Booth vs. Columbia for MBA

I was fortunate enough to be offered admission to both CBS and Booth in Round I. Neither school offered any merit funding, but my understanding is that CBS gives out the majority of its merit packages in February. I am now struggling to decide between the two schools.

While Booth is ranked higher than CBS in the USN&WR rankings, my understanding is that both Booth and CBS fall into the same tier (bottom half of M7). Based on the employment reports, it appears that the schools both achieve the same career outcomes, so there isn't any material difference between the two schools other than fit. I understand that Booth's ranking and reputation has been surging in recent years, but CBS is part of the old guard and has a much more institutionalized reputation.

For my goals, I am considering one of three paths: I) IB with a focus on restructuring; II) distressed investing / special situations investing; III) private equity. Long term, I would like to remain in NYC / Boston or Texas. For reference, I have 2 years of experience in boutique investment banking and two years of experience in principle investing at a ~$3 Bn energy-focused PE fund.

Is it crazy to choose CBS over Booth? Given that CBS is in Manhattan and just a trainride away from the center of the financial universe, I think the opportunities to network and for in-semester internships make it the logical choice. Really just looking for a sanity check and making sure that the general finance community won't find my decision to choose CBS over Booth as idiotic.

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Comments (34)

Jan 6, 2019

Cultures at both schools are very different. Booth is extremely academic.

Jan 6, 2019

Agreed, I noticed this after visiting both schools. I do fit in better at CBS, but I could make it work at either school. My concern is more around career outcomes and long-term implications, while culture takes a backseat in my opinion / assessment.

Jan 6, 2019

Understood. Booth has a very structured recruiting process for IBD in NYC. I'd venture to say that if you're socially competent, you'll stand out from your peers if you attend Booth.

Jan 6, 2019

Does Booth also have a structured recruiting process for PE / HF / AM? My understanding is that this is for the most part independently conducted by each student, at least outside of HS and HSW. Does being at Booth over CBS really stand out in this process?

Jan 7, 2019

Booth is not lower M7. It is arguably 4th, just behind Wharton, with some people putting it at or above W (I disagree with this). Unless Columbia gives you substantial $$$, I would take Booth.

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Jan 7, 2019

Booth by a mile. CBS is in free fall. Its reputation is imploding among employers. On top of that, its curriculum is a relic.

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Jan 7, 2019

I'm a Booth grad and would push back on your comment around Columbia being more of an institution than Booth. Booth is the second oldest business program in the U.S. and has a long and prestigious history. The program boasts more nobel laureates than any other program and has been a driving force for economic thought and policy for decades. The business and economics programs have strong relationships. I have videos of Richard Thaler, 2017's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, celebrating with friends of mine in class with champagne. Modern economic thought is primarily associated with the Chicago school and the Chicago school of thought permeates every aspect of Booth. Students are taught to question norms and use data to drive decision making in a way that I believe is unparalleled at business programs.

If you want a fascinating read on the history of the Chicago school of economics, pick up Chicago & Viena, Friend or Foe.

When I was accepted, we won nearly every cross offer I'm aware of vs. Columbia and Kellogg (I didn't see many for MIT that I can recall). We also won our fair share against Wharton. The program is most certainly not in the bottom of the M7. 10 years ago many people were questioning the programs rise towards the top of the M7. Those questions have long since been put to bed. It is a prime target for both recruiters and top talent.

Columbia is a stellar program, it has many pros and the value investing program is very well regarded. That being said, every BB and EB bank will fly people to Chicago in droves to recruit talent. The NY advantage is very overplayed by CBS. I don't know anybody who recruited for IB or asset management who struggled networking or interviewing from Booth.

Nobody will know, if you choose Columbia, that you chose them over Booth. If you feel a much stronger fit with Columbia, that should be your driver to enroll. If it is purely for recruiting/prestige, I'd suggest that you reevaluate your thought process. It's not something I really ever bring up but there is definitely an "ooh/aah" factor to having attended Booth.

Finally, Booth is more academic in that when you attend class and work in teams, people actually do the work and care about school. It does not mean that there is a lack of drinking, bar time, social events, etc. You get out of the academics what you put in to it. The student body does tend to be a little more humble/friendly than some competing programs but certainly not anti-social outside of a distinct segment of the class (~20%-30%) that you don't see much outside of class.

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Jan 8, 2019

"use data to drive decision making" - enough said. Booth by a million.

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Jan 6, 2019

When you state this, what specifically are you referring to? USN&WR rankings? Materially different employment report results? Something else?

