One of the first differentiators I learned about Booth when I started researching business schools was that Booth was well known for it’s flexible curriculum. Therefore, it’s not very surprising that one of the most frequent questions prospective students ask me is: “How do you take advantage of Booth’s flexible curriculum?” I generally answer the question (as I will in this post) with the caveat that the biggest advantage to a flexible curriculum is that there is not just one way to optimize it. Over the next few months, I plan to interview a few of my classmates about how they have used the flexible curriculum to achieve their goals, but thought I would start by answering the question myself.
Before I jump in, I want to explain what the flexible curriculum is (feel free to skip this paragraph if you know!). At Booth, all students only have one required class – LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development). Beyond that, all students have to take a class in accounting, statistics and microeconomics; however, there are multiple options for each (e.g., if you’re a CPA, you don’t need to take basic accounting). The final requirement is that all students need to have taken one class in at least six of seven areas (Finance, Marketing, Operations, Decisions, People, Strategy, and Business Environment). Beyond (and within) that, the curriculum is completely flexible.
The flexible curriculum empowers individuals to shape their own experience allowing them to shape their experience to optimize what they want to take away from their time at business school. MBA students come to school with both short and long-term goals. For me, my short-term goal was to come to school to pivot into the healthcare industry and, long-term, become a leader in the industry. Similarly, like many MBA students, my goals continued to evolve as I learned more about business and the healthcare industry throughout my educational experience – the flexible curriculum complemented this evolution and allowed me to shift the types of classes I took over time in a way that met my interests as I figured out what they were.
As a former engineer, I took a framework approach to deciding on classes. I wanted as much breadth as possible and then would go for depth in the subjects that I enjoyed the most. I ended up going deeper into strategic management, economics, and marketing courses. Since we had the flexible curriculum, I was able to daisy chain these “deep dives” over multiple quarters so I could quickly build on the material from the prior quarter. The flexible curriculum also allowed me to stack my classes in a way that took into account course load. In doing so, I could make adjustments to allow more time to focus on the classes that were most interesting to me without being bogged down with the high demands from some of the heavier core classes. Something that would be much harder to navigate with a strict curriculum. Another way I used the curriculum to my advantage was by increasing my course load when COVID-19 put a damper on my social life which will give me room to take less courses when we are all allowed to hang out again.
All that to say, MBA students come to school with a lot of diversity in what they want to get out of it. There are business majors that have taken all the basics and hope to “double click” on a specific subject and those that have absolutely no business experience and want a broad level of exposure – the flexible curriculum facilitates these goals. My personal curriculum probably does not look extraordinarily different from friends of mine in different MBA programs, but that’s because the curriculum I built worked for my needs – in the coming months, I look forward to introducing you to my classmates who really went “all out” in customizing their MBA programs to their needs.