As a prospective MBA applicant, you’re likely getting a lot of emails from MBA programs inviting you to information sessions, webinars, and MBA tours/fairs. Depending on where you are in the application process, whether just exploring or applying this year, you may have different goals when attending a recruiting event. It’s important to engage with the schools you’re interested in as much as possible so you can learn if the school is a good fit for you and so the school can learn more about you. However, it is worthwhile to spend some time getting your own pitch down before attending an MBA tour or information session. What are your goals? What are your areas for development? Knowing these things will enable you to make the most of your time as you engage at these events.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how applicants and schools can engage with one another. Since 2020, schools have pivoted to online avenues to engage with students, but some campuses are now resuming in-person visits.
Here are two different types of recruiting events and what you should do at each one to maximize your time.
MBA Tours or Fairs
These events gather admissions officers, deans, and alumni from dozens of top MBA programs so applicants can learn about a large number of schools in one afternoon or evening. With many other demands on your time, you may be wondering whether attending is worth it, what you’ll learn, and which fair is the best.
The shift to virtual MBA fairs has allowed prospective applicants from all areas to take part in these events rather than just those who live near a city that hosts a fair. Because there are several options, try to attend fairs that feature programs of interest to you so you can learn the most about the schools that are the best possible matches for YOU.
Here are some popular MBA fairs for 2022:
The following tips will help position you for success when attending MBA fairs:
- Prepare in advance. It’s a good idea to spend some time before the event preparing in order to maximize your opportunities. Make a plan of which schools you’d like to visit, and then look at the schedule to see which panels or speakers are most interesting to you. For some events, you can schedule time with programs in advance, so research whether that is possible. On event day, dress in business attire so you look professional.
- Ask questions. Be sure to have a list of questions ready for admissions officers, alumni, or current MBA students, keeping in mind that often the questions you ask of an admissions committee member will be different from those for a current student or a graduate. Some helpful questions include How do you think your program stands out? Do you have a list of current students or alumni whom prospective applicants can contact to learn more about the program? What one piece of advice do you have for someone applying to your program? Be sure to capture what you learn in a notebook or other centralized place so you can refer to it when completing your applications.
- Connect, connect, connect. As you go from room to room (whether in person or virtually!) learning about MBA programs, you should engage with representatives from the programs. Collect the names and contact information, if possible, of any admissions officers from programs that interest you and keep them in your notebook. It is unlikely that the admissions committee members you meet will remember you from this short interaction, as they are meeting dozens or hundreds of other prospective students, so don’t try too hard to make an impression. You can send a follow-up note after the fair to get on their radar. At this stage, the schools are shopping for you as much as you’re shopping for them. If you talk to current students or alumni, be sure to capture in your notebook their names, graduation years, and something they said. These details will come in handy when you’re writing an essay and want to mention something you learned about the school from someone you met at the fair.
- What if I can’t make it to an MBA fair? With virtual fairs now available, it’s easier than ever to attend one. But if you can’t make it to an MBA fair, keep your eyes and ears open for other events that you can attend. Sometimes smaller groups of business schools organize events to meet prospective applicants, and these multi-school admissions events often occur in the spring or fall. One popular multi-school event includes UVA Darden, Berkeley Haas, Duke Fuqua, Cornell Johnson, Yale SOM, Michigan Ross, and NYU Stern. An admissions director panel is scheduled for May 17, 2022, and more dates will be added. This type of event often begins with an MBA admissions officer panel that may include alumni or students speaking about the program. Following the presentation, attendees sometimes have an opportunity to participate in informal conversations with MBA program representatives.
- Explore other resources. Many applicants find it helpful that MBA fairs often feature vendors offering products and services related to the MBA application process, including GMAT or GRE prep, financing options, and consulting services to help navigate the process. Special discounts may be offered for MBA fair attendees.
- Here’s the bottom line. At the end of the day, MBA fairs and tours just make it easier to learn about top MBA programs and help you discover which will be the best fit for you. Use these events to connect with the school and understand its differentiators. If you can’t make it to an MBA fair, you’ll need to conduct this research separately. MBA fairs can help you narrow down a long list of schools, but you still need to do specific research on the resources each MBA program offers and how they can help you reach your goals.
Business School Information Sessions
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, admissions officers from MBA programs—like their counterparts at undergraduate institutions—traveled to major cities to hold events for prospective students. Now these events are largely virtual and range from panel discussions with admissions staff or alumni, to presentations followed by a Q&A with alumni representatives, to a combination of the two. Be sure to attend an event for schools of interest so you can demonstrate that interest!
Here’s some advice to keep in mind when attending school information sessions:
- Listen—then ask questions. You should come to the event with a list of questions to ask. (Hint: These questions should not be able to be answered simply by looking on the school’s website!) Make sure you listen to all the presentations and other attendees’ questions before asking yours. If current students or alumni are answering questions, you can tailor the questions more to their experiences at the school. Good questions include Why did you pick X school? What is/was your favorite thing about it? What surprised you about the school?
- Introduce yourself. If possible, before or after the event, introduce yourself to the school representatives and give a 30-second elevator speech about who you are, what you want to do, and why you are interested in that school. If the event is very crowded, don’t worry if you can’t make that introduction. Your name will be on the registration list, so the school should know you attended.
- Collect contact information. If possible, gather the contact information of any admissions staff at the event so you can follow up with a thank you note afterward. If you have questions about admissions requirements during the application process, you can take a more personalized approach and email your contact rather than addressing the general admissions email.
- Follow up. It’s a good idea to follow up with any contacts you made to thank them for the event and reiterate how much you enjoyed learning more about the school. In some cases, these events help solidify that a school might NOT be a good fit, which is also good information for you to have. (You can skip the note in that case.) Sometimes prospective applicants register for an event and then don’t show up. Admissions officers understand that things come up and you can’t always attend—BUT if you’re still interested in that school, send the admissions committee a note apologizing for not showing up and reiterating your interest. If you plan to attend a different session, be sure to point that out as well.