In preparation for The MBA Tour's upcoming events, Accepted.com interviewed three admissions directors from top universities about the do's and don'ts of attending an MBA Fair.
Read on for valuable advice!
Q: Do you have any tips for MBA applicants on how to network effectively at MBA Fairs?
Randall Sawyer, Director of MBA Admissions, Cornell’s Johnson School of Business:
- Dedicate time to self-reflection early in the process and present a brief description of your background and goals when introducing yourself at MBA Fairs. If you provide clear information about your goals, we can provide relevant details about aspects of the program.
- Dress professionally. Business or business casual is appropriate.
- Relax. Fairs provide an opportunity for making a first impression, but they are mainly informational.
Suzanne Ashour, Assistant Director of MBA & MS Recruiting, Robert H. Smith School of Business:
Take the time beforehand to research the schools in attendance or that you are interested in. This way you will make good use of your time at the fair and speak to those you really want information from. Come prepared with well-thought out questions that are short and concise to allow enough time to get your answers and allow others time to speak with that representative as well.
Alison C. Goggin, Director of MBA Admissions, NYU Stern School of Business:
- Do your homework prior to attending the fair. Find out which of your potential target schools will be present and visit their websites to gather information. The most valuable conversations between Admissions Officers and applicants occur when the applicant has some knowledge about the benefits of a school and can ask targeted questions about his or her specific interests. Develop a few questions that go beyond the website information for your target schools.
- Take advantage of other attendees’ questions. Admissions Officers often ask the group waiting to ask a question to listen in on what they are saying. You can learn some great details about a school this way – and possibly even hear the answer to your question.
- Be respectful of the Admissions Officer and fellow attendees’ time. If you see that your target school’s table is busy, be mindful not to take up an Admissions Officer’s time with a long list of questions. Choose your 1-2 questions carefully and then step aside to allow others to ask questions. Most Admissions Officers welcome you to stay and listen, and you can ask further questions when the group waiting gets smaller in size.
Q: Are there any specific things applicants should not do at an MBA Fair?
Randall Sawyer: Avoid interrupting conversations or acting impatiently. We focus on responding to individual questions and this may require a short wait, but it provides more valuable interactions.
- Don't monopolize a representative at a particular school.
- Don't lay out your complete background and resume during a time when others are waiting to speak to that school rep as well.
- Don't come in casual attire; Be professional.
Alison C. Goggin: Schools’ policies on accepting applicant materials at a fair vary greatly. Before providing any potential application materials, such as a resume, ask the Admissions Officer if he or she is collecting any information from applicants.
Q: What are the elements applicants should be exploring early in their research into schools?
Randall Sawyer: Coursework and opportunities for applied learning related to your career goals, student body (size, level of engagement, diversity), overall reputation of the school in specific fields, style of instruction (case/lecture), alumni connections.
- Is it an area I am comfortable moving to/living in?
- Length of the programs offered and do they fit into career goals?
- Cost of the programs? (This helps to focus your time at a fair to those you can afford.)
- Get a basic understanding of the school/program and the mission to make sure it aligns with personal goals.
Alison C. Goggin: Applicants should research their specific academic areas of interest to see what courses, student clubs, and programs the school offers in these areas. Applicants also should make note of important Admissions information, like application deadlines, the class profile, required application components, and the schools’ interview policy and process.
Q: What questions annoy you?
- Why should I apply to your school? We all love our schools and we could certainly provide a list of reasons why, but the best business school for you is the one aligned with your goals.
- What is your median GMAT? (This information is listed in the class profile.)
Suzanne Ashour: Why would I want to get an MBA?
Alison C. Goggin: In general, Admissions Officers who attend MBA Fairs are accustomed to prospective applicants having varying levels of knowledge about our MBA programs. However, any basic topics, such as application deadlines or the class profile, are covered on our websites and can be found in the materials distributed at our table.
Q: Can you recommend good next steps for after the fair?
Randall Sawyer: Send a pleasant follow-up email to admissions representatives and alumni you meet during events.
- Send an email or contact the representative of the schools you are truly interested in as a follow-up.
- Find ways in which to interact with those schools whether it is making sure to be on the mailing/emailing lists, reading and keeping up with news about the school, attend open events if feasible.
- Indicate you attended the fair on the application when you apply.
Alison C. Goggin: Once you have made a personal connection with and gathered more information about potential target schools, begin to narrow your list to those schools you would like to explore further. Find out how you can contact current students or student clubs at those schools to learn more about the student experience. If possible, schedule a visit to your short list of schools as this is the very best way to see how you will fit into a school’s community. Most schools have information about contacting students and visiting readily available on their MBA Admissions websites.
It's always important to heed advice from those who know what they're talking about. Mr. Sawyer, Ms. Ashour, and Ms. Goggin are three such people. Follow their advice and not only will you present your best face at the next MBA Fair, but you'll make the most of the event as well!
The MBA Tour will be hosting upcoming events in:
New York, February 6
Washington, D.C., February 7
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