to speak to me about post-MBA plans, picking a school, etc. Students were not just happy but overjoyed to be a part of the Booth community. That spoke volumes to me and made my decision to attend Chicago Booth an easy one.”
So now that they’re here, where does Booth’s Class of 2017 plan to go? Wurzbach is hoping to try new things. “I want to push outside of my comfort zone, academically and socially. I want to try things I would have never had an opportunity to do as an officer or undergrad and not be afraid to challenge myself. I know Booth is the place to do just that.”
Phillips takes it a step further. “Is it too cliché to say that I literally want to take advantage of EVERYTHING Booth has to offer? I want to wring my two years completely dry by the end…It’s also equally as important to me to have positively impacted the Booth community and made valuable contributions to my colleagues, faculty, and staff before I leave the school.”
At the opposite end, Kevin Xu, a corporate attorney, hopes to slow things down. “I also would like to take this opportunity to step back from the daily grind and really focus on the larger picture of what I want out of my career and my personal life.”
It’s going to be an exhilerating two years for the Class of 2017. Regardless of the outcome, most students believe they have found a place to call home. “When I came to Booth,” everything fell into place,” reminisces Lilach Rapaport, who went to KPMG after a stint in the Israeli army. “It had the perfect balance of everything I was looking for: Super-smart people but yet down to earth and sociable; amazing faculty; career services that would do anything to make you a success story; and an incredible city with lots of things to explore. I honestly felt that if I were to come to Booth, the sky is the limit.”
To read profiles of incoming Booth students – along with their advice on tackling GMAT, applications, and interviews – click on the student links below.