The First Year Experience: Booth Through the Lens of COVID-19

The First Year Experience: Booth Through the Lens of COVID-19

As a first year, I’m frequently asked how I feel about starting school in the middle of a global pandemic. As a Round 1 applicant last year, the notion of COVID-19 didn’t exist as I was applying to business schools. For all I knew, I was on track to be a part of a fantastic, yet not exceedingly unique Booth class. By the time I committed to Booth in March, I had big plans. I was ready to leave my job in May, travel the world, move to the Loop, go on a Random Walk, start classes at Harper, recruit for an internship, and live the life of a typical MBA student. Things obviously did not go to plan.

In April of 2020, when the reality of just how long the pandemic would stretch began to set in, I began to wonder  whether or not I should  still go to school, knowing that COVID-19 would likely have an impact on the program.   As my economics professor would like to point out, sometimes it’s helpful to look at our decisions in relation to our opportunity costs. When that question of what to do ran through my head, I had two options: stay at my current job, working remotely throughout the pandemic, or head to school, pandemic and all. 

I had applied to business school well before COVID-19 was a factor in our world, which should indicate to you that I was ready for a change. I loved my pre-Booth job. My coworkers were great, I worked with fun clients, and I enjoyed what I did. That said, I felt like it was my time to make a change, and when we switched to an at-home world in March, I realized just how much in-person interactions made my job so enjoyable. Knowing I was ready, I decided to take the leap and go to school, COVID-19and all. 

Reflecting on my first year, when I look across the three key pillars of an MBA experience, education, recruiting, and social, none have been what I anticipated, but all have been great. 

Education: Classes have been a mix of in-person and online. Most professors have worked hard to reformat their classes to drive engagement and ensure we don’t sit and listen to a three hour Zoom lecture. I’ve had a great mix of classes across most of the disciplines Booth has to offer, and have already learned a lot.  Don’t get me wrong, I think we’re all itching to get fully back into the classroom, but I’m growing my business knowledge daily. 

Recruiting: Recruiting was a key driver of coming to Booth, and I’m happy to say that the process went off without a hitch for me. While I missed out on the free food that the second years tell me was the best part of recruiting, I was able to network and interview from the comfort of my own apartment. Best part: I didn’t have to put on a pair of heels once. 

Social: My unofficial Random Walk (complete with COVID-19 testing and precautions in place) was a lot less exotic than a typical trip, but I still got away (to Pullman, Michigan!) and made a great group of 12 new Booth friends before classes even started. Getting to know my classmates frequently revolved around having a beer on picnic blankets in Millennium Park, rather than frequenting Chicago nightlife hotspots, but it still gave me a great avenue to meet my fellow classmates. These initial connections evolved into a great group of Booth friends.

Is my MBA experience exactly what I would have expected? Absolutely not. Has it been a fulfilling, exciting experience that made the best of the situation that we’ve been in? Definitely!