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Some Sniper Approach tactics towards getting an edge for your essays/interviews.
1. Sit in on multiple classes. This allows you to get a greater sense for what the school's atmosphere is really like.
2. Casually drop in on the MBA lounge and chat with current students. You don't need to barge in on teams and start grilling people, but most people seem to be open and honest if you comport yourself in a courteous and attentive manner. Taking notes doesn't hurt either.
3. Be nice to the front desk staff. Yep, these people talk, talk, talk. If you are visiting (especially more than one day) the word spreads fast.
4. Dress like other students do. Don't strut around in a $8000 armani if everybody else is wearing khakis and collared shirts. This one is obvious. Students talk just as much as front desk staff do.
5. Send a follow-up thank you card or e-mail. Follow up service never hurts.
6. Don't ask questions that can simply be answered on the school's website. If you are willing to drop $150K on a solid life changing education, then do your homework. Shotgunners beware.
7. Bring business cards and use them. All b-school students have cards and will usually give you one upon request.
8. Don't talk about the GMAT. Seriously, b-school students simply don't care to bring up those days anymore. I have met dozens of people and only one so far even mentioned anything about the GMAT. Students (and faculty) are more interested in your fit with the school, not how you outscored the entering class median by 40 points.
9. Be confident, but don't boast. These people are also our future alumni connections so remember that first impressions are indelible.
10. Smile. A soft smile puts others at ease and makes you more approachable. Other students, faculty, staff, etc. have all been very receptive to a warm, friendly, simple gesture of kindness.
You could ask what their study culture is like. All schools are collaborative, so you really need to get beyond that and try to elicit a typical "day in the life of an MBA at XYZ." One guy at UW even opened his blackboard account, spun his open laptop towards me, and said, "go ahead." Now that was a palpable moment
I also got down to the nitty gritty details of how experiential learning is delivered, how teams are chosen to represent the school in the annual Pac10 case competition, and what students like the most/least about the program, school, living in Seattle, etc.
Another possible option is to ask where the crowd hangs on Saturday nights or Thursday afternoons for sundowners. Discussing b-school life over a beer will give you a completely different perspective because most students loosen up and volunteer additional information after having gotten to know you a little better.
Final decisions are in: Berkeley: Denied with interview Tepper: Waitlisted with interview Rotman: Admitted with scholarship (withdrawn) Random French School: Admitted to MSc in Management with scholarship (...