How Important are MBA Campus Visits While Preparing Applications?

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MBA campus visits are increasingly becoming popular. It is not without reason that more people are choosing to do this every year. Since you are about to commit an upwards of $200,000 towards a program, it makes perfect sense to check out the schools.  So, by spending a little more towards the MBA class visit, you are only going to make your investment a more informed one.

Imagine the ‘MBA campus visit’ to be a movie trailer. The trailer gives you a sneak peek at the 3-hour movie that is due to release soon. Imagine walking into a theater expecting a comedy when all you are greeted with is horror!

The advantages of MBA campus visits

Understanding the competencies of the school

Rankings of the schools matter. However, what use is the rank if it is not backed up by competency of the professors, their availability and their ability to equip you with the required skills? It is here that campus visits become game changers. It gives you a deeper and sharper perspective on the school. Campus tours allow prospective students to sit in on classes. For instance, Stanford Business School claims that due to their innovative collaborations and numerous teaching methods, the MBA class is best experienced in person. On their page, you can schedule a “sit-in” for anyone of their classes.

Schools look positively towards such visits

Undertaking a campus visit will get you those extra brownie points! This is provided you ensure that the Ad Com committee is informed of your visit.  Schools are aware that students who visit the campus are more likely to sign up for the program than the ones who do not visit. Therefore, they ( admission committee) will go to great lengths to appeal to the interests of the candidate.  After all, you are spending a lot of money, time and effort when you commit to a campus tour. This not only shows a certain seriousness but a meaningful interest on the part of the students.

With a goal to understand the admissions process, John Bryne sat in on the admissions committee meetings of three prominent business schools in Europe, USA and Canada. He made several observations. However, the biggest surprise for him was the emphasis that schools laid on a student’s personal contact with the schools, admission committee, and the current students.

Better your essays/responses

At some point in the application or the interviews, the question- “why this school? is going to pop up! It is at this moment that you are going to thank your lucky stars that you made the trip. Carnegie Melon invites you to experience Tepper School of Business through on-campus, off-campus, virtual events and class visits. Apart from an informative session with the admissions team, you can enjoy an informal lunch with current students.

So, if you have been to the campus- formally or informally, you are probably privy to a lot of information that the other candidates don’t have. You can write a more compelling story/essay bringing in details related to the campus, professors, students or topics of discussion in classes. Your essay is bound to be more impactful considering your experience first-hand.

Fit

One of the most critical advantages of such a visit must be the feeling you get when you see a school that seems “right”. Several things contribute to this feeling. It’s the kind of students you see; the general vibe; program and the curriculum, scholarship, work opportunities, and ultimately the place. Such an experience is impossible to replicate even with the best of technologies available to us today!

MBA campus Visits- Is it worth the effort?

In one sentence, an answer to the above question is a yes!

To take it further, schools strongly recommend that you check out the facilities as well. They encourage you to stop by and check out first-hand what being a student will feel like. Further, they would love to give out detailed information about what they offer and why you must pick them. However, due to constraints such as limited bandwidth and a shorter attention span (of applicants), they must put out concise yet precise information. A campus visit by prospective students can definitely take care of this conundrum for them.

So, basically, such a campus trip can help you to identify the right school for you. There are several programs in numerous schools. A trip to one of the schools on your final list can make things clear about why a certain program must be preferred over the others. These campus trips are all about your pre-MBA journey.

MBA Campus Visits- Do all students do this?

It is not obligatory, if that is the question here. Certainly not, if you have monetary or other major constraints. In such a case, you can take advantage of the fairs and events organized by  schools all around the world. Such events are the perfect place to meet with students, alumni, and admission staff.

Most people would argue that schools provide all the information you need through their website. True, but do you think a student’s blog about his/her experiences can beat an actual conversation with a current student? Undoubtedly, having a conversation with prospective professors is bound to hold more sway than browsing through their biographies online.

Any disadvantages?

Well,  there are bound to be some downsides if there are advantages right?  The biggest disadvantage here is the cost. For international students this can be a major dampener. While hotels, flight tickets and other miscellaneous expenses plays a role, you must also consider the loss of time (if you are employed, then this can be difficult as well).

