Visiting Your Target Business Schools

At mbaMission, we get many inquiries from MBA candidates who are curious about whether visiting their target schools is really worth the time and cost and whether doing so will impress or influence the admissions committees. Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that visiting a MBA program has tremendous importance beyond the formal admissions process—doing so is essentially a chance for you to give the school a thorough “test drive.” Imagine, for example, that you were considering buying a $250,000 to $500,000 home. You would certainly want to check it out in person before you signed the mortgage papers, right? You might turn the taps on and off, open and shut the doors and windows, take a walk around the perimeter, and chat with the neighbors. Given that your business school education will likely cost you somewhere in that dollar range—when you take into account tuition, living expenses, and the opportunity costs of leaving your job—you should put forth the same level of effort inspecting and evaluating the place that will be both your work and home for the next two years.

Visiting your target schools allows you to gain a firsthand perspective into a program’s environment, pedagogy, facilities, student body, and professors, and if you complete your visit before you start writing your application essays, you will have much more personal stories and deeper insight to share when you do. In addition, your willingness to travel to campus to experience the program in person can make a positive impression on the admissions committee. Altogether, what you learn via your visit may even help you decide which school to ultimately attend and could increase your chances of a happy future there.

However, we understand that for some candidates, a visit simply is not feasible, and we are not insisting that you must visit your chosen schools at all costs. If your funds or time are limited, you should not deplete your resources by traveling to the various campuses. Other ways of getting to know your preferred programs are certainly available, including reading Web sites, listening to podcasts, participating in MBA discussion groups online, connecting with students and alumni, attending outreach events, and downloading our mbaMission Insider’s Guides to the top schools. However, if you do have the time and money, and no other impediments to doing so exist, we strongly recommend that you visit your target schools and gain independent experience—a brief trip could pay a lifetime of dividends.

Obviously, you should always be on your best behavior when visiting an MBA program. Although the various students and school representatives you encounter during your visit are not expected to inform the admissions committee of your every act and word, they will probably feel compelled to report any bad behavior they witness. A former receptionist (now an admissions committee member) at a top-ten MBA program told us that whenever she encountered rudeness from a candidate, she would make note of the incident and inform the admissions director, who would then strike the candidate from consideration. We cannot say whether this is a regular practice at all schools, of course, but why take the chance? Treat everyone you encounter with respect and politeness, and you will have no reason to worry.

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