Visiting Your Target Business Schools
We get many inquiries from MBA candidates who are curious about whether they should visit their target schools. Is doing so worth the time and cost? Will it impress the admissions committees? Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that a class visit has tremendous relevance beyond the formal admissions process—it is a chance for you to give the school a thorough “test drive.” Imagine you were buying a $250,000-$500,000 home. Would you not want to walk through it before you bought it? Maybe you would turn on the taps, open and shut the doors and windows and check out around the yard. Your business school education—when you take into account tuition, living expenses and the opportunity costs of leaving your job—will likely cost you somewhere in that dollar range. So, don’t you think you should find out firsthand whether the place that will be your home for the next two years is right for you?
We at mbaMission
strongly believe that MBA candidates should visit their target schools and personally experience the environment, pedagogy, quality of students and professors and much more. Visiting can make a positive impression on the admissions committee, gives you the opportunity to personalize your applications (your essays and interviews in particular—depending on when you visit) and may even help you decide which school to ultimately attend.
However, we do not think that you need to visit at all costs. If your funds or time are limited, you should not deplete your resources by traveling to the various campuses. Other ways of getting to know your preferred programs are certainly available (e.g., Web sites, mbaMission
Insider’s Guides, podcasts, alumni conversations, outreach events), but if you do have the time and money, we strongly recommend that you visit your target schools and gain empirical experience. A brief trip could pay a lifetime of dividends.Behave Yourself
When you visit campuses for interviews or just to experience the programs’ atmosphere, you should always be on your best behavior—this should go without saying. Although the receptionist in the Admissions Office is not a “spy,” and your tour guide’s main concern is not to inform the admissions committee of your actions or comments, both of these individuals will likely feel compelled to report any bad behavior to the admissions committee. We spoke with one former receptionist (now an admissions committee member) at a top ten school who said that if she encountered rudeness from a visiting candidate, she would make note of it and send a message about the incident to the admissions director, who would subsequently remove the candidate from consideration for admission. Most candidates are on their best behavior anyway, but we nevertheless offer this important reminder.Go Beyond the Rankings
One way to get beyond business school rankings is to speak with students. Even if you do not have direct access to students at your selected programs, contacting them in a targeted way, via club Web sites, is generally easy. You should not feel “pushy” by doing so—most students take pride in their school and are open to speaking with candidates. They are a de facto part of the school’s marketing arm. So if you are interested in a certain school’s marketing program, for example, consider reaching out to the individual(s) leading the marketing club to learn more about the program. If you then find someone who is willing to speak with you, be respectful of that person’s time and prepare youself well for your conversation with him/her. Assuming that you are conscientious, you will have the opportunity to learn about the school’s academic environment as well as the atmosphere on campus. Networking now should allow you to narrow your search and more effectively focus your limited “free” time over the next few months.Consider a Second Visit
If you find yourself in the (very lucky) position of needing to choose between two or more schools, you may consider a second campus visit (or a first if you did not visit before submitting your applications). Many candidates go on marathon tours of business school campuses in the fall but have only a limited window in which to get to know each program they visit. After the MBA admissions committees have defined your choices and shifted the decision power back to you, you have the opportunity to really spend some time familiarizing yourself with your target schools and completing diligence that may not have been possible before. For example, as a nervous prospective student, you may not have truly pushed current students to define a program’s weaknesses, or you may not have felt that delving deeply into the recruiting situation on campus was appropriate during your initial visit. Similarly, you may not have experienced the social environment on campus, preferring to maintain a strictly professional profile. Although attending “welcome weekends” will allow you to meet and mingle with your potential future classmates, visiting campuses now—while classes are in session and the schools are operating as they will next year—will provide valuable insight that will facilitate one of the most important choices of your life.
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