It’s an interesting time in MBA Watch right now. Most people are done with admissions and some lucky applicants are in the enviable position of choosing between several great programs. Congrats on the multiple admits! That’s what I call a rich man’s problem. I know it isn’t easy to decide between two very great programs. It takes a lot of soul searching and school research, which is exactly what one of our members did. mba2127 got into both Columbia and Booth, two of the very best programs out there. He shared with us his notes on making a decision – some really impressive, thorough notes that are really worth reading! Check it out:
Hi everyone, since I know there are still some of us out there making decisions about which school offer to take, I want to give my 2c on my decision b/w Booth and CBS (I was dinged by Wharton). I spent the last few weeks talking to people from both schools: students, alumni, admissions, career services staff, and even a few professors. I also consulted my decision with people on my network who work in the IB/PE industry (both US and International). I spoke with around 30 people total, and of course visited the schools and sat in classes. A very tough decision between two great schools. Here are my thoughts:
Each school is strong in a different area of finance
Booth leads in quant finance/derivatives/econometrics fields and I would choose it for careers in S&T/Hedge funds. CBS leads in the corporate finance/M&A-Buyouts/value-distressed and I would pick CBS for a career in asset management or PE. Take the biggest school’s donors as an example: David Booth (pioneered Index investing) and Henry Kravis (pioneered PE investing). For those of you specially interested in PE, I found out that Booth’s offering is more focused on early stage/VC while CBS is more focused on growth/LBO/late stage. Booth’s network of firms available for internships is almost entirely Chicagoan/Mid-western while CBS is heavily NYer.
I think both schools are equally strong for general IB careers. I also concluded that Booth has an advantage in entrepreneurship while CBS has an edge in leadership/soft skills training.
The business school brand
While Booth’s brand commands more recognition than CBS’s within the US, the opposite is true when it comes to international brand. Overseas, and specially in emerging markets such as Africa, Latam and Asia, CBS’s brand is largely more recognized and appreciated (I work in a PE fund that specializes in these markets). That said, Booth has made a tremendous effort to catch up and has improved to a certain degree. I guess the thing is that positioning a brand overseas takes a long time. Also, this is a reflection of CBS’s class being comprised of many more international students than Booth’s (CBS receives twice as many applications as Booth, a lot of them from abroad).
Both CBS and Booth have great professors, but with very different things to offer. I will put it like this: would you rather take a private equity class with a respected academic/researcher (Booth’s Steven Kaplan) or with a partner at Morgan Stanley PE partners (CBS’s John Moon). A practitioner can give you a more hands-on approach plus more industry networking (some CBS professors have actually hired for their firms from the class) while a scholar professor can give you a more research oriented experience plus more outside-of-classroom availability. In the end, it comes down to taste.
In terms of curriculum, Booth offers more flexibility while CBS offers more electives. About half of the core curriculum at CBS seems to be basic for people with previous business experience, but fortunately a lot of people do take, and pass, the exemption exams so you can load more electives. The cluster system is also a matter of taste: would you rather forge a tight network within your cluster (70 people at CBS) or would you rather get to know a little bit about everyone in the entire class (Booth)?
In terms of cities, NY beats Chicago in almost everything except for costs/accommodation. If you don’t have to recruit in NY, and are planning to party a lot, Chicago is a great option due to a lower cost of living. Rents in downtown Chicago are similar to NY, but the sq ft is at least double. Summer is lovely at both cities. Winter is much harder in Chicago.
Anyways, hope this helps. So far, I am leaning towards CBS for a more international, rounded, and network/connected experience. My background is IB/PE in emerging markets. Comments from everyone are more than welcomed.
Congrats again on getting in, mba2127! Thanks a bunch for sharing your notes with us and we wish you all the best, no matter which school you choose!