Meet Chicago Booth’s MBA Class Of 2021

University of Chicago and the Booth School (Foreground)


Booth’s 2018-2019 admissions cycle could be described as an unabashed success. This year, the school attracted 4,433 applications, up from the 4,289 it received during the previous year. To put that number in context. Booth was the only Top 10 program to increase its number of applications. This 3.4% increase compares quite favorable to peer schools like Harvard (-6.7%), Stanford GSB (-5.8%), Wharton (-5.4%), MIT Sloan (-6.5%), and Northwestern Kellogg (-15.5%). Overall, the school accepted 22.5% of applicants, with the class size growing from 591 to 593 students over the previous year. Bottom line: six of every ten applicants who received an acceptance letter from Booth ultimately joined the class in Hyde Park – one of the highest yields among graduate business schools.

Beyond applications, most academic and demographic numbers were down – slightly – in the Class of 2021. Average GMAT, for example, slipped from 731 to 730 (though average GPA held steady at 3.6). One big change: the percentage of GRE test-takers nearly doubled to 13% over the previous class. The same can’t be said for the percentage of women, which fell two points to 40% (the percentage of underrepresented minorities took a similar four-point dive to 27%). By the same token, the percentage of international students lost a point to 30%. Broadly, Asian students compose 13% of the class, followed by students from Central and South America at 11%. European students account for just 3% of first-years.

This year’s academic and professional profile also closely resembles the previous year’s class. Translation: it is heavy with business majors and consultants. This year, the class includes a 29% share of business majors, up five points from the previous year. Further tapping into Booth’s analytical roots, economics majors comprise another 22% of the class, meaning business and economics majors take up over half of the class seats. This preference for hardcore academic excellence is further bolstered by the percentage of engineering (20%) and physical sciences (9%) majors. At 15%, liberal arts majors are the only other substantive bloc of students. Professionally, a quarter of the class again consists of consultants. Financial services (21%) and Private Equity and Venture Capital (8%) technically represent a larger share of the class than consulting. Non-profit and Government and Technology each account for 10% of the class, with the remainder of the class composed of smaller segments headed by Healthcare (5%).

Students meeting outside the Harper Center


2019 continues to be a good year for Chicago Booth, which is regarded as one of the world’s premier programs for marketing and finance according to business school dens and faculty alike. Among recruiter and alumni surveys conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2018, Booth continues to excel in prestige, academic quality, and training – a reputation that’s only enhanced by boasting the decade’s most successful CEO – Microsoft’s Satya Nadella – as an alum. The school is also ranked as the Top MBA program in the world by The Economist – a number that’s aided by the school earning the highest marks from students and alumni for program quality.

The program also produces results. Look no further than pay. Within five years of graduation, Booth graduates enjoy the highest growth in pay, $94,400 according to Forbes. This year alone, Booth graduates saw their median starting pay packages jump from $145,750 to $163,900. Chances are, such riches are bound to find their way back into Booth’s coffers in the near future. In a 2018 interview with Poets&Quants, Dean Madhav Rajan noted that the school is busy raising $75 million dollars exclusively for student scholarship. In the meantime, Rajan, who assumed his role in 2017, has devoted his tenure to opening a new campus in Hong Kong, launching a data analytics concentration, and developing an economics track for undergraduates at the University of Chicago.

Those aren’t the only developments at Booth this year, according to Deputy Dean Stacey Kole. This fall, P&Q reached out to Kole to learn more about the newest offerings for students. Here’s what prospective MBAs can expect, along with a look at the most underrated parts of the program (think entrepreneurship), and how its versatile structure and expansive curriculum provides an unmatched learning experience for prospective MBAs.


P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments in your program?

SK: “We are excited to share news of Booth’s expansion to our path-breaking leadership curriculum. Our cornerstone Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD) course was the first experiential leadership program for full-time students at a major business school and its focus on self-awareness and skill-building has not wavered since 1989. Beginning this fall, our students will have access to a suite of new courses that push beyond LEAD offering intensive coaching, honest reflection, and a space to perfect their leadership capabilities.

These offerings allow students to be intentional about their leadership development and maximize flexibility for students to focus on their specific goals. At the same time, it creates an environment conducive for group collaboration and growth. Our students will be able to customize their leadership curriculum and hone skills through their choice of cooperative modules and action-based learning experiences, courses on interpersonal dynamics, leadership agility, and core skillsets. A culminating Vision Retreat at the end of their two-year MBA journey will enable students to synthesize their learnings and envision their way forward.

