Thursday, February 26, 2009

Student life at Booth

So I've been struggling with this post for awhile. Booth is a fairly large program which means (a) any one person can only know a particular segment of the population and (b) any generalizations I try to make here can easily be countered. Also, since I have absolutely no experience with other MBA programs (I don't have friends at other schools), I have no frame of reference to help me decide what distinguishes the Booth experience and what is just like any other bschool.

But because this is such an important factor for folks, I thought it deserved a post. After all, how I felt about the folks I met at the GSB was one of the primary reasons why I applied. I thought they were the smartest, most interesting bschool population of all the schools I visited. (MIT was my other favorite on this front.)

First - what's my angle? My social circle at Booth is comprised almost entirely of IM folk (who arguably tend to be a little brighter and more thoughtful than average) and, secondarily, the entrepreneurship folk (who tend to be more interesting than average). I know very few hard-core ibankers, consultants, marketers, and general managers beyond the casual sporadic chat. Most of my social circle also tends to be married or in a stable long-term relationship and I do not participate in TNDC or other bschool mating rituals.
  • Freedom of association: personally I couldn't handle a cohorted school. While we are technically assigned a cohort for LEAD, the cohort experience generally ends there, leaving us to pick our own study groups and find our own social niches. While forced bonding/socialization might be nice in theory, in practice I find it miserable. I have a feeling I'm not alone at Booth in this.
  • Diversity: although my husband thinks all MBAs are more or less the same (boring and money hungry) there is far more diversity at Booth than I ever expected when I embarked on my MBA adventure. By no means is everyone a former consultant/ibanker (no offense, former consultant/ibankers, I know you're people too ;) from an Ivy League school with the sole goal of making as much money as humanly possible. (Sorry, that's what I used to assume everyone getting an MBA was like!) Interested in the arts, the environment, soccer, fine food, chess, community service, religion? You'll find compatriots at Booth.
  • Smart: I went to some pretty damn nerdy undergraduate institutions where nothing was prized more than intellect and I have to say I'm pretty impressed by the intelligence of my Booth peers. While there are more than a few disappointments on the smarts scale, on the whole it's a thoughtful, critical bunch who don't pull the old automaton, rote MBA learning nonsense I observed when visiting some of the other bschools.
  • Busy: I imagine this is the case at any bschool worth its salt, but (and this goes back to the freedom of association and diversity) I'm not just referring to how much free time Booth-heads have or don't have. People at Booth are busy with life. Unlike some schools in which life revolves around the campus and bschool, we live all over the city, intermingle with the part-timers in our classes, moderate the timing and location of our courses, run businesses, have families, etc. Booth feels like a school for adults (though there are plenty of exceptions to this). As a married person with kids being able to find folks who have more on their mind than getting drunk and laid and spreading gossip is important to me.
  • You are not going to like everyone by any stretch of the imagination: though I try to keep it all neutral to positive, there are plenty of students who I've met during my time here who I actively dislike. Hey, it's a big school full of all sorts of people. I'd prefer that to a uber-small, cultish school. We have a few bad apples and some so-so apples (depending on your POV) but there are some really great, sincere, thoughtful people here and I've made some damn good friends along the way. And I don't make friends lightly. And I continue to meet and like new people.

So pardon all the generalizations. Not sure if this answers anything at all. Trying to write something about student life has got to be one of the harder posts I've attempted. But that's my best shot.

Now lay on your questions.


The Ruminator said...

Very insightful post.

Yael Redelman-Sidi said...

I love your blog, your insights and very personal notes about the MBA experience. I'm trying to imagine how my MBA would have looked like if I had kids at the time...
Thanks for all the cool baby links and good luck with the job search.