wharton-business-schoolAs summer begins its wind-down and business school starts up another year, you’re hopefully planning a campus visit to your target schools so you can be as informed as possible when applying.

How To Prepare

Before you visit, do your homework. Be well-versed in what the school has to offer and why that program is a good fit for you. You’ll want to feel confident in having conversations with both students and admissions representatives about your goals, reasons for pursuing your MBA, and why you want to be a part of their program.

Reach out to the admissions office well in advance to schedule time to sit in on a class, attend info sessions, take a campus tour, and/or meet with current students. Are you interested in any specific clubs or affinity groups? See if you can meet their leaders for coffee. Perhaps you’ll have success scheduling time with a professor who interests you (not always possible, so do be understanding.) If you have friends at the school, plan to take them out for a meal and listen to every story they’re willing to share.

Some MBA programs provide summer reading lists online. If you have time, try reading a book or two from the list, which can help get talking points with people you encounter.

When You’re Visiting

Dress neatly and in professional attire (sport coat and slacks is fine) and remember that every touch-point can impact your candidacy. Be gracious to anyone you encounter (including the receptionist), and be considerate about the amount of time you spend with them.

In addition to soaking in the experience, one of the best things you can do while on campus is ask intelligent questions. Probe into the school’s culture, alumni, courses that interest you, and how you can become involved in clubs through leadership opportunities. Avoid asking questions you can easily find the answers to online. Instead, gather data points that will help you assess your fit with the program, and potentially increase your chances of being admitted.

Bring business cards to stay in contact with people you meet, and have a notebook and pen on hand to take notes (not your phone!). Send thank you emails to people who were generous with their time. Most of all, bring an energetic and focused attitude with you.  This is your future at stake; don’t be distracted by work emails or your exhausting flight that night.  A warm smile and positive energy can make a lasting impression.

What If I Can’t Visit My Target Schools?

A school visit is an ideal way to gather insight about an MBA program.  In turn, it shows the admissions committee a strong level of interest, and they do track and consider your attendance. In today’s era of minimal essay questions, these data points are becoming increasingly important.

That said, candidates are applying from all over the world, and not everyone has the ability, time or financial resources to visit campus. Admissions officers truly understand this. It will not be held against you either way. (If you live in NYC and are applying to Columbia, however, you really don’t have an excuse.)

If you can’t visit in person, make every effort to attend the info sessions that the schools host in cities worldwide and/or MBA fairs they may be attending. Some programs also hold virtual campus tours and remote info sessions. If all else fails, look through your personal contacts and even your college alumni database and set up calls/meetings with people who have attended your target schools.  Beyond that, scour the online materials available (school websites, blogs, social media) and learn as much as you can about the programs, so that you come into the admissions process as knowledgeable as you can be.

[For help with planning your school visits, or general MBA admissions advice, contact us at info@shineadmissions.com]

© Hillary Schubach, August 13, 2014, 11:25am MT