Apart from this, you must also consider the possibility of making a negative impression on the admissions team.

Timing of your campus visit

There is no right or wrong in how you about planning a MBA campus visit. Yet, there are somethings you must bear in mind:

  • Always take time to check the academic calendar so you are able to plan a visit around the time that the students are in class. Make sure you visit in the middle of the week, avoid test times and end of semesters. The active part of a calendar typically starts middle/end of September ending around the beginning or end of December. Again, starting in January (beginning or middle) until middle of May. It is however best to crosscheck with the actual calendar of the school you are visiting.
  • It is best to do MBA campus visits well in advance. While the term may be subjective, if you intend to file in your applications, deciding to visit the campus in the preceding months may affect the quality of your applications ( time spent elsewhere and not on your application). So, think about investing time well in advance of when your applications are due for submission.

A workaround

As always there are workarounds and here too, you can do the same.  Plan your campus visits around the interview time . This way you can save time and money as you come well-prepared to vow the admissions committee.

Things To Do on MBA Campus Visits

It is always great to approach your visit with a little bit of planning. Make sure you have a fair idea of what you would like to know. While your goals need not be specific, look for specific things that will help you decide. Here are a few pointers to help you out:

Inform and Visit

First and foremost, it is important to inform the Admissions Committee of your intention to take the tour or check out their website for various admission events. Some schools may have organized tours for prospective students. If so, make sure you plan a trip according to those dates. Schools are aware of pressing concerns that most students have. Therefore, such events cover most of the typical questions or concerns making it easy for you. Depending on the school and their program, you can be a part of presentations by career service teams and professors. You may also be able to visit the labs or research centers that are part of the campus.

Do your own thing

If you visit the school on your own, make sure you let the Ad com (admission committee) know. This will give them an indication of your seriousness. Further, you can plan your day based on their advice. Schools generally welcome requests from prospective students to sit in on classes. This will give you a clear picture of the teaching methodologies, competency of your peers, and general dynamics of the classroom.

Culture is critical

The culture of a school plays a huge role in your overall performance. It may be hard to understand it all during a single trip, it is not impossible either. It is important to know whether the culture of a school is competitive or collaborative in nature. The answers to these questions can come from meeting with the current students.

Almost all schools will have an international student center. You can walk in there to get an idea of the kind of clubs and get-together’s that are regularly featured. There are a number of club conferences organized by the students of Harvard Business School. Planning a visit around those dates will give you a closer look at what you are in for. In addition, you can ask to be introduced to current students or alumni. Meeting them in an informal setting is ideal as you can dig around for information easily. Ask about their successful application forms, recruitment drives, and other tips and you are bound to come away feeling satisfied.

Explore

Once you reach the campus, make sure you grab a copy of a map. Walk around and check out the cafeteria. You could also check out the bookstore and the local restaurants to get the feel of the place. Exploring the nearby area will help in familiarizing yourself with the campus and neighboring areas.

Questions that you must consider asking

  1. Make sure you find out everything about the major that you are interested in. Ask about the program, its structure and what sets it apart from other schools offering a similar major.
  2. If you are interested in research, then do ask about past students and their publications. You must ask how the school/department supports such students.
  3. Ask specific questions about the curriculum. For instance, you can ask about the balance between lectures and practical sessions. Find out what method of study is generally encouraged- study groups or self-study. Find out if there will learning opportunities or tutoring outside of the classroom. Ask the students why they picked this school over others.
  4. Internships and career prospects must be a part of your questions. You can ask to be introduced to past/current students who can provide information about internships or recruitment opportunities. You must ask questions about the percentage of graduating students in your target industry.
  5. Schools generally have a financial aid department. They will be more than happy to help you with your questions about possible scholarships, stipends (if you get employed as a research or teaching assistant) and aid. You can ask about rules regarding working on and/or off the campus.

Mission Accomplished- Now What?

If there is anything you must not trust at this point, then it is your memory. Once you are done with your campus visit, make a note of all the people you have met. Write down the name of all the people you met and their positions. Think about all the experiences you had and what moved/influenced you the most. Consider writing thank-you notes to the people who gave you their time.

Good luck on your journey!

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