Funniest
Jan 8, 2019
BreakingOutOfPWM:

I'm a Booth grad and would push back on your comment around Columbia being more of an institution than Booth. Booth is the second oldest business program in the U.S. and has a long and prestigious history. The program boasts more nobel laureates than any other program and has been a driving force for economic thought and policy for decades. The business and economics programs have strong relationships. I have videos of Richard Thaler, 2017's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, celebrating with friends of mine in class with champagne. Modern economic thought is primarily associated with the Chicago school and the Chicago school of thought permeates every aspect of Booth. Students are taught to question norms and use data to drive decision making in a way that I believe is unparalleled at business programs.

If you want a fascinating read on the history of the Chicago school of economics, pick up Chicago & Viena, Friend or Foe.

When I was accepted, we won nearly every cross offer I'm aware of vs. Columbia and Kellogg (I didn't see many for MIT that I can recall). We also won our fair share against Wharton. The program is most certainly not in the bottom of the M7. 10 years ago many people were questioning the programs rise towards the top of the M7. Those questions have long since been put to bed. It is a prime target for both recruiters and top talent.

Columbia is a stellar program, it has many pros and the value investing program is very well regarded. That being said, every BB and EB bank will fly people to Chicago in droves to recruit talent. The NY advantage is very overplayed by CBS. I don't know anybody who recruited for IB or asset management who struggled networking or interviewing from Booth.

Nobody will know, if you choose Columbia, that you chose them over Booth. If you feel a much stronger fit with Columbia, that should be your driver to enroll. If it is purely for recruiting/prestige, I'd suggest that you reevaluate your thought process. It's not something I really ever bring up but there is definitely an "ooh/aah" factor to having attended Booth.

Finally, Booth is more academic in that when you attend class and work in teams, people actually do the work and care about school. It does not mean that there is a lack of drinking, bar time, social events, etc. You get out of the academics what you put in to it. The student body does tend to be a little more humble/friendly than some competing programs but certainly not anti-social outside of a distinct segment of the class (~20%-30%) that you don't see much outside of class.

I'm not a booth grad, so maybe my math is off, but I think 4/7 would be considered bottom half by some.

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Jan 6, 2019

This was my impression, that the tiers were HS or HSW and then the rest.

Jan 8, 2019

.

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Jan 7, 2019

Booth's beat Wharton in the aggregate rankings in most of the past 8 years (see P&G data linked). I wouldn't consider it a better program, but the general thought for rankings nowadays is HS>WB>KCM. If you really want to nitpick over the last 2 years, sure, but the tiers come through in the data as well. CBS, MIT, Kellogg have not cracked the top 4 in that time frame. This coincides with who tends to win cross-offers as well.

https://poetsandquants.com/2018/11/14/2018-mba-ran...
U.S. News is generally considered the most reputable U.S. ranking.

https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-b...

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Jan 6, 2019

Thank you for the detailed response and I appreciate the color that you add to backing up Booth over CBS. I certainly agree that the Chicago economic school of thought is unique and Booth's curriculum is rigorous. That said, my understanding is that the value investing program competes, no? I understand that NYC banks actively (and aggressively) recruit from Booth, but my understanding is that the same banks recruit for the same positions at CBS.

At the end of the day, I think my biggest question is this: empirically, does an MBA from Booth get you access to opportunities that you would otherwise not get from CBS, or vice versa? I know that many PE / HF / AM shops only recruit at HS or HSW, but does this extend to HSWB or HSWC only? Given my background as an experienced financier (2 years IB & 2 years PE), will the same opportunities materialize from these schools. It is quite difficult to discern this information from the employment report. I keep going back to the fact that CBS is in NYC which is where the majority of the PE / HF / AM funds are based and think that the sheer number of networking and internship opportunities makes it a hard opportunity to discount so severely.

Jan 7, 2019

In all honesty - I've provided the color between the programs. You won't get the specifics over what funds recruit where on this board. Reach out to alumni of each school at funds you're targeting and ask the following questions:

  1. What were the advantages that Booth/CBS provided you in recruiting?
  2. When you were aware of other candidates in the process, what programs did they attend?
  3. What was the overall recruiting process? How difficult was networking for this position and other roles from your program?

You're looking for very targeted advice; I'd ask those who succeeded in the process directly.

I'd focus your efforts on the AM/PE roles. There is no CBS differentiator over Booth for IB.

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Jan 8, 2019

Based on your goals of restructuring or distressed debt I would say NYC / CBS because more reputable firms in that area will be in NYC as compared to Chicago making recruitment a lot easier

"If you ain't first, you're last!" - GOAT

Jan 6, 2019

This was my thinking as well. Being in the city and able to meet at a moment's notice seems like a very hard opportunity to pass up. Coupled with the value investing program, it seems to be the better choice unless Booth opens up doors that CBS cannot.

