Thursday, December 27, 2012

Questions to Ask Before Spending $177,366

As the Round 2 application deadline draws closer, it's important to reflect on your motivations for wanting an MBA and why Chicago Booth is the right school for you. This week, Josh Hirschland, a first-year student and member of the DSAC Communications team, gives us an honest perspective on such a life-changing undertaking.


My name is Josh Hirschland. I am a first-year student here at Booth, I am a member of the Dean’s Student Admissions Committee, I am pursuing a concentration in strategic management, and I play a mean game of Settlers of Catan.

When leading information sessions with prospective students, one of the questions I am asked most is “How did I decide to come to Booth?” Every person has a different set of criteria that are most important to them. For some, it’s location and cost; for others, it’s prestige and career opportunities; and for others still, it’s size and networking opportunities. There is no one right or wrong answer, just as there is no single “best” school. But as you consider where to send applications or enroll, here are some things you may want to consider.

Do I want an MBA?

Are you sure? Are you really sure?

There’s a reason that every application asks you why you want to attend. Beyond the obvious—you should have a good reason before taking two years and spending upwards of $180,000 on a master’s —knowing why you want an MBA is essential because once you arrive, you will have precious little time to waste. Given Booth’s flexible curriculum, you have to choose your first semester courses less than two weeks after you arrive on campus, and recruiters for summer internships arrive within six weeks. If you don’t know what you want to do when you arrive, you could end up floundering or getting pushed in whichever direction is most popular.

Will this help me get the job I want?

While people get MBAs for many reasons, one near-constant is the desire for a new / better / different job. As such, one key criterion should be whether any particular MBA program is better aligned than another to secure your dream position. For me, one of Booth’s big differentiators was the list of major employers of Booth graduates and the fact that 93% of students had job offers within three months of graduation. Investing some time to determine which recruiters go to which campuses, job placement statistics, general reputations of different programs, and which departments are particularly respected within a given field are all ways to ensure that you find a place that’s a good fit for you.

What classes would I take if I attended here?

While it’s certainly not necessary to plot out six quarters’ worth of education before orientation begins, understanding the kinds of classes that different programs offer can help you better understand what your day-to-day will entail and how the school will (or won’t) prepare you for your career. Knowing that I could take Managerial Decision Modeling , Applied Regression Analysis, and Austan Goolsbee’s class on Economics and Policy in Telecomm, Media, and Technology was a big reason that I was so excited to apply to Booth.

Do I like the people?

One of the most important factors impacting your MBA experience is the students who surround you. Not only will your classmates play a crucial role during your time at school—joining you in classes, study groups, clubs, and happy hours—but they will also comprise your professional network after you graduate. As such, it’s important to find a program where you both like and respect the other students. Be sure to visit the schools you are considering applying to and soak up the culture. I figured out that Booth was for me the day that I came for my interview, during which I was able to attend a class, talk to students, and really getting a feel for the community. By immersing yourself, you can get a strong sense for whether you fit in.

Do I want to be here?

Entering an MBA program can mean moving thousands of miles and spending hundreds of dollars each month on plane tickets to see loved ones. Understanding how a move will affect your short- and long-term plans is an important part of preparing for business school. For me—a native Michigander who majored in Urban Studies—Chicago seemed like a great place to explore and to learn.

Beyond regional considerations, it’s also good to think about whether you like the campus itself. While facilities shouldn’t be the top priority for any MBA student, it’s not uncommon for MBA students to spend 50 or 60 hours a week in a single campus building. It’s important to feel comfortable on campus knowing that it may be the host to many future late nights.

How am I going to pay for this?

With interest rates low, federal loans readily available, and high average salaries for alumni, many incoming students brush off concerns about paying for business school until the invoice arrives. But even with all of the resources available to students, it’s important to understand how personal finances, loans, and expected future salary come together in meeting tuition payments. Talk to on- and off-campus financial advisors, create a budget, and begin plotting out your repayment cycle before you arrive, or your second-year diet may consist solely of ramen and boxed lunches from recruiting events.

These are just a few of the issues you may want to consider before applying to and selecting an MBA program. The key to finding a good fit is doing your research and visiting the schools you are considering so that you can make an informed decision.


  1. Great post, Josh! Thank you for asking the right questions and for detailed answers - especially for details when you have to choose classes and internships.
    Small technical thing: Only the last link is working, all others return "page not found".

  2. Hi Josh, Very helpful post! Can you tell me how easy or difficult is it for international students who don't have work permit or H1B to get a job after MBA?