Visiting Business Schools
While an MBA program's catalog and website can provide valuable information about the school, they are not sufficient sources of information for making decisions about where to apply. Even when you tack on a wealth of statistics on the program and the opinions of your friends and co-workers, you are still not equipped to make a decision. Visiting is the only way you can get a true impression of what daily life at the school is like and whether it is a good fit for you. Knowing the school well will also be an advantage when it comes time to write your essays and interview.
If you are not certain about where you want to apply, we recommend visiting a range of schools of varying:
- Selectivity: reach, likely, safety
- Campus setting: urban, suburban, rural
Since you are likely to get "better" (read: more effective and efficient) at visiting business schools the more you visit, do not start with your top choices.
When to Visit
Visiting about six months or a year before you apply is probably the optimal time. In addition, since you are trying to get a sense of what the school is like on a daily basis, it is best to visit on a weekday when classes are in session (and not during exams or study periods). Contact the admission office when you plan your visit to see if they offer any information sessions, interviews or opportunities to speak with current students. Most schools will allow you to sit in on a class and/or pair you with a student for lunch.
How to Prepare for Your Visit
Visiting a business school is intended to teach you what you cannot glean from the brochure and website; thus, you should already have a good sense of the basics of the school before you visit. This will allow you to focus on the subtleties of the school during your visit.
Before you visit:
- Arrange meetings with professors, students, career services professional and/or financial aid officers
- Schedule a formal interview if it is part of the school's admissions process
- Find out if you can sit in on a class
- Find out when campus tours are offered
- Bring a small notebook along with you to record your impressions when they are fresh; you may also consider bringing a camera
Questions to Ask
Before you visit, you should prepare an arsenal of questions to ask during your visit. Be sure NOT to ask anything that can be answered by the school's website or admissions brochures.
Below are some questions to consider asking:
- What do you like best about the school? What do you like least?
- What one thing would you change about the school?
- Which professors are the best? Worst? Why?
- How often do you personally interact with the professors?
- What is the social scene like?
- Why did you choose this school over other schools?
- How competitive are the students?
- What are the most popular clubs/activities?
- What do you think of the career services office?
What to Do on Campus
Since there is a lot you can do in one day, it is best to plan to visit only one school per day. You may even stay overnight to check out the social scene. Most of what you do on campus should be arranged prior to your visit.
When you are on campus:
- Take a tour of the university and/or the business school
- Attend a group information session
- Stop by the admissions office for an informal chat with an admissions officer
- Speak with the financial aid office
- Visit the career services office to see their resources and speak with a staff member
- Sit in on a class or two
- Eat lunch in the cafeteria; talk to current students
- Take pictures/notes of your visit to help you remember important details