As an MBA hopeful, you will likely attend an MBA fair, which is an event that allows representatives from various business schools to meet prospective students. Entering the fair room can be a bit overwhelming, given the number of schools represented. As you make your way around the room, you introduce yourself to school reps and talk with them a bit about who you are and what you hope to achieve post-MBA. These interactions should give you a sense of whether a given school can help you achieve your goals. You might walk away from the brief meeting with a general impression of the school and a brochure, but you will need more information than this to create a list of schools to which you will ultimately apply.
Once the dust of the MBA fair has settled, you will need to continue researching business schools – but how? At best, you might have enough time and money to travel to a few programs. The good news is that you actually have many opportunities, both in person and virtual, to get to know more about b-schools. With a bit of legwork, you can identify programs that are hosting in-person events near you as well as virtual events you could participate in to learn more about a program and its community. After taking part in these activities, you will be armed with more than just an impression and brochure. You’ll have firsthand knowledge of how different schools could meet your wants and needs, allowing you to determine which ones are the best fit for you.
Check the admissions section of the websites of the schools you are interested in to review upcoming off-campus, virtual, and on-campus events. I am a huge fan of creating a spreadsheet, organized by school, that details each event’s title, date, and location. Once you have collected this information for all the schools you are interested in, check your calendar to see which events fit your schedule.
Business school admissions officers have an extensive travel schedule, especially during the summer and fall. You will find events that are specific to a population, such as Duke Fuqua’s Diverse Perspectives event in Miami, or that provide the chance to have an informational chat, such as the Stanford GSB’s Meet an Admissions Officer in Rio de Janeiro. You can find opportunities to speak with admissions team members in small groups, including the Texas McCombs Group Chat with Full-Time MBA Admissions in Boston, or with alumni and admissions officers, such as through Kellogg’s Full-Time MBA Programs Admissions + Networking session in Tokyo. Chances are, you will find an opportunity in a location near you that will allow you to learn more about a program, hosted by members of the b-school community. Add these events to your list, and attend as many as possible to gain more in-person, firsthand insight.
Let’s face it. Our world has changed, and although online options for engaging with business schools have been around for years, the possibilities are now richer than ever. You can’t beat the opportunity and convenience. However, pay attention to which opportunities will allow you to simply gain more information and which will allow for more engaging interaction. Often, you will find schools collaborating to host events together, such as the Top Business Schools Discuss: Women in Business event. Are you looking for something more intimate? You could choose such events as Tepper’s Student AMAs (Ask Me Anything). These sorts of events allow you to interact with members of a business school’s community and thereby determine further whether that community is one in which you could thrive.
There are two other powerful resources I want to mention: student ambassadors and student clubs. Many schools provide profiles of students who have volunteered to connect with candidates to share their personal MBA journey. Reach out to get an insider’s perspective on being a business school student in our nation’s capital. One of the valuable parts of the MBA experience at any program is participating in and leading student clubs. Maybe you want to learn more about how professional clubs support students’ career searches or about the social side of the b-school experience. Either way, you will often find club leaders’ contact information available online so applicants can learn more about these important organizations.
Engaging with schools in your backyard or virtually gives you a better idea of how you might allocate your time and resources to visit in person. Whether traveling to Berkeley Haas for a campus visit or attending the Michigan Ross Military Preview Weekend, nothing compares to being on campus and experiencing the life of an MBA student. You will come away from the experience either with a sense of belonging or the realization that the program is not a good fit. Either way, it will be money and time well spent!
As the former executive director of admissions at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School and assistant dean of admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School and the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School, Kelly Wilson has 23 years’ experience overseeing admissions committees and has reviewed more than 38,000 applications for MBA and master’s programs in management of information systems, computational finance, business analytics, and product management. Want Kelly to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!