I frequently am asked whether or not to visit target schools. A visit is certainly not necessary and most schools will tell you that it has no impact on your application. However, if it is financially feasible and fits into your schedule, I always recommend a visit. This is for several reasons:
1) A visit can help you decide where to apply. Many applicants look at the business school rankings and make decisions on where to apply. However, walking across a campus, sitting in on a class and interacting with students can greatly influence your decisions.
2) When you visit the school, you develop a better understanding of the school’s culture. This is sure to come through in your essays and interview. While others will be referencing the school website, you can site specific first-hand experiences. When you visit, you will meet people and have specific experiences that you can highlight throughout your essays and interview. This adds color and individuality to your application.
3) Although schools understand that many people cannot make a visit, it definitely shows a strong interest in and commitment to a program when you make the effort to visit. This is particularly true if you are traveling a long distance.
4) Occasionally, on a school visit you can hit the jackpot and meet with a member of the admissions committee or other influential person and really impress them!
5) If you are fortunate enough to be admitted to several top schools, a visit often can help you decide where to attend.
If you do decide to visit, you should call the admissions office ahead of time and ask them about the following opportunities:
1) Can you sit in on a class?
2) Can you go on a tour of the school?
3) Are other types of information sessions available?
4) Can you interview on campus?
Thus, you are making it known that you are visiting and doing your best to take full advantage of this experience. Dropping in unexpectedly is discouraged because you will not be able to make the most of your visit.
If at all possible, you should make arrangements to stay with a current student. Perhaps you have a friend, or a friend of a friend who is a student. Doing this will allow you to see the more informal side of the school and help you to meet current students.
Enjoy yourself and be open minded. This is a fun opportunity to start planning a very exciting next step in your life.