In any year, the start of a Full-Time MBA program is a significant adjustment. You quit your job, move to a new city (or perhaps just a new neighborhood), and begin a two year journey to make an impact in your career. In 2020, there were added challenges and ambiguity due to a global pandemic that no one anticipated. Yet, for Cooper Morrison, ‘22, he remained steadfast in now being the best time to pursue his MBA and in Booth being the right program for him. Originally from McKinney, Texas, Cooper worked as a Senior Financial Analyst at CBRE prior to Booth. He works hard, but when he has time to himself, he enjoys skateboarding, watching the Great British Baking Show, and collecting vintage watches.
Here’s what Cooper had to say about starting at Booth this year:
What motivated you to pursue an MBA?
I was motivated by a desire to connect with talented people of diverse cultural and professional backgrounds with whom I can grow personally and professionally. Additionally, I was excited about the potential to develop a deeper understanding of finance, strategy, and entrepreneurship, which I’m incredibly excited to delve into at Booth this year.
Were you deciding between multiple MBA programs? Why did you choose Booth?
Okay, so this question is important to me. I narrowed my school decision set down to Booth and a peer school that shall remain unnamed. I went into the MBA admissions process thinking the other program was my dream school, based largely on brief campus visits and stereotypes perpetuated by b-school news publications and online chat rooms. After connecting with more community members at both schools on interview day and on welcome weekend, my entire perspective shifted. Make sure you connect with the community.
Personally, I chose Booth because I don’t think there’s any other MBA program that does a better job of creating a community-oriented environment while still being in a major city. The other major differentiating factor at Booth, which is truly a departure from any other top school, is the flexible curriculum, which will allow me to avoid taking courses that would be redundant based on my past experiences, maximizing the value of my time spent on academics.
Given the state of transition the world is in because of COVID-19, why did now still feel like the right time to pursue your MBA?
Under any circumstances, I believe that the decision of whether to pursue an MBA should be based on each prospective student’s specific personal and professional goals.
For myself, I evaluated my short-term career goals in the context of current events and felt confident that my employment opportunities wouldn’t be jeopardized by pursuing an MBA this year. Additionally, I think that tumultuous times might be the best in which to pursue an MBA, as business leadership is best tested under pressure, and that’s what I’m at Booth to learn about.
Have you managed to connect with other incoming students over the summer? If so, in what ways?
Booth admitted students rely on Slack as our primary form of communication, and my classmates have constantly gone above and beyond to foster a sense of community, hosting virtual small group chats, movie nights, and happy hours – just to name a few. Additionally, students living in the same areas prior to relocating to Chicago planned socially distanced hangouts when possible.
I honestly feel like we headed into orientation as a more close-knit class than we would have been under normal circumstances because of my classmates’ outstanding efforts to connect virtually over the summer.
What about second year students? Did you find that they reached out in ways that made you feel welcome and connected to the community?
I recognize that Booth is one of the more populous top business schools, but I think it has one of the most, if not the most, engaged informal welcoming committees and that the pay-it-forward culture couldn’t be more real. Second-year students, recent grads, and later-career alums have all been incredibly responsive and willing to offer business school and career advice.
For example, when I was deciding between Booth and another MBA program, numerous second-year Boothies who had previously dealt with the same decision were kind enough to hop on a call to give me their advice. Remarkably, none of the three Booth students I talked to exercised their inherent bias. They simply guided me in understanding the differentiating qualities of Booth and the other program and highlighted potential pros and cons of each, allowing me to make a more informed decision. Their willingness to help and effort to be unbiased were truly unique and are a testament to authenticity of the Booth community.
How do you feel about the structure of the Autumn Quarter?
In the wake of COVID-19, every school is struggling to balance the academic experience and public health concerns this Fall, but I think Booth’s plan is the most student-friendly of those that I’m aware of in the US. While some course sections are being offered fully remote, many are being offered as dual modality (part in-person and part virtual) which accommodates students who are unable to be in Chicago for the Autumn Quarter, but also gives those of us who are in Chicago the opportunity to have an in-person experience in a socially distanced capacity.
Given the largely virtual start to the Autumn Quarter, did you move to Chicago before the start of class? Why or why not?
Yes! While I know many international students are unfortunately unable to get to Chicago this Fall, the vast majority of domestic students are here (And we’re looking forward to welcoming our international classmates in person once they are able to arrive!). I think being here is invaluable if at all possible, as the nice weather (for now) and expansive public parks near popular Boothie residences have been particularly accommodating to socially distanced gatherings.
How do you plan to continue connecting with your peers (and professors) now that the school year has begun?
All of the courses I’m taking are being administered in dual-modality format, so I’ll have the opportunity to meet my professors in person, and as most Boothies live in the same part of town, I’m hopeful that those of us in Chicago will get together for small study groups.
Any advice you would offer to someone considering a Booth MBA?
My advice, which applies to Booth but should be considered when evaluating any MBA program, is as follows:
- Engage with current students and other members of the community (admissions teams, alumni, etc.) to get numerous perspectives on the Booth experience. While it’s important to get a current perspective on the student experience, alumni perspectives can be invaluable in determining the strength of a school’s network and resources later in your career.
- Thoroughly review the Booth website and The Booth Experience blog, which provide insights into curriculum (which is particularly unique at Booth!), student life, groups/clubs, research centers, and employment outcomes.
- Be careful about making decisions based on what you read on chat rooms and b-school news outlets. While these can be great resources for certain kinds of information (rankings, program updates, etc.), they sometimes overemphasize stereotypes and include misinformation.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to fit a mold of what you think admissions is looking for. You’re far more likely to be successful in the admissions process if you come across as genuine.
- Be kind. This applies to everyone you interact with (fellow prospective students, admissions teams, etc.) at every stage of the MBA admissions journey. Most people applying to the top MBA programs are academically and professionally accomplished, but not everyone goes above and beyond to be kind – it’s a great way to make yourself memorable!