In honor of the first birthday of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools, by Linda Abraham and Judy Gruen, we are posting a series of excerpts from the book throughout November. This post is excerpted from “How to Research MBA Programs and Why It’s Essential That You Do”- Chapter 2 in MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.
I realize that for many, if not most applicants (particularly international applicants applying to U.S. schools), a school visit is simply out of the question. Don’t worry. There are many valuable channels that can yield the information you need to make an informed decision about where to apply, and to help you when answering a frequently asked essay/interview question, “What steps have you taken to learn about Our Amazing MBA Program?”
First, you can attend school-sponsored receptions and information sessions either in your city or another one within reasonable traveling distance. The same questions that you gathered from studying the web site can still be asked at these sessions. Schools also often participate in larger MBA fairs organized during the fall and held in many major cities across the world. How can you get the most out of attending these fairs? Peter von Loesecke, CEO and Managing Director of The MBA Tour LLC (thembatour.com), which organizes information sessions between MBA admissions representatives and prospective students, offers these tips:
- Come prepared. Research the schools participating in the event ahead of time. Think about your career interests and goals and know how an MBA helps you achieve those goals and interests.
- Make a good impression. Have your resume available and wear business attire. Business casual is ok, but most serious students, especially those outside the United States, attend in business attire. Ask questions that pertain to your personal situation and goals, and asking questions that can be answered off the school’s internet site. Don’t monopolize conversations with school reps; limit your chats to between three and five minutes unless no one else is waiting.
- Expand your horizons. Don’t be limited by first impressions of programs and where you want to go to school. Try and visit as many schools as you can and have your visit recorded so there is a record of interest at that program.
- Ask for business cards. This way you can send follow-up emails thanking them for the time they spent with you. You can even resend your resume too!
- Don’t ask questions that are not relevant to your situation or that show you haven’t done any research. Questions not to ask include:
“What is your average GMAT score?” Research this online on Businessweek or through other sources.
“Tell me why I should apply to your school.” This sort of question implies you think the school would be privileged to accept you and shows arrogance.
“Where is your school located?” Another question that reveals no prior research.
“How strong are your career services in this city?” A better question is: “Does your career services center have connections into XYZ industry where I am looking for a position after graduation?” The second question is a fair question and should be asked. The first one will generate a predictable response of “Of course we are strong in job placement in this city.”
If you still can’t get to a school or visit a school fair, you can amass a wealth of information without even leaving your chair or couch thanks to the internet. Blogs, articles, podcasts, videocasts, chat transcripts, and other information are available through individual school web sites, my company’s (Accepted.com), and others such as businessweek.com/bschools, mbapodcaster.com, worldmbatour.com, poetsandquants.com and thembatour.com. These resources will provide valuable insights and help you learn in-depth about the programs you are interested in and enable you to narrow down your search.
Show your management smarts by following the straight-talking advice that will direct you through the MBA admissions maze. Written by two leading experts in MBA admissions consulting, MBA Admission for Smarties reveals vital, yet often-neglected steps that will save you from the needless disappointment of applying at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, or to the wrong program. Whether you’re applying this January or next October, you need this succinct guide. Buy it for yourself or for friends who are applying.