Navigating Chicago Booth Academics

Navigating Chicago Booth Academics

We are incredibly proud of Booth’s reputation as an academic forward business degree, but for prospective and incoming students – navigating Booth’s academics can seem intimidating. TBE had the chance to sit down with recent graduate, Daniel Huizinga, ’22, who was named a Wallman Scholar for the Class of 2022 – a prestigious group of the Top 5% of Boothies.

He shares his wisdom below on how to successfully navigate academic life at Booth, not only as a top student (involved in many extracurriculars), but also as a new parent. Congratulations Daniel on all your success!

Daniel and his family

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What did you do before Booth and what will you do now that you have graduated?

I just graduated from Booth this June and will start in September as a consultant in the Chicago office of Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Before business school, I was a manager at Accenture in DC, focusing on data-driven strategy for nonprofit, education, and government clients.

In my free time, I am also a frequent writer and have published over 200 articles on policy, economics, entrepreneurship, and education. I also love helping friends and classmates make smarter decisions about their personal finances, and I lead a popular session for Booth admits each year! My wife Madeleine and I have two children – Peter (2.5yr) and Julia (4mo).  

Congratulations on becoming a Wallman Scholar! Can you tell us more about what it is?

The Amy and Richard F. Wallman Scholars, thanks to the incredible generosity of The Wallman Family, is a designation given to every graduating student who graduates with High Honors (the top 5% of each Booth class by academic GPA). The 50 or so of us also got to have a wonderful dinner with The Wallman’s a few days before graduation!

Daniel and Madeleine Huizinga with friends Austin and Natalie Russel at the Wallman Scholar Reception

How did you navigate Booth’s academic rigor with success?

I think there’s this false perception that “High Honors” means you spent tons of time studying at the expense of your social life, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth for me! I really prioritized building a diverse set of friendships at Booth (my advice here) and making the Booth community better through co-chairing several clubs – even starting a new one for parents! Still, one of the reasons I chose Booth was because I wanted to challenge myself to learn from some of the smartest people in the world. So I spent a lot of time strategically planning my course schedule. I attended every class and chose group members who shared that vision and were willing to dive a bit deeper in discussing the content each week.

What classes did you enjoy most?

There are so many!

  • Interpersonal Dynamics (any professor) is an incredibly popular class and for good reason – you’ll get a lot of real-life practice at communicating honestly and building deeper relationships with people.
  • Portfolio Management (Pastor) is fascinating, even if you’re not going to work in investment management. He brings in a great blend of math, real-world cases, and recent articles to help you better understand a variety of investing concepts – everything from ESG investing to university endowments to hedge funds.
  • Some other favorites include Artificial Intelligence (Mullainathan), The Study of Behavioral Economics (Pope), and Managing the Firm in the Global Economy (Dingel) – but I could go on for awhile!

What advice do you have for prospective or incoming students on how to win big academically in business school?

As I mentioned above, choosing group members is critically important. So much of business school revolves around group projects/collaborating with other students, and finding organized people with diverse skills makes it possible to not get overwhelmed.

As soon as the “bidding” results were announced (and I found out what classes I got into), I immediately reached out to students I knew and trusted (or asked them for recommendations) to lock down my groups early. We would get a weekly meeting time on the calendar and split/assign responsibility for the work, which helped me to stay on top of things during the busiest weeks. I also tried to be an “anti-procrastinator” – knocking out my homework for the week as soon as it was posted so that I could have a few days before each class with nothing on my to-do list and more time to invest in my family and social activities.

You’re also a parent at Booth, can you tell us more about that experience?

Being a parent in business school is not “easy” by any means. It’s a lot of work, but totally worth it! When I think about the alternative (working from home for the past two years), I’m so glad business school instead allowed me to spend so much focused time with my kids, who made me laugh every day and helped me understand what a “joyful” life really means. Of course, there are sacrifices that Booth parents make. For example, I woke up with my son at 7am every morning, which meant I almost never stayed out past midnight.

When we had our daughter in Winter Quarter of second year, managing everything while sleep-deprived was definitely a challenge – but thankfully so many classmates offered to cook us meals or babysit for an evening. As a parent, I also never went on any of the big ski trips/Spring Break trips – just didn’t make sense for me to spend my time off away from my family. Staying in Chicago though didn’t mean I was anti-social, it just allowed me to get to know other Boothies who stayed around too!

Any words of advice to parents or soon to be parents pursuing an MBA?

It was super helpful that my wife wanted to take a break from work during this experience (she was a teacher before business school/COVID). During school, we shared our calendars each week to ensure I had time to get homework done and attend recruiting events, and that we each had our own time away from the kids to spend with friends. Whenever possible, I prioritized meeting other Boothies in between classes while I was already at Harper, or in the evenings after the kids went to bed so that I could still help with dinner/bathtime. Sometimes I planned “coffee chats” with other Boothies while at the playground with my kids, which was a fun way to show my classmates the joys of parenthood!

I also worked with a few other parents and partners to organize a free Booth club “Parents of Little Ones” (POLO) this year. The club provides a great community for almost 100 Booth parents and their kids! We even have a detailed Families at Booth Resource Guide to answer all the questions admits might have before coming to Booth.