You might have experienced a moment of panic as you began to work on your MBA applications for Round 2. It may have occurred after you took note of the January deadlines. And it could have gone something like this: “Wait a second — I won’t have time to visit campus before my materials are due! Does that put me at a disadvantage?”
The answer is no. If you couldn’t sit in on a class or take a campus tour of a program before it’s time to submit your application, you won’t get dinged for it.
In fact, international applicants definitely don’t have to fret over this. No admissions committee member expects candidates to shell out thousands of dollars for a multi-day trip to their school before they’re even admitted. You’re going to pay enough money for tuition as it is!
The same logic applies for cross-country applicants in the United States. Adcoms understand that it may be impossible for you to take time off of work — much less afford — to visit a campus that’s hours and hours away.
Why You *Should* Visit Campus
But, if it’s financially workable and fits into your schedule, we always recommend a campus visit. Here’s why:
1) 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. 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) It definitely shows strong interest in 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.
How to Make the Most of a Campus Visit
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.
Finally, enjoy yourself and keep an open mind. This is a fun opportunity to start planning a very exciting next step in your life.
For more on this topic, check out my US News article, Make the Most of Your B-School Campus Visit.