The return of MBA campus visits is a bright spot on the path to normalcy after two incredibly challenging years. Schools including Harvard, Wharton, Duke Fuqua, and Chicago Booth all have in-person recruitment options available. Expect to see additional business schools adding campus visits over the next few months as well.
Although there are many ways to learn about an MBA program through online events—and you should do that as well—there’s still no better way to get to know a business school—and for a school to get to know you—than to schedule a campus visit. But before you book flights across the country, here are ten tips to follow to make the most of your MBA campus visits:
- Start the conversation right. The campus visit is an opportunity for you to get to know the school, but it is also an opportunity for the school to get to know you. Think of it as a conversation, and show up having done your research. Understand what the school values and how you connect with those values. Go there only if you have an honest interest. The admissions committee does not give you credit just for showing up; a visit must be meaningful to both you and them.
- Speak to the right people. Yes, everyone wants to speak to the dean of admissions, but that appointment is hard to get. Most schools have an admissions contact for each region of the world and the United States, and this is the person who can make or break your admissions decision. Figure out who manages admissions decisions for your location! This individual will be the one with the most influence in reviewing your candidacy.
- Work on your plan. Your scheduled meetings with a campus contact will be 30 minutes or less, so set clear goals for these meetings. Review the school’s website thoroughly, and then come up with detailed questions to ask during your visit. For example, after reading about Northwestern Kellogg’s MMM program, you could ask more specific questions about the Business Innovation Lab, which is a capstone experience in that program.
- Talk to students. The only way to really get to know an MBA program beyond the marketing material is by talking to actual students and hearing what they like and do not like about the school. Are these things that you will like or not like? Good people to connect with are students who share your background or lead the clubs you would like to join. Track down their contact information (most MBA programs now list contact information for student ambassadors and club leaders on their website), and then see if you can schedule time to grab coffee and learn about their experiences and how you might fit in.
- Plan your schedule. Timing your visit correctly can help you maximize your experience at the school. What days are classes in session? You do not want to show up when students are taking exams or are away on break. Are there dedicated events or weekends that might interest you? Perhaps you could visit when a student club is hosting a conference that aligns with your goals. Many MBA programs offer weekends geared toward women, underrepresented minorities, veterans, members of the LGBTQ+ communities, and others.
- Use all your senses. When visiting a campus, use all five of your senses to get a feel for the program. Observe how students interact with each other. Do these seem like “your people”? Are there inviting spaces for students to gather and collaborate? Sit in the chairs! Are they comfortable? Could you imagine yourself working on projects here? How did you feel during the class you visited? Are the teaching methods aligned with your learning style?
- Go beyond the classroom. Make connections through affinity clubs such as the Veteran’s Club or the Women’s Business Association, where you will find students with shared interests. You are not just going to school in this new place; you’re going to live here, too. Investigate food options on and off campus. If a program says that social impact and sustainability matter, and yet you see no evidence of having local or sustainably sourced food in the cafeteria, that might give you an idea about how deeply the school values this commitment. You may find a great local farmer’s market or a vibrant restaurant scene that will make your time in the program more enjoyable. Likewise, consider extracurricular and sport options if they are important to you. If you love skiing, you may enjoy a program like Dartmouth Tuck, which offers easy options to ski on the weekends.
- Make it fun. Spending a quick couple of hours on campus rarely provides you with the insight you need to see if you really want to live in a place for two years. Consider making your MBA program visits something of a vacation: stay overnight, enjoy the nightlife in and around campus, tour the area a bit. This is a great opportunity to visit Boston (Harvard and MIT Sloan), Chicago (Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg), San Francisco (Stanford and Berkeley Haas), Los Angeles (UCLA Anderson and USC Marshall) or North Carolina (UNC Kenan-Flagler and Duke Fuqua).
- Consider the needs of your significant other. Reach out to “Partners’ Club” programs so that you and your significant other can learn about life at the school for students with partners and families. Consider employment options for your significant other if this is important to them. If your significant other is a banker, they may find more job options in a big city like New York or Boston rather than a more rural location. (However, with increased remote work options, this may not be as big of a factor as it used to be.)
- Follow up. Thank the students and staff who have spent their time sharing information with you. Look for ways to build relationships by sharing additional information that could be of interest to the people you met.
The spring semester is an excellent time to plan these trips, as all the students will have experienced at least a semester in the program. And since Round 1 deadlines are scheduled in September or even earlier, there will not be time to make a campus visit in the fall before those deadlines.
If your desired MBA program has not yet resumed on-campus visits, keep checking their admissions websites for updates!