“Booth doesn’t have a cohort system so it’s hard to have a strong community.” … “Where the campus is located within Chicago also might not make it easy to foster community.” These were statements I heard and believed to be true while applying to Booth. In fact, it was a major concern I had regarding the school even after I got admitted. Personally, and professionally, I value collaboration and sense of community so this really made me apprehensive about coming to Booth. So, I frequently brought up my concerns during conversations with Boothies to understand if the statements were true. As I listened to them share their experiences at Booth, I began to realize that my perception was incorrect.
Reassured by those conversations and motivated by everything else Booth had to offer, I took the leap. Fast forward, 15 months later, I’m currently a second year at Booth. Based on my experience, (and that of many of my peers) I can say that the above statements are just myths and there’s no truth associated with them. I know, however, that myths can be powerful and difficult to bust. Yet, for others who are in the same boat as I was with similar apprehensions, I would like to attempt to clear those apprehensions by breaking down those commonly uttered statements.
Booth doesn’t have a cohort system so there’s no sense of community.
It’s true that Booth doesn’t have a cohort system that extends throughout the two year experience. With only one required class called LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development), the rest of the curriculum is flexible. This means you get to pick and choose every aspect of the experience—from the courses you take to where you live to the student groups you’re a part of. As a result of that self-selection, you’re also choosing your friends. Rather than relying on a cohort system to build your friendships based on proximity, at Booth you’re building your community based on shared interests and passions. You don’t have to worry about the downside to a cohort system, which is that you might not click with people within your cohort and find yourself unable to form close bonds beyond it, but this doesn’t happen at Booth.
While you may not be with the same cohort for two years, there are plenty of opportunities to build relationships with smaller groups. Experiences like Random Walk, where Boothies meet one another for the first time before school starts and bond while exploring a new location in the world, are excellent ways to bond with your peers. Another is the sense of community that is created during LEAD, a 4-5-week program during the first quarter of the first year. During LEAD, all first years are divided into cohorts of 70. Regularly meeting with this group of 70 throughout the course creates a sense of community within the cohort. Even after the program ends, the cohorts stay in touch as there are lot of activities throughout the two years including the Booth cohort Olympics, during which the cohorts compete with one another. This offers the best of both the worlds as we get to have a core group of friends (LEAD cohort mates) while getting to meet lot of other people owing to the flexible curriculum. The flexible curriculum also allows for the first years and second years to be in the same classes. This too plays a major role in creating a community beyond your graduating class.
The location of the campus doesn’t lend itself to building a strong community.
While the Full-Time program’s main campus is in Hyde Park, most students live in Downtown Chicago. The distance between the two, as well as the size of Chicago often leads those unfamiliar with Chicago to think community will get lost in the hustle and bustle of large metropolis. Instead, you’ll find that 70-75% of the students stay within a three-block radius of one another. Since the majority of the students are concentrated in the same area, there is a strong sense of community even without on-campus housing. I live in MPP, which is called the unofficial dorm of Booth as majority of the students live here. Living in MPP gave me the opportunity to meet lot of other Boothies. During my first year, I really enjoyed bumping into my classmates in the lobby, laundry area, and other common areas in MPP. This enabled me to form close bonds with other Boothies in the building. This also helped professionally as we became one another’s pillar of strength during recruiting by giving one another cases and also providing emotional support during the stressful consulting recruiting phase. My experience living in this building has been amazing and I couldn’t have asked for more.
Even for those who live outside of these buildings, there are ample opportunities to create community. With a second campus at the Gleacher Center in River North, students can meet for group projects and form close bonds as well. You also find that students share Ubers or ride the train together to and from campus each day, which is a different type of carpool. Additionally, you find that campus is incredibly lively throughout the day with students staying there over the lunch hour before afternoon class or on a Friday evening for a LPF (Liquidity Preference Function).
Note to Prospective Booth Students: Booth lacking a sense of community is definitely a myth. You’ll feel empowered to build your own community through the experiences you engage with and see the city become an extension of Booth’s campus. Still apprehensive? I encourage you to reach out to me or any other Boothie to hear more about our specific experiences!