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Jan 9, 2019

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Jan 9, 2019

No, nobody will find your decision to attend CBS over Booth "idiotic". That's one of the more ridiculous quotes I've seen on this site in a while. You're talking about CBS vs. Booth, not CBS vs. Harvard or Stanford.

Given your end-goals, the most important thing I see is that you have the requisite experience (IB and principal investing experience) that make your goals attainable, in theory. I've seen too many people without buyside experience go to a top business school, including H/S, thinking they'll be able to snag a decent buyside gig post-MBA and end up disappointed. You have the experience, so you need to go to a school that is seen as a top school by the people at the firms you are targeting and then fight / network like a maniac to land a position (people underestimate this part). However, for the "top school" part, both Booth and CBS fit the criteria in my experience. Note that my experience has only been in NYC, and the firms I have worked at tended to focus their hiring efforts on Harvard, Wharton, and Columbia. That's not to say a Booth grad couldn't break in - it's not like we had rules prohibiting us from hiring people from Chicago.

Booth is a tremendous school. CBS is a tremendous school. Congrats on your offers - you're making a big investment, so choose the one where you want to spend that $200k. Then mentally prepare yourself for the fight of landing a buyside role out of school.

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Jan 12, 2019

One thing to keep in mind is that Booth has done pretty well with cross offers against Wharton (I have heard ~50%), while very few people choose Columbia over Wharton. Furthermore, Columbia has early decision and J-term which further dilutes the student body. I don't think your outcomes will be materially different from either school but the student body at Booth will likely be more impressive. At the end of the day as others have mentioned, this should come down to fit and it sounds like you are leaning Columbia. If they haven't happened already, I would definitely go to the sell days at both schools as that will be the best way to get a feel for everything. I would also encourage you to reach out to both schools and see if either will give you a scholarship to try and sway you as that could potentially serve as tiebreaker if you are truly torn.

Jan 15, 2019

Using J-term against CBS as dilution seems odd as Booth has nearly 2,000 part-time MBA students (if you have worked in Chicago before, you would know it seems everyone and their mother got a Booth MBA). I also wouldn't use Booth's yield in any argument as its <60% overall, not that CBS would be its current 70% without its rolling decision/ED structure.

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Jan 12, 2019

According to this (classic) WSO thread, cbs beat booth in cross admits in 2015: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wallstreetoasis.c...
Also cbs has a lower acceptance rate, hovering around 16% compared to Booth at around 20%.

None of this should influence your decision though in my opinion. The two schools are peers in strictest sense of the word. Sometimes I think prospective MBA's split hairs too much - there are only tiers of schools, not a single file ranking. Cbs/booth/Kellogg/Sloan maybe tuck maybe Wharton are all on the same tier and you should choose based on fit.

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Jan 13, 2019

For IB, Booth is way ahead of CBS. In IB it's Wharton (1A) & Booth (1B) and then everyone else. For PE, there is pretty much no difference - it will be an "entrepreneurial" recruiting process from both schools.

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Jan 29, 2019

If you want to be in NYC/Boston after your MBA, personally think CBS is a no-brainer. Not sure on PE (would agree with prior comments it will be more of an entrepreneurial process at either school), but for HF/AM imo there is no opportunity at Booth that you wouldn't get at CBS. The more important thing is that H/W/C/C will get you through the door but just because you go to a top MBA doesn't mean a buyside role gets handed to you - your pre-MBA experience, grit/passion have a much larger effect on determining your recruiting outcomes. Congrats!

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Jan 30, 2019

Keep in mind that this is not just a 2-3 year decision but a 20-30 year decision. Don't just look at the first job you might get but where that role will take you and whether or not it puts you on track to achieve your career aspirations.
Fit is very important - which program has the students and alumni who you want to be your network for the rest of your career? How responsive and supportive are they? Where are they located.
In this end, this is a very personal decision. You have two incredible options that many would love to have.
Good luck!

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Feb 1, 2019

Here's a fun and data-driven game to play: cold contact 30 alumni on LinkedIn from both Booth and CBS explaining that you've been admitted and are looking for their advice on recruiting for IB. See how many people respond to you and how fast, and in what level of detail.

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Feb 14, 2019

Some precious advice here.
Has anyone seen a comparable thread with US vs. International / European programs?
In Europe the FT ranking is usually the most widely recognised

Feb 14, 2019

Precious advice here.
Has anyone seen a comparable thread of US vs. International / European programs?

Jan 7, 2019

CBS is for rich internationals trying to buy prestige and for J-termers. The curriculum is incredibly outdated as well. A relic of the 50s and 60s. It's basically a gimmick and its ranking will continue to decline.

Booth, on the other hand, is climbing rapidly. So the question is, do you want to be on the sinking ship or on the high flyer?

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