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MBA Admissions Brief: Chicago Booth

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For this installment in our ongoing series, MBA Admissions Brief, we turn to the admissions office of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the university’s main campus, Chicago Booth’s full-time MBA program enjoys a class size of around 580 students, extensive finance program and faculty, flexibility in curriculum and course scheduling, and broader international and experiential learning opportunities.  The school also offers other MBA programs, including executive, international as well as part-time and weekend ones.

Interim Executive Director of Student Recruitment, Financial Aid, and Admissions

For insights into the Chicago MBA admissions, we hear from Donna Swinford, who has been at Chicago Booth since 1997. She joined the Office of Full-Time Admissions in 2005 and is currently the Interim Executive Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions. Prior to Admissions, Donna held various positions in Information Technology and MBA Career Services.

What would you say to someone who’s applying next fall and just getting started in the MBA application process now?
Now is the perfect time for potential applicants to explore and get to know the school community on a deeper level. We hold information sessions, participate in fairs, and have student-hosted events and alumni-hosted pop-ups in locations around the world. Talking directly with Booth alumni, students, and admissions staff offers an up close and personal perspective that can help connect the dots for your own MBA ambitions, as well as your understanding of Chicago Booth’s values and how the environment can propel you forward.

Booth gives students unparalleled freedom to choose courses and dive into learning experiences that will build upon their educational and professional background to prepare for and achieve their specific goals. Want to know how students navigate our immensely choice-rich environment to maximize their two years in the program? We can help potential applicants connect directly with current students representing diverse backgrounds and interests to ask questions just like this. Investing time to uncover what makes Booth special will not only help you define your own unique path, but it will prepare you for talking about it in your application.

What’s the one thing MBA candidates should know about selecting a recommender?
Our best advice in selecting recommenders is to pick a person who truly knows you and can share an informed summary of your work and abilities over someone with an impressive title who may gloss over the details that we hope to glean from your letters of recommendation. We typically ask for two recommenders and we think it’s important to make sure at least one of your recommenders can offer unique knowledge of you, your capabilities, and how you interact within your professional life.

What’s your program’s most exciting change, development or event coming up in the year ahead?
There are a couple things we are really excited about for this incoming class because they will be the first to benefit from significant investments we’re making in leadership programming and our global footprint.

As you may know, a fundamental part of the Chicago Booth MBA is exploring the interpersonal dimensions of leadership. This year, Booth is expanding our leadership coursework beyond the cornerstone Leadership Effectiveness And Development (LEAD) course. Our new leadership initiatives focus on incorporating experiential learning courses, workshops, and coaching classes into the two-year MBA journey. Students have even more opportunities to develop their self-awareness and ability to influence, persuade, and align people around different points of view through effective leadership skills.

In addition to advancements in leadership programming, Booth is building on our global presence; namely at our home campuses in Asia and Europe. In late 2018, we opened the doors to our new Hong Kong campus—a venerable hub for students, staff, and professors to connect with alumni and other members of the global Booth network. Earlier this month, we announced our plans to expand Booth’s activities and presence in the EMEA region with a new facility in London. We are thrilled at the opportunity of the new location to be a vibrant center of academic instruction, idea generation, and improved event space. These considerable physical commitments from the school will give students even more access on a truly global scale. And through all of our efforts, we continue to ensure faculty, students, and alumni are able to utilize a global approach to leadership, business, and the changing international markets.

Of the big trends in business education right now (tech, globalization, analytics), what are you doing or innovating in one (or all) of these spaces?
If you look back over time, Chicago Booth has always been at the forefront of applying analytical approaches to diverse fields in the world of business. And we’ve always encouraged faculty to bring their scholarly work into the classroom in ways that are innovative and useful to students.

Along those lines, we’ve recently expanded our behavioral science offerings and deepened our faculty expertise. For instance, our newest Nobel laureate, Richard Thaler, and our Center for Decision Research (CDR) are exploring how individuals form judgement and make decisions across a range of contexts. This work is experienced by Booth students in electives such as Choice Architecture and co-curricular programming offer by CDR. Newly hired Professor Sendhil Mullainathan is teaching an MBA elective on artificial intelligence and applications of machine learning. He is also leading a new initiative at Booth focused on machine and human centered design to examine how to simplify machine learning for industries such as healthcare.

Having revolutionized the field of finance by developing, and utilizing data, CRSP databases and now turning our attention to marketing as the home of the largest dataset for marketing research, Booth continues to transform the way business is done—and students remain at the epicenter of those exciting new innovations as they unfold. Last year, we added a Business Analytics concentration that leverages frameworks in everything from government to private equity to technology. And a growing interest in tech product management roles is evidenced in the offerings of the Kilts Center for Marketing, which provides programming, industry speakers, experiential lab courses, and workshops in the space. In fact, technology will once again be a top industry of interest for the Class of 2019.

What would you like to highlight about your post-MBA career placement success?
Most undoubtedly, we are proud of our Career Services offerings at Booth. Our Career Services team is the largest of any business school and we have more “feet on the street” making inroads with new companies than anyone else. We’ve built a phenomenal team of experts whose job it is to help our students explore professional opportunities and relaunch careers in industries around the globe.

Every year, we release our employment numbers for the graduating class and our trend of success has remained consistently high. For the Class of 2018, 96 percent received a job offer within three months of graduation. Over 80 percent of those hires are credited to Booth-facilitated channels—a nod to the value and importance of the Chicago Booth ecosystem, which includes an alumni network of 53,000 that spans 120+ countries and touches almost every industry.

Nearly 25 percent of the Class of 2018 took jobs on the West Coast in markets such as the Bay Area and Seattle, largely in tech roles but also in consumer goods, banking, consulting, and investment management. Around 20 percent of our graduates accepted a variety of roles in the NYC area. We saw roughly 13 percent join companies in a wide range of international markets, such as Beijing, London, Dubai, Mexico City, and Seoul. Industry wise, consulting and technology were number one and two, followed by investment banking, investment management, and private equity. And just around three percent of our newest Booth alumni elected to start their own business.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.