How to Plan a College Visit
Researching the colleges you plan to visit will make for a better experience, and will help you make a good impression. You never know who will end up mentioning you to the admissions committee, so you should be ready to talk about why you are interested in attending the MBA program at that school. Here are the steps you need to take in order to plan your visit:
- Visit through business school websites to research:
- Career placement statistics
- Names of prominent recruiters
- Admissions requirements and criteria
- Once you have gone over career data and admissions requirements, decide on which schools you want to visit.
- Find out when the MBA program is in session and when visitors are allowed to sit in on classes. Harvard Business School, for example, doesn't allow Round 1 applicants to observe before the October 1 deadline, in order to help students get settled into the classroom. Clear Admit recommends that you visit campus in the spring, so you won't be distracted with finishing your fall applications.
- Find out what is involved in a campus visit for each school. MBA campus visits often include lunch with students or attending an information session.
- Identify which friends and colleagues who are affiliated with the schools you're considering. If you can't think of anyone on the top of your head, do some research on the Internet. Searching for schools on LinkedIn and Facebook can help you find out if anyone in your social network attends, works for, or has graduated from a particular school. Contact them for information and advice about your campus visit.
- Call admissions to book your visit.
- Ask the Admissions Office to match you with a student who has similar career goals or the President of a club related to your interests. You can also research these clubs independently and contact their members directly. This is a good way to get information about the issues that are most important to you. Ask about the kinds of roles you could take on as a student. Not only will this give you a better idea of what campus life is like, it can also provide good essay material.
- Request time off from work or schedule your campus visit around a business trip to the same region.
- Organize a meeting with a professor who does research in your target field. As a visitor, you can only observe classes. Scheduling a sit-down with a professor, however, will allow you to interact one-on-one. It will also give you a better idea of how that particular school can help you meet your career goals.
- Find out what research centers and programs the school offers that relate to your interests. Plan to visit them.
College Visit Tips
- Make sure you visit when class is actually in session, and where there are students on campus.
- Group your school visits by region in order to save time and money. For example, visit all the East Coast schools at the same time.
- Staying with friends or relatives who live near campus is another way to save money.
- If you are married or a parent, bringing your spouse and/or child on campus can give you an idea of how family-friendly an MBA program is. Find out if there's a school-sponsored partner's group, and try to meet with group members during your time on campus. Learn about the living arrangements, schools, and jobs, in order to get a better idea of what life would be like for your family.
- Once you are on campus, be polite and respectful. Being rude or demanding to meet with admissions will definitely get you noticed, but for all the wrong reasons. You never know who has connections to the admissions office, so you should behave well at all times.
- Talk to a variety of students (not just one or two) in order to get the full picture of what campus culture is like. Admissions will often arrange for you to have lunch with students, but you may learn more by going to popular student hang-outs and starting up conversations.
- If you sit in on classes, pay attention to the what kind of teaching methods are used and the level of student interaction with faculty.
- When you talk to students, ask them about:
- How competitive it gets in the classroom and in terms of the job search
- The level of assistance Career Services provides
- How they feel about their decision to attend that particular MBA program
- If you meet with professors, ask about research, ways that students can participate in research projects, and how the faculty is connected with the greater business community.
- Look beyond the business school. Explore the entire university, since you will probably be spending time on other parts of campus. Find out what parts of campus are most useful and relevant for business school students, as well as where the general student population hangs out. You should also explore the city the school is in to get an idea of the culture as well as what kinds of businesses are there.
- Take notes on each school you visit. Make a pros and cons list. Research the issues you are concerned about regarding each business school. Go over your notes in order to decide which programs to apply to.
- Be sure to send thank-you notes to everyone you meet during your MBA campus visit.
- Stay in touch with students via email or Facebook after your visit. This will help you stay current campus news.
MBA Career Placement
The one place that you probably won't be able to visit is the Career Services Office. While MBA career placement is one of the most important factors in choosing an MBA program, visiting the Career Services office isn't a good idea since the staff needs to focus on serving current students.
How do you find out about job placement if you can't visit career services? Find career placement statistics on the business school website. Prepare career-related questions, so you can direct them to Admissions Officers during your visit. Information sessions are another good opportunity to get answers to your career questions. If you can't get your MBA career placement questions answered during your visit, attend web chats or email admissions officers.