If you are considering an MBA, it might be worth your while to visit campus. Schools would view the effort you put in to visit their campus as a strong sign of interest. It might even be expected of you if you live reasonably close to campus. What is reasonably close? If it takes you less than 4 hours to fly to campus, then you are reasonably close.
Why is a campus tour important? Because till the point you actually walk around campus, the MBA experience will remain a figment of your imagination. You step on the ground there, and everything changes. You are immersed in the business school environment. You absorb its energy. You will learn about opportunities schools didn’t have the bandwidth to discuss in detail on their websites. And you will understand what fits you well – in terms of campus culture.
As part of AIGAC, we recently visited a few campuses across the US and Canada. And we returned richer for the experience. While we learned a lot about what schools look for in potential students, it was also a great opportunity for us to get to know the opportunities that the school makes available to members of its class. The real surprising thing though was the fact that we got to know interesting tidbits about the schools and their surrounding environment that we might not have bothered to check out if we didn’t visit.
I was amused to know that the University of Toronto’s library was shaped like a turkey. I learned that Ann Arbor has a great independent brewing scene, that is so amazing that an alum decided to open a branch of the Ann Arbor brewery in Bangalore? In fact, he took along a team of second years with him to work on a MAP project to study how he could expand to other cities in India. I was also surprised to know that Booth does a lot of work in social innovation. I was amazed to know that 70% of Kellogg’s students identify as introverts. And finally, I found it interesting that there are several high tech companies opening campuses in Austin. These are insights that I got only because I took the time to visit.
And these are all collateral benefits – meaning, much of my day at each one of these campuses was spent understanding each school’s unique approach to the MBA curriculum, its philosophy for leadership development, and the extra opportunities it offers to help students internalize all this new knowledge and develop into successful leaders of tomorrow.
If you do plan to visit, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Definitely get in touch with a member of the adcom to let them know you would be visiting. It will be helpful if you send them a resume, and give them a rough idea of why you wish to do an MBA. At this point, your resume doesn’t have to be perfect. Your goals don’t have to be precise – it is perfectly ok to say, “Here are 3 things I’m interested in. This is why I’m interested in these three career pathways. I hope I’m able to meet with you and a few other students to clarify my thought process for myself.” Note that your resume and a short goals statement are important by way of introduction. They will not be evaluated at this point.
- While getting in touch with the adcom member ask if they have a campus tour. If they do, schedule your visit when one such tour is being organized. The school would have other potential candidates visiting on that day as well – so they might be able to offer you a structured and high impact schedule for your day that could see you attending presentations by adcom members, and career services staff, visiting a few labs and research centers, and even sitting in on a class. A campus tour where you visit not just the business school, but also the larger university campus could be part of this as well. Finally, they might be able to help you network with a few current students and recent alums who would be valuable resources for you.
- In case a campus tour is not being organised, ask if school is in session. If it is, ask to sit in on a class. Be sure to be a silent and passive observer. Do not comment on the classroom interaction unless asked by the instructor to do so. This session should give you a fantastic overview of how interesting classes are, the competence of your peers, and the teaching methods.
- Ask to meet with students and, if possible, alums. When you meet students in a low pressure setting (such as at the cafeteria, etc.), you can talk to them very casually, and ask for their experiences at the school. You could get their insights into what other schools they considered, and why this was their final choice. You could pick their brains to learn about tips to put together a successful application. You could also talk to them about placements, and how recruitment season was for the class that just graduated. If you are meeting with 4 or 5 students at the same time, you could even hear contradictory views from the others – and the sum total of these views will help you get a clearer picture of how well you fit at the school.
- Finally, ask for a map, and just walk around. Sit in the cafeteria. Go to a local restaurant. Visit the bookstore. Attend a show/campus program if possible. These experiences will help you really get a feel for the campus, and the city in which it is housed.
Hope you have a wonderful tour of campus.