“Is it worth the time and resources to visit MBA programs before I apply?”
“Does it really matter if I visit my target schools?”
“Will it make a difference in my application if I attend an on-campus admissions seminar?”
These are some of the questions I’m often asked by applicants regarding campus visits.
The simple answer to these questions is yes.
But simply visiting a school is not enough.
You need to maximize your visit to make sure that you extract the right information about the program so you can decide whether it is indeed a good fit for you.
Also being intimately acquainted with the MBA program will give you the ammunition you need to make a strong case in your application that you are a good fit.
Visit your target schools at the right time.
Avoid visiting when classes are out of session. Typically, the best time to visit is October and November and February, March, and part of April.
You can also take advantage of campus visits during the summer for programs that are in session at that time (eg. Columbia Graduate School of Business January program and London Business School).
Being on campus when classes are in session and engaging with students will enable you to assess whether the program is the right fit.
Visit more than one class.
I recommend attending two classes if possible to have a comparison point and to see how students engage with their faculty and how they interact with each other in different courses.
While the formal visitation program would likely accommodate one class visit you could squeeze in another class visit through a friend who is a current student at that program.
It’s one thing to attend the class that is popular and chosen for you to see by the admission board.
Seeing an extra class, one that you select yourself, can give you a more realistic perspective of what classes are like at that program.
Meet with a faculty member, if possible.
You have to be proactive to arrange a meeting with a faculty member since most admissions visitation programs do not offer this opportunity.
Research the professors’ backgrounds ahead of your visit and if you identify a faculty member that is doing really interesting work in an area you are passionate about you should take the initiative to reach out to them ahead of your visit.
You never know, you may be able to get a few minutes to meet with them during your visit.
This interaction can give you some good perspective about the school and greater content to draw from when making a case for yourself about why that particular school is a good fit for you.
Attend an information session given by the admissions office.
All top business schools offer an information session and I recommend going to this prepared with one good question to ask the presenter.
Avoid questions that are obvious or addressed on the school’s website. A good area to ask questions on can be around new changes at the school.
For example “I know that you just launched an interesting innovation lab, how are students with entrepreneurial interests taking advantage of this”?
The other benefit to information sessions is that you could connect with a member of the admissions board.
A brief interaction with a board member could have a favourable impact when the admissions decisions are being made.
Spend time with different students and get their perspectives
Regardless of whether you have lots of friends at a particular school or know no one, you should aim to speak with different students to get a broad perspective on the school.
If you are an international student, there are clubs for different regions (the Chinese students club, the Africa Business Club, etc.) and you should contact the leaders of these clubs (their names/emails are usually on program’s websites) to arrange to meet a student during your visit.
There are also industry focused clubs such Consulting Clubs or Social Enterprise clubs. You can also take advantage of conferences that take place throughout the year.
Student engagement will reveal very specific things about the school that will help you make a case for yourself as a clear choice candidate when you apply.
The more you know a program the better you can sell why you fit there.
The other benefit of engaging with current students is that you can get a sense of the cultural climate of a school based off of how open students who don’t know you treat you during your visit.
If several students that you approached all give you a cold shoulder, this could provide an interesting perspective on the student culture of the school.
Have you already visited your target schools? How did it go? Are you planning on visiting your target schools in the future?
I’d love to get your comments and thoughts, so leave your thoughts in the comments box below.
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