How to impress MBA admissions officers at your campus visit
Treat this meeting like an informational interview
Three ways to prove your fit with the school
Mention the alumni and current students that you know
Prepare 3 reasons why you want to attend the school
Prepare 3 questions that relate to your post MBA goal
Many of my clients are talented networkers. They cultivate mutually beneficial relationships that transcend gender, age, function, industry, nationality and culture. Still, they wonder exactly what to do when attending MBA Tour events, school-specific info sessions, and campus visits. Networking is not always intuitive. It is a learned skill, and we could all benefit from a refresher now and then.
Here are my top three tips for how to make the most of MBA tours, school fairs, online forums, admissions and alumni events, and campus visits.
2. FIND YOUR FIT
1. ASK SMART QUESTIONS
A client recently said to me, "Everyone says I need to show passion for my target schools. How do I show passion?"
First, you can show passion by asking good questions. They demonstrate your knowledge of the program they also highlight something about your background and demonstrates that you fit the school’s culture.
In my view, a question is “smart” if it
is not easily answered by checking a website
is related to you and your goals
covers topics your interviewer is likely to know and feel passionate about
is appropriate to your interviewer (alum vs. current student vs. adcom member)
Speaking with an adcom member at an off-campus event? Ask about trends that affect your goals. For example, a client recently asked adcoms to confirm a rumor he heard that the school would open a new research center and study abroad option on another continent. Since my client's long-term goals involve expanding to that market, he could confirm if the rumor was true while reinforcing his future vision.
Meeting a recent graduate or current student? Ask what surprised her most after enrolling. “How have your perceptions changed as you moved from applicant to student?” Then, follow-up by asking for more information and sharing your own perceptions of the school.
Finally, be sure to ask “open-ended” questions that leave room for the other person to share her feelings and opinions, beyond simple “yes” or “no” answers.
2. FIND YOUR FIT
When attending an info session, go for quality over quantity. Yes, you need to "work the room" to find people who match your experience and/or goals. But your deeper objective should be to make one or two meaningful connections. Try to open the door for follow up contact (over email, coffee, beer, lunch, etc.)
DEMONSTRATE FIT BY TELLING STORIES ABOUT REAL PEOPLE YOU HAVE CONTACTED
In your essays and interviews, you want to be able to write that you have had ONGOING conversations with a few alumni WHO MATCH YOUR PROFILE and CONFIRM YOUR FIT with the school.
Add it to your essay, like this:
“I could confirm my interest in School X through my ongoing conversations with Mr. First Last ('12), who told me about (specific aspect of school). This perfectly fits my (specific goal /learning objective) because...”
“I knew Mr. First Last (‘10) before, during, and after MBA. We share a similar background (in X industry / function) and goals (interest in working in a specific sector, region, function, etc.). He confirmed that School A changed him (in some specific way, for example by helping him develop a vital new skill set, or introducing him to an important new perspective that informs his current career). I seek a similar transformation, and I am convinced that School X best prepares me for my future challenges.”
For more on "fit" and "contributions," please read this post.
3. CONTACT CLUB PRESIDENTS
Visiting campus? Find members of the club you want to lead. Contact them via email before you visit. Then, if possible, attend meetings of those clubs and speak to members.
Ask if they agree with an idea you have, and ask for any suggestions or tips to help you make your idea better. For example, one client wrote to the leaders of energy clubs at his target schools in order to confirm if his idea would add value to their respective energy conferences. Specifically, he had an idea to organize a panel focusing on a certain emerging energy source. As he mentioned, he could leverage his contacts in that hot niche. Most confirmed that current students would be interested. The club leaders also said they would welcome his involvement in the conference if he were to attend their school. He then mentioned those ongoing discussions with club presidents in his essays.
Even if you cannot visit campus, you can often find the email addresses of club presidents on school websites. You can also find “student ambassadors” at many top schools. Contact them. They are eager to sell their school to you and can introduce you to club presidents and other folks who might share your background or goals.
Thank everyone. The current student who introduced the alumni member. The alumni member who introduced the current student. The friend of a friend who introduced the club president. The students who met you for lunch or coffee.
If they seemed to take a particular interest in you, send occasional updates: "I just scored 710 on GMAT!", or "I just got invited to the interview. Thanks again for your support."
Then, after you get your results, keep them posted on your plans. Even if you are attending another school, you can build your network at different programs. You never know when you might meet someone again at a summer internship or job recruiting event. Play nice, and think long-term.