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 current MBA students and alumni at programs of interest will help you find the right program for you. Additionally, schools want to know you’re passionate and informed about their programs, so these connections 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 are talking to and what kind of perspective they’ll have. You may phrase a question differently depending upon whether you are talking to current students, alumni, or the MBA admissions team.
We at Stratus have prepared the following list to help you home in on questions to ask current MBA students and alumni. This isn’t a checklist but rather a selection of options to consider as you shape specific questions to help you better understand the program, culture, and extracurriculars at a specific school.
Business School Culture and Community
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 you could go back in time and start the program all over again, what advice would you give yourself as an incoming MBA student?
5. What’s unique about this school’s culture on campus?
6. What are the school’s traditions, and how does the school build community?
7. How would you describe the school’s learning culture and environment? Is it competitive or collaborative?
8. 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.
9. What classes or programs do you think best prepared you for your internship/career?
10. Were you able to get into the classes you wanted?
11. What class do you wish you would have taken? Or what experience do you wish you would have had during the program?
12. How often do/did you interact with professors outside of the classroom?
13. The school offers a lot of interesting courses. [Have a list of courses that you think look interesting in case you are asked.] What advice would you give an applicant who is considering taking on multiple concentrations/majors in order to prepare for their post-MBA career?
14. 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, and other coursework?
School Clubs and Activities
Can you develop on a professional and personal level by joining and contributing to the school’s clubs and/or participating in the MBA program’s activities?
15. I’m looking for ways to get involved with 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.]
16. 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)]?
17. What activities are you involved in outside of classes? Why did you choose these?
18. How often do you interact with local industry leaders or alumni?
19. What opportunities are available for alumni to continue engaging with each other and the school after graduation?
20. What’s the school’s social scene like?
21. [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 [name the program you found]. Could you tell me more about how that works and how to get involved?
MBA Program Career Services
MBA programs want you to succeed. Therefore, 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.
22. How have you engaged/did you engage with your school’s career services office? What was your experience like?
23. How would you describe the on-campus [even if virtual] versus self-directed job search, and how does the career services office support both paths?
24. How did the career services program influence your post-MBA path?
25. What type of overall career planning does the career services office offer for someone who might be switching careers?
If you’re looking for other ways to gain more information on your target programs, check out “Five Ways to Stay on Track with Your Virtual School Research.”