You wouldn’t buy a house you hadn’t seen in person first, would you? The average total cost of an MBA education at the most elite business schools has crept upwards of $200,000. Therefore, it makes good sense to visit the campus to get to know a program beyond its ranking.
During a visit, you’ll observe the general routine of students and get a feel for in-class dynamics. You’ll also be able to imagine yourself as a part of the community where you will spend the next two years.
Some applicants have likened the school selection process to online dating. Sure, you have an idea in mind of how amazing a school is. But you have to spend time together in person before you can truly decide whether it’s The One.
Some admissions departments, such as those at Harvard Business School and Stanford University Graduate School of Business, are quick to point out that a campus visit has no bearing on admissions decisions.
Schools such as the relatively remote Tuck School of Business do take note of who has toured the school. This extra effort to visit the campus in person strongly signals that a candidate is serious about that particular school.
Spring is the ideal time to visit the campus
It makes little sense to check out the campus during summer. When classes aren’t in session, you can’t assess the one key characteristic you want to observe: the interaction between students and faculty. While on campus, make sure you check out the whole university because its entire resources may someday be available to you.
Through the MBA admissions office, you can schedule a visit that typically includes an information session, the option of attending a class, and a chance to chat with a current student over coffee or a meal. During the class visit, take note of the dynamic between the students and professor before and after class. This can be an indicator of how close-knit and collaborative the community is.
In some cases, the admissions office may put you in contact with a student with similar career goals. This provides an ideal way to learn more specifics about the program as it relates to your professional needs.
Straight from the MBA student’s mouth
Talking to current students when you visit the campus is the best way to learn about the program. And don’t just talk to a couple of people. This is too big a decision to make without first experiencing a variety of conversations and points of view. Explain that you’re trying to get a feel for the community. Find out more about why they chose this particular school. Chances are excellent they will gladly share their insights with you.
Married b-school hopefuls, especially those with young children, should also attempt to find out how family-friendly the MBA program is to get a better idea of what life in their situation would be like.
A huge part of the b-school experience is the social aspect. This helps forge the strong network you’ll rely on after graduation. While visiting the school, find out where students go to relax and unwind. Check out the local watering holes, as MBAs do enjoy their potent libations!
If you can stay for a few days, try to immerse yourself in the MBA social scene. Connect with students who are interested in the same activities you hope to become involved in. Often you’ll learn more about your fit with a particular school over these types of encounters than during an official admissions tour.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to plan your visit before applying, once you’ve been invited to interview, or after you’ve received an offer of admission is a personal one. Each has its merits, and barring the prohibitive expense of multiple visits, would be worthwhile.
Whichever option you choose, figuring out for yourself how a particular program suits your needs is a crucial step in the b-school application process.