Kellogg vs. Booth: The Ultimate Smackdown

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management opened its new 415,000 square foot Global Hub opened in 2017

Years ago, the differences between Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business were far more dramatic than they are today. Kellogg was the school for poets, the place where teamwork and collaboration in an MBA program were invented, and the best place to study marketing and land a brand management job at a major consumer products goods company. Booth was the quant school, with little emphasis on leadership development but a rigorous curriculum that was ideal prep for work in the finance industry.

Today, the differences aren’t nearly as distinct. Kellogg is so much more than a marketing school, and Booth is much more than a finance school. Both institutions boast world-class academics in just about every discipline and can pretty much allow MBA graduates to go anywhere they want. There are still differences between these two schools, of course, having to do with the MBA curriculum, school culture, and their relative academic strengths.

Booth’s enrolls a larger two-year MBA class, having brought in 591 students in 2018 to Kellogg’s 478, with similar acceptance rates, 21.9% at Kellogg for the Class of 2020 and 22.9% at Booth for the same class. But Kellogg makes up the difference and then some in size due to its accelerated one-year MBA which begins in June of each year with roughly 130 students, half from outside the U.S. The one-year cohort, largely students who have an undergraduate degree in business, join Kellogg’s second-year full-time class in September to complete their electives and graduate in June with the rest of the class. The one-year option has a significantly higher acceptance rate which is undisclosed by Kellogg.

Booth tends to have the advantage in rankings, though both schools are nip-and-tuck on various lists. In the latest 2018 composite ranking by Poets&Quants, for example, Booth’s MBA program is ranked fourth-best in the U.S. while Kellogg’s two-year MBA is ranked right behind it in fifth place. Only three schools are ahead of these two MBA programs: Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford. It’s noteworthy, however, that Booth bests Kellogg in four different rankings–U.S. News, Businessweek, the Financial Times, and The Economist. Kellogg bests Booth on only the Forbes ranking. But the rankings are so close, it’s pretty much a toss-up.

One other similarity? Both schools have new deans. Kellogg is now led by Francesca Cornelli, a long-time finance professor and deputy dean of degree education at the London Business School, who began her deanship on Aug. 1 of 2019. Madhav V. Rajan, an accounting professor and former senior associate dean for academic affairs at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, took over as dean of Booth in July of 2017.

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 transportation 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 1,179 students, while Kellogg is slightly larger, with 1,304. 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 (1,322) 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 Hong Kong, as well as evening MBA and Weekend MBA programs in downtown Chicago at its Gleacher Center. Then, there’s a Ph.D. program with about 130 students. Kellogg’s offerings are just as broad: With 776 part-time MBA students, the school has both weeknight 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 Ph.D. 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.

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.