Every year, we get many inquiries from MBA candidates who have just started the application process and are curious about whether they should invest the time and resources needed to visit their target programs. Is visiting really worth the effort? Will doing so impress the admissions committee(s)? Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that a class visit has tremendous relevance beyond the formal admissions process—it is a chance for you to give the school a thorough “test drive.” You probably would not invest $30,000 in a car without driving it first, would you? So why would you commit to spending two years of your life, many years as an alumnus/alumna, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct and opportunity costs without first knowing what you are getting?
We do not think that you need to visit at all costs, however. If you have limited funds or time, you should not deplete your resources by visiting. You have many other ways of getting to know your target schools without traveling to campus, such as Web sites, podcasts, conversations with alumni, and outreach events. However, if you do have the time and money, we strongly recommend that you travel to your target schools and gain that firsthand experience—a brief trip could pay a lifetime of dividends.
In addition to gaining information while visiting campus, applicants can contact the Admissions Office to receive definitive answers to questions that arise while completing their application, including the following:
“Do I need to take the TOEFL if I attended an English-language undergraduate institution outside the United States?”
“Do I need to provide a separate transcript from the institution where I studied abroad for my junior year, even though these grades show up on my ‘home’ university’s transcript?”
“I completed military service before my undergraduate education. Can I still count these years in my ‘full-time work experience since graduation’ total?”
The reason these and many other questions can be so bewildering is that often, no clear answer can be found in the school’s application materials, and tremendous variation exists from one application to the other. Generally, candidates tend to think of MBA Admissions Offices as impenetrable black boxes, but the truth is that they are open and available to applicants, and admissions representatives indeed want to clarify these kinds of small technical issues that candidates may encounter. Although you should take care to not be a pest and avoid repeatedly calling the Admissions Office, if you have a small question or two with no clear-cut, obvious answers, do not be afraid to reach out. Why not take the guesswork out of the equation and be certain of what the admissions committee expects?