On-campus visits are always preferred. You should try to visit every school on your list, if it’s possible. It will add valuable context, depth, and nuance to your perceptions of a school, and it will help you meet these three fundamental goals:
- Familiarizing yourself with the school
- Assessing your level of interest
- Demonstrating that interest to admissions representatives.
What to Expect
Leveraging Your Connections
- They know the specific attributes the school is looking for. It is not uncommon for admissions officers to target specific backgrounds, personalities, or perspectives they feel are missing from their current programs. Maintain authenticity and take advantage of this tip at the same time by highlighting any target attributes you truly have.
- They know which admissions reps and alums might attend and what they’re like. Just like you, admissions representatives and alums have their own unique quirks and preferences. Some can be overly talkative, a bit surly, or much too formal, while others can be surprisingly helpful and friendly. Knowing in advance which people are coming and whom you’d like to speak to will save you bundles of time.
- They can connect you with a desired admissions representative or alum. If your relationship is strong enough, consider asking for a direct introduction to a key admissions representative or alum. Connecting with admissions representatives can boost your candidacy (if you make a good impression), while loose ties to alumni will help you expand your network, whether or not you attend the school in the end.
- Presentation about the school by admissions representatives
- Alumni or current student panel
- Q & A session
- Networking time
These tours are hosted by independent companies (The MBA Tour and QS World MBA Tour are two examples) and usually last four to five hours. At any given tour event, you can expect to see 150 to 200 other applicants! Most attendees use these events to get their feet wet, gaining a broad base of knowledge about different degrees, schools, and programs. However, candidates who are further along in the process may use tours as a chance to meet with the admissions officers who will soon be reviewing their applications.
A tour generally includes:
- Sessions on general admissions advice and financial aid
- Sessions on specific application components (essays, interviews, etc.)
- Deep dives with individual schools (these last 15 to 30 minutes)
- “Speed dating” with admissions reps and alumni
- School fair (this lasts about two hours)
What to Do
- Connect with at least one admissions representative or alum
- Obtain their business card(s)
- Build enough rapport that when you email them, they recognize your name
What Not to Do
- Telling your life story: This is not an opportunity to plead your case, attempt to explain your weaknesses, or advance your candidacy. No applicant was ever accepted on the spot at an off-campus event, so don’t attempt it.
- Monopolizing their time: If you’re attending an information session, it’s likely that other candidates are as well. Avoid holding an admissions representative hostage while there are countless applicants waiting in line behind you. If there is a line, 2 to 3 minutes is a respectful amount of time to chat with an admissions representative. If there isn’t a line, something closer to 10 minutes may be reasonable. Use your best judgement.
- Being controversial: There is a time and a place for discussing the relevant issues faced by your school and its students, but this isn’t it. Don’t mention scandals or attempt to deliberate hot button issues.
- Committing a social faux pas: This idea covers a lot of ground. Remember earlier when we talked about not making mistakes as the main mantra for these events? This is what we mean. Avoid dressing inappropriately, swearing, and spilling food or drink. While these errors would be small in familiar company, these events are for putting your best face to your favorite schools. Don’t mess up.
- Get to know the school (check)
- See if you like the school (check!)
- Show them you like the school (and check)
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