If you’re a more recent arrival to the EssaySnark blahg who’s planning on applying to bschool this year, rather than one of our long-time BSer readers who keeps coming back for the snark even though you already got into school (yay you!)… Then presumably you’re working on the GMAT or GRE, and you’ve been reading school websites, and probably spending way too much time on the applicant forums.
Well guess what? There’s one more very important super important no really really really important thing that you should be doing. Like, NOW. With some caveats, because things are still weird this year with the coronovirus and travel and stuff.
We mentioned recently that this is a great time to be talking to students. We also mentioned in that post that now is a great time to be visiting the schools.
In fact, now is really the ONLY time to be doing that, if you’re interested in applying to bschool this year.
Because class is in session. Students are on campus. You’ll get the full experience of the campus visit if you go in the spring.
If you wait till the summer, then you can certainly still benefit from seeing the school and its environs. You’ll get a taste for the type of neighborhood the school is in and possibly experience some of the community in which you might live, if you were to go there. You’ll certainly meet some students, since there’s always some around no matter when you visit. But their numbers will be limited. Most bschool students are off on their merry adventures of summer internships in the, er, summer. They’re not at school. (The main exception being Columbia, which has their J-Term cohort on campus in the summer.)
No students on campus means no classes in session. The biggest advantage of going to a school is to actually experience what it’s like to be a student in that program. You won’t be able to sit in on a class, and so you’d be cheating yourself of a key #1 reason to go to all that trouble of getting on a plane and everything.
If you’re just starting the process, and planning on applying in Round 1, we get it, that feels like an eternity away. But guess what? Most schools’ Round 1 deadlines hit in September. That’s before the schools open up their class visit schedule for their fall terms, which often doesn’t happen till October. So there’s no chance of doing the whole campus experience in the fall concurrent with a Round 1 app.
It’s not mandatory to visit the schools. It’s not like the GMAT, where you can’t submit an app if you didn’t make it to campus. And, this year, with the coronavirus, there’s good reason to hold back on non-essential travel.
Pretty much every school tells you that you’re welcome to come to campus.
And some schools [used to – pre-covid] tell applicants that they SHOULD come to campus.
And a few programs will even waive the application fee later on if you are able to come to campus and sit in on a class before you apply. Darden Executive MBA does that in its admissions process; Duke does it for all of its MBA applications.
Different schools put different emphasis on this. For some, it’s actually quite important. As an example, Berkeley Haas said it directly on their blog a few years back, in a post about how to apply to business school. They said: “What is the one thing people should do before they hit “submit” on an MBA application? Come to an event on campus or attend a class.”
Even if your target school does not emphasize it quite so much as Berkeley did in that post, it’s still a very smart strategic thing to do if you can – for YOURSELF.
What if you get accepted to a school and you get to campus and realize you can’t stand the place? 😯
Even more important is the intel you’ll gather from the visit itself. Those insights are crucial, not just for identifying which school should be at the top of your vast and extensive list of targets, but also how you will convince the adcom readers at that school of the reasons why they’re at the top.
You’ll gain so much from the experience. It’s an opportunity that we strongly recommend you take advantage of.
This whole getting-into-bschool thing is so crazy competitive these days that if you’re truly dead set serious on trying for the best of the best, then you may want to look at ways to give yourself every advantage you can.
Visiting your MBA program can be a smart move. (Check out some of the many Success Stories here on the blahg where former BSers tell you exactly that.) It’s totally not mandatory to do this in order to get in, but who knows, if you’re feeling like you’re up for traveling again, then building a trip around a bschool destination might be a fun idea after two years of pandemic!
Now would be the time for this, Brave Supplicant. If this sounds interesting and useful to you, then make it happen!
Here's what others have said about this:
Visits are huge. In my case, seeing the classroom in action was the deciding factor for me and many of my classmates.
Outside the classroom, being able to socialize with current students will help you understand fit. Reading the school’s website and poring over an online forum doesn’t cut it.