A Guide to Random Walks

When you’re considering Booth as an option for your MBA, you’ve likely also heard about how admitted students like to go around the world with their future classmates on trips called Random Walks (or RW). [Let’s take a moment to snicker at the name, it’s very Booth – data-driven, analytical, “punny” – and you should probably just get used to it.]

Whether you’re strongly committed to going on Random Walk, or mildly flirting with the idea, here’s TBE’s (ok mostly mine) unofficial FAQs about everything RW.

Why is RW such a big deal?
Random Walks are trips around the world led by second year students accompanying twenty-odd first years. RWs are one’s first big Booth experience while at Chicago Booth (even though you could be halfway across the globe at the time). Random Walks happen before orientation, before classes, before LEAD… in some cases, before you’ve even moved to Chicago! It can be your first impression on your fellow Boothies, as well as that of your fellow travelers on you! It can also be less daunting to start the first day of school when you know a few friendly faces. Lastly, many incoming students become close friends on their Random Walks, some of those friendships lasting the length of the 2-year MBA and well beyond.

Why should I believe you?
I did Random Walks during both years at Booth – I went on one the summer before my first year and led one in my second year (shout outs to RW Ireland and RW Brazil!), so I have holistic perspective. Also, they were hands-down in my Top 10 experiences at Booth!

Ok, I’m in. But there are so many, how do I choose?
Here’s how I would suggest going about it…

Skim the trips and prioritize the ones that excite you
You can choose the next few steps for each trip, but the priority list will help you narrow it down faster and feel less overwhelmed. Bonus tip – MBA is a lot about prioritization, so might as well start this habit early 😉

Understand the trips
Check out the spider diagram – you’ll understand the intensity of each trip at first glance. Perhaps you’re more interested in nature than culture, or want to index lower on nightlife and more on beach time. The spider diagram gives a quick snapshot that should inform the tone of the trip.

Next, read about the trips. The website does a great job of listing out what you’ll be doing in detail. Read the day to day itinerary and note some salient points – how packed is each day, is most of the trip easy going or will you be burning the candle on both ends?

Familiarize yourself with the leaders
The best advice I got was to Go for the leaders, not the trip. (Incidentally, it came from my Radom Walk leader, although we had no idea we’d be traveling together at the time). I still don’t understand how, but magically every trip is aligned to the leaders’ personalities quite closely. Even the first-years who go on the trip are a lot like the leaders (at least most of them are). As a result, understanding trip leaders will go a long way in understanding how you will enjoy the trip and the group you’ll travel with.

There is always a First Day Fair, where admits can meet with the leaders. But even if you don’t get to meet them, it’s a good idea to read the trip leader profiles. Most of the trip leaders are hand-picked after a careful selection process so they’re great people without a doubt. But the profiles will help you understand their personalities and their visions for the trips. Are they looking to maintain a balance? Are they more interested in staying up all night?

Finally, reflect on yourself
You’ve worked hard over the last couple of years and let’s be honest, the GMAT and MBA applications are a lot of work. As much as the Random Walk is your chance to meet fellow Boothies and make friends, your state of mind will guide your experience a lot more than the people or the itinerary of the trip.

Take some time to think – are you exhausted (burnt out?) from your full-time job and looking to take a break before you start the MBA? Perhaps a laid-back Random Walk might be perfect for you.
Maybe you miss the good ole’ college days and are looking to jump back into MBA life, whole and soul. Then a trip that indexes highly on multiple factors is just the ticket.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Would you prefer a trip somewhere familiar, or extremely exotic? Assess your needs, who you are and how that aligns with the trips. Then make your picks
Remember, you’re spending a whole week with fellow Boothies and you’ll make your first impression at the Random Walk, so it’s a good idea to play to your strengths and do what will make you happy.

What if I don’t get into my first choice?
Thankfully, you’re asked to submit your top 5 choices and most of the time you’ll get one of your Top 2-3 choices. While I got my first pick, I did speak to my friends who went on second/third choices and I can tell you, they had a blast, and I could see myself enjoying on those trips too. So don’t fret too much about getting the first choice but rather pick 5 trips that you’d thoroughly enjoy.

What if I don’t go on Random Walk, will I be friendless?
Absolutely not! While I made some really close friends on my Random Walk, I made many more deep connections when I was back on campus through LEAD, Follies, career groups, and other trips. That’s the beauty of being in a flexible program – you constantly meet new people, and people are really open to making new connections.

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