Long Term MBA Planning: Visiting Campuses and Networking with Students and Alumni

As we have noted in previous posts, it would be ideal for you as a prospective candidate to have nothing but your applications to manage come July (when most applications are released). While many take their GMAT and TOEFL exams by June in order to focus on their essays starting in July, few realize that there is a tremendous opportunity to visit campuses now — both to learn about specific programs of choice and to ensure that the fall schedule is not too busy. It is difficult enough for many candidates to manage their professional, personal and community lives; the addition of five class visits in five different cities during a one- or two-month span can often be stressful and too much to manage.

Many schools (Stanford, HBS, Chicago, Kellogg, etc.) still have campus visit programs in place until the end of their respective academic years, and some offer visits throughout the summer, depending on their academic calendars. By visiting several of your schools of choice now, you will not only save yourself the stress in the fall, but you will also benefit from the visit itself.

Campus visits are not just checked boxes for the Admissions Committee, but are tremendous opportunities for you to gain an intimate understanding of various academic methodologies and academic and social environments. While your campus visits may help you choose which schools to apply to, they will also help you frame your thoughts and write far more personal essays. There is only so much that you can learn about a school via its website. Your campus visit will enable you to experience the true character of your MBA program of choice and then discuss your connection to it in a profound way. You can express a certain sincerity, if you can write about your personal interactions with professors and students as a catalyst for your decision to apply to a certain school.

Similarly, by meeting with any alumni or current students, you can gain a more intimate understanding of your school of choice. Current students in particular will have an awareness of specific programs and classes that may not hold a prominent place on their school’s websites, but may be quite appealing to you and may enable you to strengthen your case for attending a certain school. By meeting with students and alumni and visiting classes and taking thorough notes on your experience, you will have a variety of data points that will help serve as a foundation for you to persuade the Admissions Committees that their school is most suitable for you, in a way that few others will be able to do.

If you do not have connections with current students and alumni, you can politely contact current students who are heads of the clubs that are of interest to you and ask them for a few moments to discuss their school’s attributes. If you aspire to be an entrepreneur, for example, speaking with the president of the Entrepreneurship Club will enable you to quickly understand the various offerings at your school of choice and may even result in your finding an advocate for your candidacy.

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