When it comes to researching different MBA programs, one of the best ways to gather information is through visiting program campuses. While some information about MBA programs is easy to find online, such as class profiles for current students or career statistics, other information is harder to come by. A campus visit is great way to experience for yourself what it’s like to be a student there and see if it’s a good fit for you based on your goals and personality. The “feel” of each school and program culture can vary dramatically so it’s important that you find a program that aligns with what matters to you.
Since you might have only one opportunity to visit a program’s campus, make sure you arrive prepared and ready to use your time wisely. Whether you’re about to visit a campus for an interview or are just getting started with researching where to apply, here are a few helpful pointers to make the most of your time.
–Do your research in advance – Spend time on the schools’ websites and admissions materials before your visit so that by the time you arrive you already have a strong familiarity with the program. This allows you to think about what questions you still have that weren’t answered online. Since you might not have another opportunity to be face-to-face with someone from admissions, you should use your questions wisely and focus on areas that could be hard to find from a distance.
–Speak to students – Everyone knows that schools highlight students with positive testimonials and stories on their websites but what do current MBA students really think about their program? This is your chance to hear about the good and the not-so-good so don’t be shy… go up and introduce yourself to a few students to see if they have a few minutes to share their experiences with the program. If allowed, walk around community areas such as student lounges and study areas or other popular hangouts on or near campus to see if you can strike up a friendly conversation.
–Be an observer – While on campus, take time to look around and observe things that matter to you, such as how do students interact with each other, is there noticeable diversity, and do you see professors mixing with students? Pay attention to announcements on TV screens or posters about what activities are taking place to get a sense of upcoming programs or school happenings. Just looking around can provide insight into what’s going on at the school and give you a sense of what you can expect as a student.
–Demonstrate your interest – If you’re offered an opportunity to further engage with the school, such as attending a class visit or having lunch with a student, sign up! Not only does this provide you with additional school interaction to evaluate the program but it also conveys to Admissions that you are serious about the school and investing your time to do get to know the program. Even if you’re visiting a school that is not your top choice, take time to learn as much as you can… you might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.
–Be on good behavior – Keep in mind that you should be polite and respectful to everyone you meet on campus, not just Admissions representatives. When engaging with MBA students, keep the tone positive. Avoid making comments that could be interpreted negatively, such as telling them their program is your backup school or that another MBA program is your top choice. Many MBA communities are tight-knit and Admissions sometimes request feedback from current students about applicants they meet on campus.
Last, be yourself! Be honest about what you’re looking for in an MBA program and look beyond a program’s ranking to consider how you feel when you’re on campus. Be open-minded about different programs. While a campus visit might confirm that your first choice is still #1 on your list, you might be pleasantly surprised about other schools that you were unsure about before.