Chicago Booth Dean of MBA Programs Stacey Kole

Stacey Kole, deputy dean of MBA programs at Chicago Booth

While LEAD will remain central to our curriculum, this new dimension of leadership development gives students an enhanced platform to dive deeper into fundamental questions including, why should others follow you? These new opportunities build on Booth’s introspective approach to leadership that develops self-awareness and effectiveness, influencing, persuading, and aligning people with different points of view to confidently lead toward a united goal.”

P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about?  

SK: “It might surprise people to hear that entrepreneurship is the most popular concentration at Chicago Booth. We have more students engaged with our entrepreneurial ecosystem than any other concentration of studies. That said, the power of our entrepreneurship curriculum and the opportunities it creates for hands-on learning, both in building successful businesses and in being effective investors, are far greater than many realize.

Booth has multi-layered resources for students interested in entrepreneurship, venture creation, and investing, including the top-rated university accelerator program in the country, which is responsible for over 230 startups still in operation today. Incoming students who are curious about entrepreneurship have the opportunity to work for a Booth-led start-up during the summer before they start at Booth. Once on campus, students can take part in everything from competitions and awards to lab classes and internships that provide firsthand exposure—and often times success—in the entrepreneurial space.

Our entrepreneurship community runs deep within Chicago and on the coasts, tapping experts in tech, private equity, venture capital, commercialization, business incubation, acquisition, search funds, and investing. At the heart of it all is the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which manages dozens of programs and courses, hosts speakers and competitions, as well as houses the University of Chicago’s Fabrication Lab. The Polsky Center has expanded in the last several years to occupy five locations, including a site in Hong Kong.

Booth students with entrepreneurial aspirations are supported by faculty, mentors, Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, researchers, and partner companies to broaden the scope of education and experiential learning available during their two-year MBA and beyond. In fact, the popular New Venture Challenge (NVC) series expanded this year to include an alumni version in five regions around the world. Participating in competitions such as NVC reinforces our cultural belief that building a great team to vet business ideas from many perspectives and an evidence-based approach is essential to building a great venture with lasting impact.”

P&Q: Booth is known for its data-driven, analytical approach to teaching decision-making. What exactly does that mean? How is it infused throughout the Booth curriculum?

SK: “We live in a world where data is central to decision making, no matter what industry you’re in or what problem you’re trying to solve. Given that, it is essential that our students are comfortable navigating a data-rich landscape. At Booth, we teach an evidence-based approach that ensures students learn to think for themselves—to break down problems by asking insightful questions, applying time-tested frameworks, and leveraging quantitative and qualitative data to analyze complex situations and build the best solutions.

Pedestrians pass by the Charles M. Harper Center, which houses the Chicago Booth School of Business on Friday, May 5, 2017, in Chicago. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

With a command of how to utilize appropriate analytical frameworks and digest large datasets, students realize that they can better deal with ambiguity, make impactful decisions, and confidently support bold ideas—even in unfamiliar circumstances or in instances where no prior case exists. Additionally, our academic approach at Chicago Booth fosters an uninterrupted free-flow of some of the best scholarly work brought directly into the classroom in a way that is applicable and advantageous to our students’ education.

Chicago Booth has been at the forefront of applying data to diverse fields in business for decades, which has led to groundbreaking theories and Nobel prize-winning research. Consider finance, for example, where more than 50 years ago, there was insufficient data with which to test competing arguments about stock price valuations. With the establishment of Booth’s Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP,) our faculty were able to get their hands on vast quantities of trading data and glean valuable insights that changed how the world views markets. CRSP now facilitates indexes that are used for benchmarking by Vanguard and provides historical market data to the academic, commercial, and government sectors.

The field of marketing has been completely transformed through a similar approach. Starting with grocery scanner data, our marketing faculty studied consumer purchase behavior. Today, our Kilts Center for Marketing houses Nielsen’s datasets and makes that information, as well as other large databases on consumer transactions, available to academic researchers around the world. And we are now applying the same approach to understand decision making using behavioral science led by Richard Thaler. Most recently, we’re moving into the field of AI with a new research focus around machine and human intelligence.

This way of thinking is ingrained in the Chicago Approach and you’ll find it in everything at Booth. You could say that the “facts are friendly” notion is alive and well throughout the curriculum and our culture.”

To access 12 in-depth profiles of class members, go to Page 3. 

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