Our #1 tip for visiting schools is that you should definitely visit your target b-school if it makes logistical and financial sense. Programs understand that geography and financial resources can prevent a visit, but if it is possible to visit the schools on your list, then you certainly should – not because of imaginary “brownie points” that the school may or may not award you, but because you will be a better informed applicant after you visit than before. You will know more about the school and its culture. You will know more about why it appeals to you, what about its style matches yours, and how it supports your goals. You will also, most likely, prepare a better application for admission after you’ve learned more about the school.
Once you’ve made the decision to visit, we recommend that you follow this advice:
1. Visit when class is in session.
You want to get a feel for what life on campus is like. You won’t get much of an idea of student life if everyone’s on break. Likewise, if classes are done for the term and everyone is cramming for exams and taking tests, you won’t get the full day-to-day campus experience (though you will get to see what b-school students are like under pressure!).
Another good reason to go while class is in session is so that you can sit in on classes – definitely take advantage of this if your target program offers this option.
2. Take the tour and attend the info sessions.
Again, your goal is to learn as much as possible about the program. Don’t brush off the official tours because you’d rather explore on your own; instead, take the tour, sit through the info sessions, and explore on your own.
3. Talk to everyone!
B-school students and adcom are generally more than happy to talk with prospective students, so don’t miss out on the valuable opportunity to chat anyone and everyone about their b-school experience.
4. Prepare your questions in advance.
You’ll have the most productive conversations if you go in with some direction. Obviously questions will differ depending on what’s important to you and where you’re visiting, but here are some basic questions: What is a typical day like for a first or second year student? How do professors view their teaching – as an integrated approach to business, as part of the interconnection of business functions (and if interconnected, how do they collaborate with other professors), or simply as a job? How do they balance teaching and research? How are interview slots assigned? Is there a bidding process? What is it?
5. Review the school’s website before you go.
Asking questions is good; asking questions that are answered on the homepage of your target school’s website…not so good. Do your research ahead of time that you can ask specific, unique questions that show that you’ve done your homework as well as done some good quality thinking.
6. If you can’t visit a school, visit info sessions closer to home.
While this won’t facilitate experiencing life on campus, you will still get to make an appearance before the adcom and speak with students/alumni/faculty – whoever is leading the event. You can also do quite a bit of research by emailing current students and reading student blogs.
In short – visiting a school is highly recommended and if you go, you should take advantage of all of the school’s people and resources so you can learn as much as possible about whether you’re the right fit for the program. If, however, you’re unable to visit, then you should still do all you can to learn firsthand about your target schools so you can see how you’d fit in and optimize your applications to reflect that!