Someone, whom shall remain nameless sent me the following message (edited to protect):
.... could you perhaps share what you see as cons and unexpected pros of Chicago Booth? I am especially interested in the cons...
My perceptions from talking to students right now is that it's unpleasantly over-competitive in general....
you have a lot more students from part-time and evening programs competing for the same interview slots, so getting jobs is even harder. Is this accurate?
I won't just focus on the con's cause I really don't think its fair to only talk about that, but I'll give them 50% of my time.
First, lets tackle the cons. The first thing mentioned here is that its unpleasantly over-competitive in general. On this fact, I'm split. Academics are not competitive, high profile jobs sometimes are.
Lets tackle academics. There's really very little competition here. Sure, there are those people who *care* more about their grades and there are those that practically appear to be comatose in class -- and everything in between, but there's hardly a lot of competition. A couple of reasons for this. First, there are far more people who aim for a "B or a C" than people who aim for an "A or A-". So, right out of the gate, that reduces the competitiveness in class pretty substantially.
Second, much of what you do (with the exception of certain courses like accounting) is very team oriented. A lot of these team efforts begin to approach collusion instead of competition. For instance, if you have a 5 person team and say, 10 case writeups to do over teh course of a class, some teams will just say 'ok you do the first 2, i'll do the next 2, etc..' and you just cut your workload in a fifth. Professors don't much encourage that of course, it's sort of cheating the learning process a bit being that the whole idea of team oriented learning is taht you discuss (not that you just divy up the work).
Third, peeople just aren't like that -- its quite common for people to share cheat sheets for final exams ("oh i took that class last quarter, let me give you my cheat sheet for the final") or notes or other resources.
Fourth, and perhaps this should have been first, we have grade non disclosure. IT means that you cannot divulge your GPA to any recruiter until after you graduate. So (and this relates to my first point about most people not aiming for As) there's really very little incentive (outside of your own personal sense of accomplishment) to aim for As. I'm proud of my high honors but other than my parents, I'm not sure anyone cares.
Fifth, it takes EFFORT to get something lower than a C. I don't know of people who have -- although I know they exist. But honestly, you REALLY have to do nothing to get below a C. The overall difficulty of the academics are far overblown.
Sixth, part of it is just being smart -- pick your teammates well. People get reputations as 'idiots' or 'slackers' quickly, and those people won't find themselves in good groups. If on the other hand, you get the opposite reputation you'll find that people you barely know are trying to get you to join their group. Having the pick of the litter makes your life a lot easier. It's not always easy to cut out the weak ones and I've thrown a few really poor performers under a bus which I didn't like to do, but it was the right choice. By the time I got into my second year, I had all of the smartest folks in teh room pairing up on my team - most of whom (if not all) were smarter than I was.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. I was a <3.0 undergrad and I graduated with high honors from Booth. That either means I got smarter in the interim, everyone else got dumber, or people just dont' compete that much on academics. It seems unlikely that either of the first two things happened.
So thats academics. Lets talk jobs.
Jobs are a wierd beast -- in some ways its very uncompetitive and in other ways its hypercompetitive. A lot of it frankly, is just PERCEPTION.
On one side of the coin - people do help each other out -- I had an instance where I was walking to an interview and ran into a girl I knew who had just finished her own interview (for the same job). She mentioned to me that I should brush up on concept X and concept Y -- out of her own volition. I ended up with an offer from that company in part thanks to her heads up. I had that kind of thing happen more than once -- I made groups of people to practice cases with and we shared frameworks we developed amongst ourselves. To be completely transparent though, I have to admit that when others asked me for my frameworks, I wouldnt' share them. It's not because I'm competitive but its because I spent hours and hours building them and I wasn't about to just give that work away to people who couldn't be bothered to do it themselves. (I did share them with people I trusted however).
On the other side of the coin - you DO have the people on the other end of the spectrum as well. One guy showed up to a top 3 consulting firm recruiting dinner after having accepted a job offer in banking. Considering banking was his top choice a lot of people wondered why he didn't have the curtesy to cancel and give someone else a chance to go. He said he wanted to keep his options open. People like that don't make great impressions and I promise you it did him far more harm among his peers than it helped him -- he ended up loosing his FT job offer and I doubt a lot of people are going out of their way to help him.
Another fellow came up to me one morning and asked me if I had landed job X. I told him I didn't. He said "I did" and walked away. A few months later over drinks I complimented him by telling him: "I'm glad you got that job. I honestly think you were the better candidate and you seem happy. I know it came down to me and you at the end there and for what its worth, I think they made the right choice." His response? "Oh, I don't think they ever really liked you. I think they were just being nice to you." Another fellow that wasn't much liked to be sure.
These examples are the worst of them though - honestly, people aren't generally like this.
