Personalized. Customized. Tailored. You’re bound to find one of these terms on any b-school website. In the MBA arena, students are a market of one. They’ve done their homework — and most know exactly what they need. Forget re-taking classes in areas where they already excel. Many want to start fast out of the gate and study what matters to them. In a word, they’re seeking flexibility.
That’s a major appeal of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business: the program that treats MBAs like adults capable of making their own choices. At Booth, flexibility means respecting students’ time by not requiring them to walk lockstep through a set of core courses. Call it the do-it-yourself, have-it-your-way MBA.
BOOTH’S FAMED “LEAD” IS TECHNICALLY THE ONLY CORE COURSE
“This place is built on the notion that the individual matters,” explains Kurt Ahlm, Booth’s associate dean of student recruitment and admissions in a 2012 interview with Poets&Quants. “Everybody comes in with different skills and aspirations. Everybody has a different purpose for being here. And so we want students to be able and equipped to fully engage in that process, to dive deeper. But they have to really understand that it is their choice. And the reason for that is that ideas flow in an environment where students have very opportunity to be engaged, not to go through familiar information or relive what they already know, but to take a step beyond.”
How does this ala carte curriculum work? Technically, there is a required course called LEAD, which stands for Leadership Effectiveness and Development, the cornerstone of the program and de facto section for Booth classmates. Here, students complete a series of exercises ranging from outdoor team challenges to negotiation role plays to one-on-one coaching. The goal: Building the foundational self-awareness and communication skills that students need to manage themselves and motivate their peers. Beyond that, students must take mandatory classes of their choice in financial accounting, microeconomics, and statistics. They’re also required to take six courses, at a time of their choosing, in areas such as marketing, operations, finance, and strategy. Even more, students can opt to take classes with executive MBAs downtown to broaden their network.
In other words, students create an individualized experience that maximizes their exposure to what they hope to learn. For Peter Randaccio, a first year student and former brand manager at Amazon, DreamWorks, and Disney, this flexibility will enable him to accelerate his development. “As someone switching careers, it’s very helpful to have the freedom to choose when I take the “core” courses. I can load up on finance and economics classes prior to my summer internship, something that is unique to the Booth experience.”
ACADEMICALLY-DRIVEN STUDENTS ARE THE DARLINGS OF RECRUITERS
However, the curriculum is only as strong as the culture. That has been one secret behind why Booth is able to draw such impressive students. “In choosing Booth, they have freedom to explore individual paths, with the support of a collaborative community rooted in an appreciation for different perspectives, experiences, and ideas,” adds Ahlm in a statement to P&Q. “I also see deep resonance with Booth’s pay-it-forward culture in the way this class wants to share their given expertise with their peers and contribute as much to their classmates’ education as pursue their own passions.”
Few would argue with the results. In the most rankings, the “Second City” school places 1st with The Economist, 2nd with both U.S. News & World Report, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and 3rd with Poets&Quants. Notably, the program boasts a 95% placement rate within three months of graduation, with the Class of 2015 averaging $143,415 in salary and bonus to start. Not to mention, Booth ranked #1 in the latest recruiter surveys from both Bloomberg Businessweek and U.S. News.
Despite this career-based success, Booth is far more scholarly citadel than meat market says Julie Morton, Booth’s associate dean of career services and corporate relations. Here, job offers are the fruit of academic excellence. “We talk to students very directly about how we firmly believe – and we have years of data to prove it – that if students focus first-and-foremost on what happens in the classroom, what happens in the interview room will go well,” Morton shares in a 2016 interview with P&Q. “If they can pursue something that they are passionate about, if they pursue a sound job search, they will do well in that job search.”
CLASS INCLUDES A FASHION WRITER, SKYDIVER, AND RECORD-BREAKING DANCER
Alas, Booth comes with a certain reputation. Namely, the students are supposedly bookish quant jocks. While the Class of 2018 is unquestionably brainy, they are anything but stiffs. Victoria Yunger is an Israeli Ministry of Defense veteran who describes herself as “fashion blogger turned digital marketer, with a knack for details and long sentences.” MyKinseyite Anh Dang is destined to be the life of any party, calling herself “free and bold” and the one who loves “to do the unexpected, push my limit, test boundaries, drink and dance.” She’ll fit in well with Georgette Monika Mould, a Ghana native who’s “a humorous humanist with an optimistic outlook on life and a curious open mind.” Anjuli is someone you naturally follow. Not only is she always on the lookout for adventure, but she has a flair for turning “goals into projects, and projects into experiences.”While Randaccio’s resume may be intimidating, he comes with a major weakness: chicken wings.
At a Booth information session, Yunger was struck by the question, “Why are you here and not somewhere else?” She soon recognized that the Booth proposition was “a lifestyle of saying NO to autopilot.” In the 2018 class, You won’t find many Boothies running through the motions in their lives. Andrew Shigeo Janiszewski was a competitive skydiver and free-fall parachuting instructor in college. Dang holds the record for dancing salsa and sensual bachata — for eight hours straight! Shaily Jaisinghani, whose hobby is handwriting analysis, has already lived in India, China, the United States, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Of course, they haven’t lived charmed lives. Randaccio lost a coin toss that cost him Super Bowl tickets. Curt Ginder, who’s earning his MD along with his MBA, learned about the entertainment business the hard way: “I was a guest on CBS’s The Early Show as a high school senior. They cut out every last second of my camera time on the aired version.”
For Ahlm, the 2018 cohort is the continuation of a long string of impressive full-time MBA classes. “What strikes me is how I continue to be impressed every year by the richness of accomplishments, diversity in backgrounds, and profound ambitions our incoming class brings to the Booth community. When you look at each person’s achievements and goals, their collective potential is powerful.”
Take Yunger, for example. She launched a fashion blog targeted to teens on affordable style. It quickly took off and became a “sensation” in her native Israel. “The community impact was so significant that my blog was crowned “Best Fashion Blog” by top Israeli magazine and was featured in local and global media, such as Vogue.” Charlotte Guy, a foodie who loves puzzles, earned a Fulbright Research Fellowship with the U.S. Department of State. Randy Paris enjoyed a couple of stints in the Obama White House, culminating in spearheading the Nation of Makers initiative and doing a 3D scan and print of the President. Despite spending a mere three months at Deutsche Bank, Jaisinghani’s detailed research in an internal review was so impressive that her team asked her to present their case to the review committee. If you’re looking for a turnaround artist, seek out Janiszewski, who took his Air Force intelligence unit from worst to first in terms of performance.
GMAT SCORES RISE FOR 14TH CONSECUTIVE YEAR
Looking at the group as a whole, it is easy to see why Booth is thrilled to welcome the 2018 Class to their Hyde Park digs. The class’ average GMAT rose to 727 — up one point over last year. This increase also maintains Booth’s streak of boosting GMAT averages to its 14th consecutive year. That said, applications to Booth slid from to 4,286 to 4,160 in 2015-2016, with the program’s 23% acceptance rate corresponding to programs at Fuqua and Stern. The class also features 42% women, the same total as last year and just a point under Harvard (and a point above Kellogg). International students account for 34% of the class, the same as the previous year.
Go to next page to read 12 in-depth profiles of Booth grads.