Students Reflect on their First and Last Days at Booth

beginnings and ending

This particular week in June is very busy, but in the best possible way. It is also a sentimental one that people will remember for the rest of their lives. However, it will be memorable for two different reasons.

For some, it marks the beginning of their Booth journey as they arrive to our downtown campus on Thursday for LAUNCH, a three-day program that kicks off their Booth experience. On Saturday, others will mark the end of their MBA journey as they walk across the stage at convocation and officially become Chicago Booth alumni.

These events are a mere two days apart but are symbolic of the full-circle experience of Chicago Booth. We asked a few students reflect on these two milestone events, and they represent both ends of the spectrum: those finishing their first quarter (Aly Kasberg and Sean Liu), and those getting ready to move the tassel (Ryan Bormet and Cassandra Oliveira).

The Beginnings

As an incoming student, how did you feel walking into LAUNCH on the first morning?

Cassandra: I was nervous, but also so excited to finally get started with my MBA after so much preparation and anticipation.

Sean: I was excited and proud. I thought to myself that this is a new chapter in my life, my dream had come true, and I was ready to take on this journey.

Ryan: Having no idea what to expect over the next three days, I felt nervous, but also excited to begin the program. I already met a group of my new classmates at the welcome events, so I was looking forward to reconnecting as well as meeting new people.

Aly: I was eager to get started. With the help of our mentors, my LAUNCH group got to know each other before the weekend began, so it was great to have some initial connections walking into Gleacher.

How did LAUNCH get you out of your comfort zone?

Ryan: I quickly realized that LAUNCH was much more than a standard orientation. I was challenged to learn in unexpected situations and solving problems with teams I had just met. I still recall the humbling experience of giving an improvised speech to practice public speaking skills!

Cassandra: I was suddenly surrounded by a lot of people that shared my interests, ambition, and personality in many ways, so actively taking stock of how I was presenting myself in that environment was a learning opportunity.

Sean: LAUNCH put me in front of a group of strangers who are all very intelligent and opinionated. I had to find ways to convince others to see my perspective while maintaining healthy dynamics within the group.

Aly: I was expecting an orientation session centric to academic resources. Each activity during LAUNCH is thoughtfully crafted, and it forced me to deeply evaluate myself and grow as a leader.

How did you feel by the end of LAUNCH?

Ryan: I was absolutely exhausted, but could not wait to for classes to begin. After three long days of taking on challenges and trying new things, I was amazed at how everyone bonded.

Sean: I was amazed at how well relationships had forged in just three days. I was able to make an impact and create an impression among my peers at Booth.

Cassandra: I felt tired, relieved, and excited. I felt confident that I had made the right choice given how much emphasis Booth placed on leadership and other soft skills during LAUNCH. I was proud to go to a school that viewed an MBA education as much more than finance and economics classes.

Looking back on the Booth experience

What advice about Booth do you have for incoming students?

Ryan: Go all in. Leave all of your distractions at the door, soak up as much of the experience as you can, and try to meet as many people as possible.

Cassandra: Take notes during your time at Booth — everything and everyone that really inspires you. Especially as a part-time student, it's so easy to let the days and weeks and quarters fly by without reflecting. But you will never again have the chance to learn so much about your "spark" as you will while attending Booth. Pay attention, because those "sparks" will be your guide not just as you choose additional classes, but also for your longer-term career.


What tips do you have for balancing school, work, and personal life?

Cassandra: Accept that “balance” is elusive. You rarely will have a home run in all areas of your life every week, so accept that in the end it balances out, and your priorities might have to be malleable in the meantime. You will figure out how to manage it based on your unique circumstances.

Ryan: There's no easy answer and it's hard for everyone at times, but we're all managing that balance together, so don't be afraid to lean on your friends in the program. If you have an especially busy week at the office, communicate with your group, offer to do more on the next assignment, and people will be willing to help. Since your quantity of time will be reduced once you start the program, focus on the quality of your time. Whatever you're doing at a given moment, be completely present. When you're with family, put away your cell phone and focus on connecting. When you're in class, leave your work at the office. It's harder than it sounds, but practice it and it will make a difference.

Finally, what did Booth teach you about yourself?

Cassandra: That I am strong and resilient, that I can learn quickly and efficiently, and that I have an extremely supportive professional community that has my back.

Ryan: To be confident in my ability to take on new challenges, even if they may seem daunting. The coursework prepared me to approach problems strategically and the self-assurance to ask questions often. I experienced the impact of having diverse perspectives reshape conversations in ways I would not have considered on my own.

We hope these reflections provide a deeper insight into the Chicago Booth experience, and also make you excited to start this journey for yourself. Our students are happy to offer advice and talk about the Chicago Booth community with prospective students, and we hope you will take advantage of this wonderful resource. Just visit our Connect with a Student portal to get started.