I honestly believe it FEELS more competitive than it is. The recruiting season at Booth (and at any other school) is a stressful time. You balance classes, activities, friends, family and job hunting in a short four or five week timeframe all the while acutely aware of who has what job. Word travels fast -- "Did you hear so and so didnt' get a 2nd round?" or "I heard they are only hiring four people this year" or "I can't believe she got an offer from Goldman, she can barely keep herself from walking into walls." You'll see friends get denied from dream jobs, you'll get 2nd rounds they don't (and feel bad about it) and vica-versa, you'll see some REALLY smart people struggle to find a gig, you'll also see some of the dumbest people you've ever met magically land gigs at top firms. You'll question your interests, etc. Imagine for a moment the stress of your MBA interview and waiting for a decision from the school -- now just repeat that experience a couple dozen times, except this time, if the answer is no, you don't just keep your old job and reapply next year -- this time, if the answer is no, you have no job and you just blew a couple hundred G. It makes the MBA admissions process look like a cake walk.
It's a stressful process and that tends to breed some degree of competition - no one wants to be the person without a job offer while all their friends are sitting on two or three. But that feeling that 'this is it' -- that this is the 'ultimate test', the 'end to all ends' is really more in your own head than anything else.
That stress effects different people in different ways - some people are perfectly content not interviewing on campus and holding out for their dream job till June. Others don't or can't.
So, is it competitive? Maybe. It certainly does feel competitive -- but I don't think thats a function of Booth, I think its just the nature of the game. I imagine you'd feel that stress at Wharton or Kellogg or any other school just as much as you would at Booth.
Now lets talk part timers.
For internships, only FT students can recruit. For full time jobs, PT students (provided they have a certain number of classes and have completed certain training) can recruit. Make no mistake about it, this will piss you off (even if half of them blow their chances within 10 seconds of opening their mouth). There is nothing more infuriating than some guy with a job he may or may-not have any real intention of leaving showing up to a recruiting event and monopolozing the recruiters time. You'll want to punch their lights out more than once.
I got my revenge one night at a recruiting dinner -- I showed up early and dressed business casual. All the part timers always overdo it and showed up in suit and tie. I'm calm and collected and drinking at the bar, and pretty soon I've got a semi-circle of these yahoos around me and frankly id prefer it if they just screwed off and let me finish my drink before the company representatives kicked thigns off. It then dawns on me they think I work for the company, so I turn to one of the guys, look him straight in the eye and say "So, what do you think are the 3 biggest challenges facing our firm over the next five years?" It was the most beautiful deer-in-headlights look I've ever seen. The guy practically crapped himself right then and there. You might think this was mean, but trust me, spend a quarter dealing with PT people showing up to every event you have and you'll be a little mean too.
The point is they are there - they will piss you off. The good thing is that they are generally pretty unpolished when it comes to recruiting and most of them blow their chances immediately.
Example - same night, same dinner. Halfway through the meal, this girl shows up, plops down next to me and apologies for being late. I'm thinking to myself, "Sweetie, 20 minutes is late, an hour into dinner is idiotic." Although she had probably already destroyed her chances, she gracefully stepped on mine after mine from taht point forward. She proceeds to explain that shes late because of "homework" but that she lives in a "really nice apartment just down the street" and that therefore it only took her a "few minutes" to walk over. Great, so you show up halfway through a meal because of homework? Yea, what a winner. As if that wasn't enough, she then interrupts the recruiter (sitting on my left, shes on my right) and proceeds to pepper her with questions. The recruiter, who was quite clearly in the middle of another conversation with the person to her left, is left in an uncomfortable position of trying to manage this. My conversation in the mean time is also cut short as this girl begins to talk across from me. As if this wasn't enough, she then starts to talk about how she's also perhaps interested in consulting (note: this was not a consulting company dinner) and starts asking me if I am thinking about consulting too..... in front of the recruiter. I deflected the question and spent the rest of the night hoping the flambe desert would accidentally set this girl on fire. In the end, the only person to get an offer from that firm was a FT student.
Another PT student recruiting for a consulting gig went to some event and commented to the recruiter "So hows the hiking thing going?". The recruiter was obviously perplexed -- how did this girl know she had started hiking? The rest of us were just confused. Turns out, I later discovered that the recruiter's profile on facebook was set to open and that this girl had basically gone e-stalking. You can bet that girl didn't get an interview.
So, does it make it 'harder' to land a job? I honestly don't know how much of a material difference it is, but it will certainly FEEL like it makes a difference. It helps that they seem to all have the sabotage switch soldered to an 'ON' position though.
If you ask me what the #1 thing that irritated me about Booth is, I'd tell you exactly this. To be fair, this situation isn't limited to just Booth, other schools have similar policies, although I think Booth makes it too easy for PT to show up.
As for the pros? I guess I'll have to get back to this - I have a meeting.