3 Rules for Attending an MBA Fair

Attending an MBA fair? Download your free copy of "MBA Fairs: Advancing Your MBA Ambitions"

Make sure the reps remember you.

You’ve just booked your first MBA fair – now what? What can you do now to ensure that you’re prepared for the big day? What are some things you can do at the fair to help you get the most out of the event? And lastly, what should you do AFTER the fair to further help your cause?

Don’t go to your next MBA fair without first reading these important tips:

1. Research, research, research. Research the programs that you’re interested in hearing more from at the event. Be sure not just to browse through the material, but to research the programs relative to what they can offer you based on your specific post-MBA career goals. When you’re at the event asking questions, you’ll look foolish asking basic questions whose answers appear on the program’s homepage. Direct, specific questions about how the school will help you fulfill your goals make a great first impression on school reps.

2. Dress and act professionally. Don’t be too casual in dress or in attitude, or school representatives may assume that you’re not serious about your future business education and future career. These schools are looking for sincere, thoughtful candidates. Also, keep in mind that people generally act differently depending on what they’re wearing – dress casually and you’ll act casually, dress professionally and most likely it’ll professionalize your attitude and demeanor.

3. Make personal contact with the reps AND follow up. You attend an MBA fair to learn about the various programs and to meet representatives, but also to make a good impression. Make sure the reps remember you by a) acting courteous and asking interesting questions, and b) following up with the representatives. Appropriate follow up actions includes sending an email in which you identify which event you met at, remind the rep of your goals and some of the key conversation points you discussed, and attach a resume (you can send a resume even if you handed the rep a resume at the fair). Inappropriate follow up moves include calling the rep directly or acting aggressively in any way. Remember, you’re trying to make a good impression – no harassing or stalking please! The reps note who follows up and how they do so.

Keep these best practices in mind and enjoy your next MBA fair!

Attending an MBA Fair? Read this first!


What to Do at an MBA Fair

Click here for the full recording of our interview with Peter von Loesecke!If you are considering making the major investment that a b-school education requires, then you’ll want to start by spending time carefully researching MBA programs. One excellent way to learn more about your MBA options (and to help prospective programs learn more about you) is by attending an MBA fair.

Listen to the recording of our conversation with Peter von Loesecke, CEO and Managing Director of The MBA Tour to find out what you can gain from attending an MBA fair and how to best prepare to take advantage of the opportunity and impress the b-school reps.

00:02:47 – About the MBA Tour and the MBA2U events.

00:08:35 – How to get to meet top b-school reps and other must-knows about attending an MBA Tour event.

00:15:18 – Tips for preparing for an MBA fair (and how not to turn off the b-school reps).

00:20:29 – What to wear and bring along.

00:22:16 – EMBA candidates, here is what the MBA Tour has for you.

00:24:40 – In person vs. virtual options for getting to know b-schools.

00:28:08 – The very best ways to damage your admissions chances at an MBA fair.

00:31:31 – Trends in management education.

00:34:37 – Advice for 2015 & 2016 MBA applicants.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!

*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Related Links:

• MBA Fairs: Advancing Your MBA Ambitions
• Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
• The MBA Tour

Related Shows:

• Which Graduate Schools Should You Apply To?
• MBA Admissions According to an Expert
• Healthcare Management at Wharton and at Large
• An Inside Look at INSEAD
• Leadership is King: Interview with IMD’s Lisa Piguet
• Which Schools are Good for PE/VC and VC-Backed Entrepreneurship

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Are you prepared for your next MBA Fair?

4 Egregious Mistakes: What NOT to Do at an MBA Fair

Do you know how to navigate the 9 critical decision points of the MBA admissions process?

Common courtesy goes a long way.

These four egregious blunders have potential to completely damage your admissions chances. You’re putting in valuable time and money to attend an MBA fair, so make sure you know the “rules” so that you don’t end up losing out.

Beware of the following four transgressions:

1. Asking the obvious. Asking questions whose answers can easily be found on the school’s website is a big MBA fair no-no. You’re there to learn new information about how your target MBA program will work towards helping you achieve your goals – this is where your questions should originate, not from basic info on class profile, job opportunities, and application requirements.

2. Monopolizing the conversation. This mistake really reflects a lack of courtesy, but it seems to be the rule applicants have the most trouble with. So along with the easy ones of no pushing and shoving and cutting in line, add “No monopolizing the conversation.” Be respectful of other people and their desire to speak with school representatives.

3. Being arrogant. Related, don’t be arrogant! For example, just because you have a high GMAT score, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to automatic attention. The same goes for those of you who think you get conversation dibs simply because you’re rich (or poor for that matter), graduated top of your class at Princeton, or are from Timbuktu.

4. Treating reps poorly. School reps can tell when you respect them and when you view them as inferiors to the “higher ups” you wish you were speaking to. Don’t be condescending. Just don’t.

These fairs can provide a competitive environment. How you react to that can be very revealing as to how you’ll behave in a classroom, and then later on, in a job interview where you’ll be reflecting your MBA program. If you’re thinking “Common courtesy goes a long way,” you’re right! Just it’s not always so common.

Navigating the MBA Maze


What You Must Know Before Meeting Admissions Directors

Need advice on clarifying your MBA goals?

Keep your goal front and center in your mind.

Goals are not an afterthought in MBA admissions. They are front and center in the minds of many admissions directors. Put them front and center in your mind as you prepare to apply. Coming to MBA events with a clear goal will make you a much more appealing candidate to business schools.

