Monday, August 18, 2008

Go, Go, Go!

The process of selecting the “perfect fit” for business school can seem quite daunting. There are so many things to consider. One thing that made my decision easier was being able to reflect on my personal experiences at each of the schools I was considering and really think about where I wanted to be. There are many things you’ll find that can’t be described during a chat with admissions officers nor seen in a school brochure. A visit is a great way to educate yourself about the school’s culture and atmosphere. It’s also a great way to make sure the admissions officers have a face and a story to put with the name and application.

While the school brochures and MBA fairs are a great way to learn the basics, they are only two-dimensional experiences. They’re a great place to begin the weeding out process, but you’ll want to add more depth before making your final decision. Many schools require in person interviews. They are great excuses to spend the day attending class, meeting students and seeing the campus while you’re there. These experiences will leave a lasting impression that will help you prioritize your top choices. Business school is a large investment with the potential for tremendous returns but to realize those returns you’ve got to put yourself in an environment that will allow you to thrive.

While you can visit the campus pretty much anytime you want, many schools have amazing events like “Women’s Weekend” and/or “Diversity Weekend”. These weekend visits are invaluable experiences. Not only will you get to meet current students, see the campus/facilities and meet some of the faculty but you will also have the opportunity to see presentations from the Career Management Centers, meet potential classmates and experience the culture on a deeper level. And not only can you make a much more informed decision (how many applicants get to hear a presentation about a school’s Career Management initiatives) but you’ll also have a great time. Both the current students and admissions directors want you to walk away with a great impression of their school and they work to achieve this by giving you lots of information and making sure you have lots of fun. Casino nights, group outings, t-shirts and great food are some examples of things used to generate excitement. I was able to attend several Diversity Weekend events and found them all to be very informative and fun (even if I knew after the visit the school was not a great fit… and yes, there were a couple of those!). When it came to my final decision, my experience at each event weighed heavily. In the end I think I picked the best fit for myself but I’m confident after my visits that any of my final three choices would have been a great experience.

I urge you to go and see firsthand what each school you’re seriously considering is all about!


  1. Hello, your posts have been very helpful. One thing I haven't found information about though is the interview process. I've already submitted my application to a school I'm interested in and once they receive everything they will start on the interview process. What should I expect from the interview? This is for an Executive MBA program.

    Thank you,

  2. Kathleen, I can give you some insight into the Exec MBA interview process, at least from the Wharton perspective. Each program has its own set of objectives, but for an EMBA program, work experience is going to be at the top of the list. Be prepared to summarize your career progression to date. It’s a good idea to be ready with a few highlights, which includes challenges that may not have been successes but you learned something from them. Basically, what are you bringing to the table to share with your classmates? This should lead to the reason you're pursuing your MBA. Are you reasonably focused enough to make the most of what will surely be an intense program? The non-career side of your life is important too. What do you enjoy doing to balance your life and are you ready to give a few of those things up to complete your degree?

    It’s just as important to making sure the program is the right one for you. An interview should be a two way street - fit is as important in an EMBA program as it is in a job. My personal philosophy is that the interview should be more like a conversation. If you reflected while completing your application, then you know what you want and should walk into the interview with confidence and a few questions to ask the school's rep.

    Diane Sharp
    Assoc. Director, Marketing & Admissions
    Wharton MBA Program for Executives