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Fridays from the Frontline: Chicago Booth Admissions Director on the Impact of Booth’s Flexible Curriculum

Chicago Booth MBA

Last week we featured a student blogger from Harvard Business School (HBS) explaining why, for him, that school’s required curriculum provided the business foundation he believes will best prepare him for a seat at any business table. This week, our Fridays from the Frontline comes from Kurt Ahlm, associate dean of student recruitment and admissions at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. On the “Booth Insider” blog, Ahlm recently extolled the virtues of that school’s extraordinarily flexible curriculum—though the timing was simply to coincide with Booth’s upcoming Round 1 deadline and was certainly not in response to the HBS piece, his team notes.

Indeed, the approaches the two schools take in terms of curriculum are quite different, and each has its advantages. Ahlm is a Booth alumnus (MBA ’09), so his perspective of the impact of the flexible curriculum is also a personal one, just as HBS student Stefan Coburn shared his own feelings on why HBS’s required curriculum was right for him. Prospective applicants to either school would do well to read what both Ahlm and Coburn have to say and think carefully about which curriculum is the better fit for them as an individual.

Our thanks to Ahlm for allowing us to republish his post here for the Clear Admit audience.

The following post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, “Booth Insider,” Chicago Booth’s full-time MBA admissions blog.  

The R

Booth's flexible curriculum

Kurt Ahlm, Chicago Booth associate dean of student recruitment and admissions

eal Impact of Booth’s Flexible Curriculum

by Kurt Ahlm

Our Round One deadline is around the corner and I know a lot of applicants are critically considering their MBA options at this time. As you think about this decision it’s important to understand the true impact of Chicago Booth’s flexible curriculum on your time at Booth and the rest of your life.

We live in a world that changes by the day, the hour, the moment. It’s a global marketplace that is connected instantaneously by the Internet. Decisions need to be made all the time, one after another. Chicago Booth’s unique interpretation of flexibility, coupled with our discipline-based approach, grounds you in sound decision-making with the ability to adapt and react in an analytical way, using our frameworks as your compass and your passions as your guide.

We talk about flexible curriculum—and it’s true, you can map out your coursework at Booth however you want—but it goes far beyond selecting your own classes. We want you to think bigger. We have flexibility so that you get the absolute most out of your MBA opportunities and entire experience, from which courses you take, to the student groups you participate in, to where you live, to the friends you make… Nothing is prescribed, you are not confined. It is an ethos.

It goes back to the University of Chicago, and a fundamental thread that knowledge is not given to you, you must earn it. Nothing is spoon-fed here—this is an opportunity to be curious, explore, and test new ideas. By giving you flexibility, what we really mean is freedom. Academic freedom, freedom of self, freedom of choice and decision. We give you the space to make choices on your own and challenge yourself to make informed discoveries. It is practice that will make you better at navigating the choice-rich world of today.

What you find when you are in a classroom of people with that kind of freedom, is that the type of engagement is elevated to a level where learning skyrockets. No one is in that class because they have to be. Every single student is there because they chose to be. A regular classroom is transformed from passive absorption to active fascination. And that is an environment where discussions thrive and ideas emerge unimpeded.

Such freedom also allows for a more dynamic education. You have the ability to explore and pivot throughout your experience. The curriculum is not predetermined. Instead it adjusts with your strengths and gaps; and where you want to be in a year’s time, upon graduation, and in the future. Frontload courses to prepare for your internship in the first year. Then dive deeper to build on those career interests in the second year. Or redirect to delve into another side you’ve discovered along the way. Even as an alumnus, the curriculum continues with opportunities to come back and build on your growing expertise.

Because of how you can craft your education to exactly your purposes at Booth, the return on your time and investment is unrivaled. It essentially maximizes every moment of your MBA. You don’t have to retake classes or revisit content you already know. Every minute is applied to new wisdom and to building on your existing academic and professional background.

So when asked, what is the real impact of Booth’s curriculum? I hope now your mind will automatically broaden the scope beyond flexibility, to a better understanding of why academic freedom allows you to take full advantage of your time and to truly get the most out of your MBA experience.

Posted in: Fridays from the Frontline, MBA News, News, Weekly Columns

Schools: U. Chicago Booth

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