Although “be curious” is good advice in general, it’s especially important for prospective MBA students. Business school is a considerable investment of time and money, so digging a few layers deeper by speaking to students and alumni will help you evaluate this investment and plan accordingly. Additionally, schools want to know you’re passionate and informed about their programs, so this effort can help improve your chances of admission.
Before crafting questions to ask, visit the school’s website to gain a comprehensive view of the program—many of your first-level questions will be answered there. Read student blogs, explore the available programs, look into clubs, conferences, classes, and professors… Basically, just devour the website!
Once you have a good understanding of the program, spend time preparing questions that are open-ended, show thoughtfulness, and demonstrate that you’ve done research in advance. Craft questions specific to what you’re looking for in an MBA program. For example, if your future goals are in health care, make sure you’re researching health-care programs, notable health care–focused alumni, and health-care career path options among other related resources. Then, build your questions around those findings so they directly reflect your personal situation.
As you start preparing questions, consider who you’ll be asking and what kind of perspective they’ll have. Most questions will be addressed by current students, alumni, or the admissions team.
We’ve prepared the following list to help you home in on questions to ask current students and alumni. This isn’t a checklist, but rather a selection of options for you to consider as you shape your specific questions, and it’s broken down by category.
Your classmates will be your peers and support system—and eventually, they’ll be your network for the remainder of your career. Consider whether these are YOUR people, or if you’ll be a fish out of water.
1. What surprised you most about the program once you started?
2. What kind of person thrives in this program?
3. What other schools did you consider? Why did you choose this school?
4. If, after graduation, you could go back in time and start the program all over again, what advice would you give yourself as an incoming MBA candidate?
5. What’s unique about this school’s culture on campus?
6. How would you describe the learning culture and environment? Is it competitive, collaborative, etc.?
7. Do most students live near campus or throughout the city? Does most group work take place on campus or off campus?
Can the school’s academics help you attain your near-term career goal? Consider your learning style and how it aligns with the program structure.
8. What classes or programs do you think best prepared you for your internship/career?
9. Were you able to get into the classes you wanted?
10. How often do/did you interact with professors outside of the classroom?
11. The school offers a lot of interesting courses. What advice would you give an applicant who is considering taking on multiple concentrations/majors in order to prepare for their post-MBA career?
12. I want to gain a realistic expectation of life as an MBA student. How much time do you invest outside of class on readings, group projects, homework, etc.?
Can you develop on a professional and personal level by joining and contributing to the school’s clubs and/or participating in the program’s activities?
13. I’m looking for ways to get involved and contribute to the [insert student club] club. When I looked at the calendar of events, I didn’t notice any [specific activity you’re interested in, such as workshops]. Is that something the club would be interested in adding? What else do you feel would help members benefit from the club? [Ask student club leaders this question.]
14. What resources does the school offer to help students [something you’re interested in learning or experiencing (e.g., “launch ventures” if you’re into entrepreneurship, or “gain hands-on M&A experience” if you want to transition into an M&A role)]?
15. What activities are you involved in outside of classes?
16. What opportunities are available for alumni to continue engaging with each other and the school after graduation?
17. What’s the school’s social scene like?
18. [Get more detail about something that interested you on the school’s website.] I saw on the website that there’s a program for hands-on learning around angel investing [or whatever you’ve found]. Could you tell me more about how that works and how to get involved?
MBA programs want you to succeed, and they have substantial resources to provide support as you transition to your post-MBA career and to help you stay on track to achieve your career goals. Consider how you can utilize the career services office throughout the MBA program and even after you graduate.
19. How have/did you engaged/engage with your school’s career services office?
20. What was your experience with career services like?
21. How did the career services program influence your post-MBA path?
If you’re looking for other ways to gain more information on your target programs, check out this blog post: Five Ways to Stay on Track with Your Virtual School Research.
Stay curious, my friends!