If you’re an MBA candidate who has received multiple offers of admission to business school this season, you’re probably weighing where to spend the next two years of your life – not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Step one is to attend each program’s admit or welcome weekend. Spending time on campus around current students and other admitted applicants will go a long way in helping you decide which program is the better fit.
In addition to paying close attention to your overall gut feeling about the culture and energy on campus, you should keep these three goals top of mind during these events.
Tip 1: Network with potential future classmates. A hugely valuable component of an MBA program is that, over the next two years, you’ll create a network you will tap into for the rest of your career. Also, the intense nature of the business school experience bonds students and makes it a wonderful place to make lifelong friends.
During a welcome weekend, gauge your comfort level with the current students. How do you feel about your potential future classmates? Did you develop a nice rapport with any fellow attendees? Did you meet someone who could be a possible roommate, if you are looking for one?
While you’ll likely gravitate toward people with similar professional or cultural backgrounds at this type of event, take advantage of the fact that your possible future cohort is an extremely diverse group. By making an effort to meet people outside of your comfort zone, your admit weekend experience will be greatly enriched.
Tip 2: Learn all you can about student life. Of course, you already conducted exhaustive research about your target schools during the course of your applications and interviews, but now that you’re admitted, bring on the questions.
This is your chance to find out answers to all of the lingering doubts in your mind. Ask tons of questions about clubs, classes, favorite professors, travel opportunities and study abroad programs from current students who can fill in those remaining blanks.
Think of questions in advance and do a bit of research so that you know if there’s someone you want to talk with, a meeting you want to set up or a location you want to explore. Keep your interests and passions at the forefront of your mind during the visit to make absolutely sure the school in question can satisfy your nonnegotiable needs and wants.
If possible, stay in student dorms during your visit. Even if you have other housing plans, this is another valuable opportunity to meet current students and observe daily life on campus up close.
Tip 3: Get an authentic sense of the city or region. Candidates often apply to business schools in geographic areas that are new to them. Think about where you want to end up working after graduation.
Is the program in your desired city – or at least in the same overall region? Does it have a reputation for helping its students land jobs in the area you want to live?
Use this visit to get a better feel for housing options, too. Explore the neighborhoods where students live, and ask questions to clarify anything you would want to know before moving to a new city.
If location isn’t a major concern, then focus on what does matter most to you, whether that’s recruitment stats for certain industries, diversity or international opportunities. More than likely you reviewed all of this information when you were deciding where to apply in the first place, but now it warrants a second, closer look.
For applicants attending admitted student days at more than one program, go with an open mind and be prepared to reflect on the experience afterward. If you have already accepted an offer and visited the campus prior to admission, still attend the welcome weekend event and experience the school again without the anxiety you probably felt last time, particularly if your visit was for an interview.
The decision where to attend business school are personal, and every candidate has unique needs to fulfill. Use the preview weekend visit to make sure that you’ve found the right school for you.