What’s An MBA Goal?

A strong, clear MBA goal should guide your admissions research and your choice of target schools. A goal is something you want to do (not just study), and for MBA admissions purposes it should relate to a specific industry. For some applicants, geography is also an important element in their goal. Your goal should be based on your experience, not television, not what your parents/significant other or friends think you should do, and not simply what will make you a lot of money.

I am not saying that you can’t change careers. You clearly can because roughly 50% of MBA students are career changers, and many estimates place that number much higher. But you need to have a realistic vision of your future based on skills and character traits you have developed and experience that you have had.

Defining Your MBA Goal

Clear, well-defined goals are as much a requirement of MBA admissions as GMAT, GPA, and work experience. Define your goal in terms of the function you want to perform and the industry in which you want to perform it.

To define your objectives for b-school:

1. Look inward: What do you enjoy and where do you excel?
2. Examine what you have done off the job and see if there are lessons in your non-professional life for your professional life.
3. Clarify and mine interests and past experiences.

Then look outward:

1. Examine professional paths that will take advantage of your strengths and give you more of what you find satisfying.
2. Research the schools to find those that support your professional goals and provide an educational environment where you can thrive.

Establish specific goals you want to achieve within a given program and a career direction for your post MBA years.

Get clear, practical guidelines for answering the MBA goals essay question. Click here to download our free report.

Three Ways to Boost Your MBA Application

Check our MBA Admissions Resources! The MBA Tour recently swung through Los Angeles, and Linda Abraham and I were delighted to have a table there. We enjoyed meeting dozens of impressive and enthusiastic prospective MBA applicants, and thank the organizers for this great event – nearly 500 people registered and most attendees stayed all day. Clearly, applicants were soaking up information offered not only by the MBA programs represented, but also by consultants like us.

Frankly, we were amazed at the long lines of attendees waiting patiently to speak to us. We had offered brief, complimentary evaluations of resumes and MBA profiles, and we were swamped for more than five hours!

I found three issues came up repeatedly with the applicants we met:

1. How to present yourself to best advantage if you are a career-changer.
2. How to maximize the impact of your resume.
3. How to handle a low GPA and GMAT/GRE scores.

If your career change is major — say, from banking to entrepreneurship, or from engineering to new product development, be prepared to show the admissions committee the skills and knowledge you already have that are both valuable and transferable to your new field and function. Many people had not considered how important relevance is. If your new field and hoped-for job title demands sophistication in salesmanship and leadership, but you don’t have that in your professional background, how can you show you have these abilities or are working to get them? You might have some of those skills through experience with a community organization or other extracurricular activity. If not, join a group or take a class now that will help you build those strengths. B-schools will want to see that you have given thought to how you can transfer skills to your new field, and they will want to see that you understand what new skills and knowledge you will need. After all, you can’t learn absolutely everything you will need from B-school.

I also saw many weak resumes that did not do justice to the applicants’ true abilities. A very common pitfall was “generic-itis” – boring, non-specific bullet point items like this: “Led groups to align department goals and reach benchmarks.” Okay, I probably didn’t see one that awful, but I saw too many lines that were perilously close. Remember that adcom members will only look at your resume for about a minute or less on first glance. Bore them and they won’t even look that long.

How to cure generic-itis in resumes? Easy! Focus on and quantify achievements as much as possible: “Led group of 5 in weekly department meetings as part of campaign to increase sales by 10 percent; sales rose by 8 percent within 3 months.” See the difference? Specifics can include how many people you mentored or led, and how much sales grew in actual dollars or by a percentage. Did your company or department enjoy improved efficiencies, fewer customer complaints, a boost in re-orders? Quantify these achievements wherever possible and show what role you played in those achievements. And if you need to save space, use fewer bullet points to make room for more substantial and more specific achievements.

Here’s another way to strut your stuff in your resume: make sure to include any performance-linked bonus or fast-track promotion you earned. I was surprised to discover many people I spoke to had earned one or both of these professional recognitions, but hadn’t thought to include them on their resumes. This sort of information is resume gold! It presents the perfect marriage of quantified, concrete achievement and impressive career growth. For example: “Signed 4 new accounts worth $500,000, leading to promotion to Associate Product Development Manager.”

Finally, people who have low quant scores for their target schools have options to try to overcome this weakness. If you’re in this situation, you can retake the test – the best option if you think you can raise the score. Sometimes, people are just not good test-takers but are fully capable of b-school quant work; if that’s you, you still have to prove it in your applications. One way is to have A’s in courses such as economics, accounting or statistics for business. If your quant GPA is considerably lower than it should be for your target schools, take at least two of these courses before b-school starts, and note in your applications when and where you are enrolled for these courses if you haven’t completed them yet. You need to earn A’s in these classes.

Alternatively, you may already be able to prove your quant skills through quant-heavy work you are performing professionally. Highlight the quant demands of your job in your resume and job descriptions, and encourage your recommenders to write about your abilities in this area too.

The MBA applicants who stopped by our table were very appreciative of our advice and input. I hope you find this recap equally valuable. If you have questions, please post in a comment below.

Prepare for the next MBA Fair with our free special report- MBA Fairs: Advancing Your MBA Ambitions."

Judy Gruen By , MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business SchoolsJudy advised applicants at The MBA Tour and would love to guide you to acceptance at your dream schools.