Saturday, April 25, 2009

Academics @ Chicago Booth

Well - I finally managed to come up with the second edition of @ Chicago Booth. In this post, I wanted to talk about my academic experience @ Chicago Booth. I am half way through my last quarter, so i guess I'm more than 90% (yeah, that's how we roll) qualified to comment about my experience here so far. Really, it only takes a year to figure out this stuff.

Let me start with the bottom line. When people say that Chicago Booth is known for its academic rigor, well, people are NOT lying. I have friends who go to most of the top schools, and all of us get killed with the amount of course work we have. The difference - what other schools achieve with at least 5 courses per semester, Chicago achieves with a maximum of four courses per quarter. The Quarter system changes the dynamics completely. It is intense, quick and extremely productive. I have definitely learned a LOT over the last two years inside the classroom. In this aspect - I have been thoroughly impressed with the school and I'd rate it 4.5 on 5. I don't want to give a perfect 5 because there are minor issues that i wanna touch upon later in this post.

So why is the academic aspect of Chicago Booth so powerful?

Professors - To put it succinctly, they run the show. The school gives them a free hand (with limited instructions around "important" issues like grading) and the professors do a fairly good job of honoring that responsibility. Forget the Nobel prize professors! You'd hardly take any of their courses because they mostly teach advanced concepts and they're ridiculously hard! There are many many other professors, at the cutting edge of research, frequently quoted by most leading journals, respected the world around - who take the most extreme pleasure in imparting all that knowledge into our heads. Just being in a class is oftentimes a great experience.

Material - The extensive research that happens in Chicago is very much obvious in the classrooms. The Chicago approach to teach through empirical evidence and the heavy influence of the Chicago school of economics (both of which i strongly subscribe to) adds a unique flavor to business education inside the classrooms. For someone like me, that is a very very enjoyable prospect! Apart from that, just like all top schools - professors do get creative and add a lot of multimedia and external sources to add their own touch to the classes. Fun Fun!!!

Flexibility - Do you feel like sleeping longer in the morning? Try the evening class for a week! Do you just want to audit a class? Oh mostly welcome! You don't have the prereqs but you think you qualify to take a class? Just talk to the prof! You don't want ANY other accounting class after Acct.101? Sure you can do it. Welcome to the land of "Do what you wanna do". It is a power; It is a responsibility; everyone figures it out; everyone uses it very well. It works out beautifully for everyone, and mostly people feel like they learn more of what they want to learn in school.

Classmates - I know this is cliched; but they definitely do deserve a mention. I have certainly learnt a lot from my classmates, and the knowledge they have brought to the classroom. And I'm pretty sure this is true across all schools.

So the reason for chopping off 0.5 pt from the score above?

Scheduling - Most of the professors teach a maximum of 3 to 5 sections per year. Especially the top ones. Even though the schedule is laid out before the year starts and everyone is given time to prepare their best schedules, with conflicting classes, prerequisites, bid-point matters and preferential issues I feel like students loose some of these classes or the situation forces them to make compromises. Not ideal.

Quality - Very rarely, students end up with professors who are clearly not impressive. In all such situations, the professor under question is a new one the school is trying out and hence the school doesn't have info. Many of these professors improve in the subsequent years following feedback from classes, internal training and by learning from their experienced peers; but the earlier classes of these professors do tend to suck and I don't know how to incubate these new professors in a better way and save these guinea pig batches! I've been a part of a couple such classes!

Overall - I am thoroughly happy with the academic experience. There are few minor sore points; but in the larger scheme of things they are not that big! At the core aspects of an academic institution, Chicago performs very very strongly!

I am not sure if this post added anything new considering there is SO much info available about schools already. All I'm hoping that this post validates, from a first person perspective, most of the things you've already known about the academic experience @ Chicago Booth.


Anonymous said...

Hi there i4iday

I love your blog. However, about a few things you have mentioned: about the quality of professors.

I don't know what you're smoking, but whatever it is, i'd like to have it too. I am a Boothis as well, and I for one, along with many others will not agree with this claim.

there are only a select few profs who are really good. The rest are all mediocre.

Iday said...


Glad to know you like the blog - thanks!

I dont think i said anything in terms of the proportion of good vs bad profs. I honestly don't know the proportion. I've only mentioned two things about quality of profs:
(1) apart from the Nobel laureates, there are many good profs.
(2) you could end up with a bad prof, but it is not the most frequent case. in my 2 years, i have had 2 bad profs.

If you have any info on the proportion of good vs mediocre vs bad profs, i'd love to share...

Anonymous said...


you are my friend, but I'm also going to tell you you are batshit crazy. 80% of professors are mediocre, 10% are god awful downright "give me my fucking money back" bad and 10% are outstanding "I'd pay twice for this class".

Iday said...


I am not sure what your definition of mediocre is. I just went by the feedback ratings i've seen for professors of the courses i wanted to sign up for. Most of them had rating 3.5 and above, many had 4 and above! That's where my opinion came from.

Now following two such messages, I am beginning to wonder if i have a selection bias - in that i only picked profs who were already well known!

Still it is difficult to believe 80% is just mediocre. Do you want to explain - i'm willing to update my stance if you convince me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Iday,
I agree with Anon. 10% are really good. 40% are ok. But 50% are really bad. Lots of folks think that by giving tons of homework and exams, they have achieved the dollar equivalent that is charged for the course. Infact, not many professors try to hone in on the basics and also have the patience to explain the doubts raised by students. Most of the professors think that their time is just too valuable. I have met only one Professor out of my nine courses so far who was good and also was patient enough to clear the doubts. Most of the professors have some arrogance built into them, which is the bad part of GSB. Charging around $4800 per course, they should do enough justice that the subject matter should stay in the brains of the students eternally. Based on my humble opinion, they don't even try to achieve that. I am a part-time student but this is just what I feel based on the cost and the benefit. There is too much hype where as the quality is not there. Within 10 weeks of courses, just trying to give tons of HW and exams doesn't justify the means of degrading the quality of the course. I have not taken many case based courses. But what I have heard from my friends is that most cases are 10 years old. eg Apple case from 1997. Come on, with the way things work, Booth needs to focus on cutting edge material. Not some old stuff that really doesnt match the present day requirements. Out of all the Profs I have taken, I like Dr. Rossi and Dr. Belton the best. Others are really mediocre and the content of some of the courses are really archaic. It raises a lot of questions for me as to spending 5 grand and learning a decade old stuff. This is purely my opinion. But your website was truly helpful in me getting into Booth. Thank you for that. Good luck.

Sudha said...

Hi Iday!

Its been such a long time, man! We've fallen totally out of touch. Coming to NYC anytime soon?

I like all the recent posts on your blog. And congrats on the BOB nomination!

Looks like someone does not like the profs at your college! From what I hear Chicago is at the very top when it comes to faculty, so I am going to take your word for it.


Anonymous said...

I'm a boothie as well. I agree with many comments stated here.

The academic rigor is great, but the cases are old.

Most professors are great but I had one that flat out didn't teach and was told there was nothing the school could do about it.