MBA School Choice: Kellogg Vs. Chicago Booth

There is plenty that both unites and distinguishes these top business schools in Illinois

Traditionally, Kellogg has been the school for “poets” and marketing, while Booth has historically been seen as the school for “quants” and finance with Nobel Prize winners on the faculty.

“The most obvious difference between these schools is that Kellogg has long been known as the business school for marketing, while Chicago has long had a reputation for finance,” says admissions consultant Stacy Blackman. 

But there are plenty of similarities between the two top business schools, including their location in Illinois.

Kellogg Vs. Chicago Booth: MBA admissions and class profile

Every year, Booth and Kellogg build extremely diverse classes of students. “At Kellogg, these diverse perspectives shine their strongest during small group work and student organization, while at Booth, they come through intellectually stimulating conversations in the classroom,” says Talon Rindels, an admissions advisor at The MBA Exchange.

“Many professors at Booth encourage students to challenge them directly during lectures, often leading to enriching debate,” adds Rindels, an MBA graduate of Kellogg.

Kellogg is equally as selective as Booth, with acceptance rates hovering around 23 percent year after year with some minor changes. The class profile is also equally competitive with the average GPA for the Class of 2020 being 3.6 for both institutions while the GMAT score is around 730 for each school.

Booth and Kellogg admit a high percentage of students who had majored in either business or economics when they did their undergraduate studies, about half the cohort. However, Kellogg has retained more “poets” than Booth, with students who majored in the humanities representing 28 percent of the Kellogg class, versus 15 percent at Booth.

Blackman says it’s surprising that Kellogg brings in as many students with STEM backgrounds as Chicago (roughly 30 percent each), despite the latter’s reputation for being an especially strong “quant” school.

Kellogg Vs. Chicago Booth: MBA admissions requirements

The Kellogg and Booth essay prompts vary, with Kellogg’s questions embodying intrinsic, holistic and value-based attributes. While they may change each year, Booth’s essays are seemingly more straightforward overall, with its first prompt this year a career goal question.

“Booth wants to understand what about its culture resonates with applicants, their viewpoints, and their aspirations,” says a representative of Booth’s MBA program. 

A former admissions officer at the school, who works on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team, says: “If the why now, why an MBA, and why Booth questions don’t organically come out in the application or interview, the applicant isn’t a strong candidate.”

While both schools are looking for well-rounded leaders, Rindels says that Booth places an especially heavy focus on analytical ability, which must be demonstrated not only through your standardized test score, but also in your professional experience. 

On the other hand, Kellogg places an extremely heavy focus on individuals who exemplify an undeniable ability to work well in a team environment, says Rindels.

Kellogg Vs. Chicago Booth: Business school culture

A current Kellogg MBA student and former client of Blackman’s describes the culture as feeling like “a warm hug”. “Kellogg maintains a culture of openness and opportunity, where you have a strong support system,” says the candidate. “Even during the pandemic, I have been pleasantly surprised at people’s willingness to engage and make friends.”

She singles out for praise Joint Ventures, the official Kellogg club for the partners and families of students. “My husband has the opportunity to not only audit classes, but be a very active member of the Kellogg community and join me on my MBA journey, even as I travel and meet new people,” the student says.

At Booth, a former admissions officer describes the school’s culture as unifying. “Booth has a special community that prioritizes diversity of thought, a pay-it-forward mentality, and discipline-based approach to learning with  Nobel Prize winners teaching there.”

This person says that students were encouraged, even expected, to be involved in the growth of the institution. “Booth is a place that values tension in the classroom. There are countless examples of diverse student groups uniting to lead initiatives that have ultimately made Booth a better place.”

Kellogg Vs. Chicago Booth: MBA curriculum

Both schools’ MBA programs are based on the quarter system: students take between three and five courses per quarter (with three quarters a year).

Chicago requires a minimum of 20 courses plus completion of Leadership Exploration and Development (LEAD), a hands-on, practical experience aimed at building leadership skills. Kellogg requires a minimum of 20.5 courses.

All students in these MBA programs begin their coursework with general business courses, but at Booth, students dive headfirst into electives.

“That comes with a huge benefit to really craft the MBA experience that is right for you,” says Rindels. “But if you attend Booth without that business degree, you’ll want to ensure you arrive on campus well-equipped to handle the analytical rigor needed to succeed in the program.”

One new and exciting area of focus in the elective offerings at Chicago Booth has to do with the way artificial intelligence and machine learning will impact business. Similarly, Kellogg’s new MBAi curriculum deepens students’ understanding of how technology and leadership intersect.

In addition, Kellogg has seen a growth in interest for its entrepreneurship programs, and tech-outcomes over the last few years. In 2017, Kellogg added a Winter Quarter immersion into the Bay Area ecosystem. The program features seminars and visits with local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists as well as an internship over a full 10-week quarter in San Francisco.

Kellogg Vs. Chicago Booth: Post-MBA careers

Both programs have comparable salaries of around $150,000 on average, with a signing bonus of around $30,000. And at both schools, the proportion of MBA graduates employed after three months is high, at about 95 percent.

But there are differences between institutions when it comes to the career choices of freshly minted MBAs. A heavier emphasis on finance is still seen at Booth, with 30 percent of MBA graduates entering the industry, far more than the 15 percent of Kellogg grads who joined the financial sector in 2020.

In Booth’s latest graduating Class of 2020, the largest single group of students (38 percent) went into the consulting industry (the same for Kellogg at 36 percent). It was only the third time in Booth’s history that consulting beat finance as the number one career choice of the school’s MBAs.

Kellogg sends far more students to the technology sector (28 percent versus 16 percent at Booth). However, Booth has twice as many students starting their own businesses as entrepreneurs. Consumer marketing favors Kellogg but only by a couple of percentage points, and it’s a small fraction of the student class at both programs.

By location, both institutions have closer connections to domestic employers with only a small minority of students (about nine percent) working overseas shortly after graduation. Kellogg sends 29 percent of its graduates to the Midwest of the US, versus Booth’s 33 percent.

In the Northeast of America, employment placement is 14 percent for Kellogg and 23 percent for Booth. For the West Coast, it’s 34 percent for Kellogg compared to 25 percent at Booth, which reflects the tech career outcomes.

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