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The Right Time To Go On Business School Visits

Linda El Awar

As a dedicated professional applying to grad school, it can be difficult to find time to visit business schools. We know you’re busy. We’ve been there. Honestly, it can be a royal pain to take time off work for campus visits. BUT if you truly want to find the program that is the best fit for you, it’s an absolute must.

But when is the right time to visit business schools? 

Many grad students and alum will tell you that they made their business school visits after they knew where they would be interviewing and, sure, that’s one way to do it. But if you really want to minimize the stress that is the application process, visiting campuses before you finalize your application list will likely eliminate an application or two, allowing you more time to apply to the programs you know you want to attend.

You wouldn’t buy the car without taking it for a test drive first, would you? Of course not. You’re a smart, business-minded individual who knows better! Same goes for business schools: You have to experience the campus for yourself to know if you get that rush of excitement or warm, fuzzy feeling. If your campus visit leaves you cold, take that as a sign that it isn’t the right MBA program for you and be thankful you didn’t waste your time applying!

Not only will visiting campuses before you apply mean you’ll probably submit fewer applications, the applications you do submit will be stronger. If you approach your essays and interviews with a first-hand experience of the program, students, clubs, etc., you’ll be able to craft an application that truly speaks to your knowledge about the school and your passion for their MBA program. The admissions committee likes to see that applicants have done their research and are clear on the reasons why they want be a part of their student body.

In order to gather the information you need about each program before you apply, time your visits properly. By planning ahead, you will be able to experience more on campus and get a better feel for each individual program. 

Make the most of your business school visits with these three tips:

1. Visit when class is in session.

If you are looking to observe the day-to-day life of the students on campus, don’t drop in on a weekend, during a break, or during exams. Make the most of your visit by touring the campus on a typical weekday, and, if possible, sit in on a class. Use this information to determine where you want to apply and to show the admissions committee that you have a thorough understanding of their class structure and teaching styles.

2. Ask questions.

As you explore each school, don’t be afraid to strike up conversations and ask questions. This will be one of the best ways to decide where to apply. Before your visit, create a list of things you’d like to know about each program and be sure the answers can’t be found on the school’s website. 

→ Several questions to get you started:

  • How often do students interact with professors outside the classroom?
  • What activities are offered to students outside of class?
  • How does career services help students find jobs?
  • Is there a way for students to connect with alumni?
  • What resources does the school offer to students launching ventures?

→ Questions for students:

  • What is the social scene like?
  • What would you change about the program?
  • Where else did you apply? Why did you choose this school?
  • How easy has it been for you to get the classes you want? 
  • Do you know where you will be working after graduation?

3. Take a tour.

Don’t make the mistake of skipping the official tour in favor of exploring on your own. While it is important to wander the campus solo, remember that you are there to learn as much about the program as possible. By taking a guided tour and sitting in on info sessions, you’ll get insider information about each school that you can use when making your decision of where to apply. As a general rule: Take the tour, then explore.

Still not convinced you should visit campuses before applying? Admit.me expert, Linda El Awar (Harvard Business School alum), recently shared her business school story with us:

I did not have the luxury of time to visit schools before I submitted my applications. I had a very demanding job and wanted to save my limited vacation time to travel for interviews on campus. I knew I had to visit the schools before I made my admissions decision and if it wasn’t for these visits, I could have made a huge mistake and picked the wrong program for me.

The campus visits gave me an opportunity to get a glimpse of each school’s culture. I was able to see how students interact with each other and their faculty. I got a feel for what life was like beyond the classroom. I was able to understand the energy and pace of a typical day. The visits let me experience the intangibles that are so critical to your time in graduate school.

For example, there was a school very high on my interest list that I spent four days visiting. I met with faculty, students, alumni, and even the admissions director. Though I loved the physical campus, all of my personal interactions left me feeling deflated. I instantly knew this wasn’t the place for me. On the contrary, when I visited another school high on my list, I felt energized after each personal meeting. I could see myself easily joining and contributing to this community. It made my final school selection an incredibly simple process.

My only regret is that I didn’t get to complete my visits earlier in the admissions process, as I could have saved myself a lot of time not applying to a program that was not right for me. But in the end, I found the perfect fit for me and in return I was able to begin my graduate school experience with the best possible energy and excitement!

Moral of the story? If you visit before you apply, you will likely narrow down your list and be in much better shape going into the application. But, if you can’t swing to go before applying, make sure you visit before committing. A school you thought was perfect for you may not be the right fit after all, and a school you weren’t as excited about may surprise you!

MBA School Visits

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