Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tips for Campus Visits

I can’t believe it was just over a year ago that I was submitting my Round 1 applications! I am now busier than I ever imagined; studying for my 1st round of midterms, joining various student groups on campus and looking at summer internship opportunities (and of course finding time to have a little fun).

Last week I attended a “Booth Live” breakfast as a member of the Dean’s Student Admissions Committee (DSAC) and was able meet several prospective students. It was nice to be on this side of the application process, but I remember so clearly what I was going through at this time last year.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few key things I think you, as a prospective student, should think about if you are able to visit the schools you are applying to.

Take a tour. See what the lecture halls look like, the study rooms, dining options and any other facilities the school may offer. Also check out where the students live – be it on campus, in a neighborhood nearby, etc.

Sit in on a class lecture. This will give you a better understanding of the learning environment and how the students interact with each other and the Professor. Is it case-based? Lecture only? A mixture? Find out if this class structure is the norm for the school or what you can expect once you are on campus.

And finally, the most important thing, in my mind, is to talk to students about their backgrounds and career goals. Every school is diverse, so it is nice to see what similarities and differences there are amongst your possible future classmates. Be sure to get contact information from students you would like to stay in touch with. I always found that students were more than willing to answer my questions or give me more details on things I was interested in which was very helpful in my application and interview process.

I still remember the people I met when I visited campuses and have stayed in touch with many of them – including students at schools I did not end up attending. Business school is all about networking, and you never know who you will meet that may be a connection to a job you are looking for at some point.

Good luck in the application process and I look forward to meeting those of you who visit Chicago Booth!

Jaime Streem, Class of 2013
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Monday, December 5, 2011

Prep for the MBA Applications Process!

Everyone who has been through the MBA application process will suggest that you start early. Listen to them…and then start even earlier. Organizational Behavior professors stress that planning and execution times are inversely related. Negotiation experts inevitably emphasize preparation. Yet somehow, when faced with an application deadline, we all want to jump into action. Instead, I encourage you to leave yourself at least a week in which you only ask questions.

What do you do well?

This is not the familiar ‘strengths and weaknesses’ question from interviews, but a deeper consideration of what you contribute. Look back through your performance evaluations and see what themes stand out. Ask colleagues to participate in a 360-degree review. See what words or phrases your family and friends use to describe you. This question is meant to reveal what your resume often can’t: an ability to manage up, an unflappable manner in a tense meeting, presentation skills, or emotional intelligence. You add a layer to your application when it reveals your skills as well as your accomplishments.

What do you enjoy?

Hobbies and volunteer activities speak to how you would spend your time without being paid to do it. What role do you play on the team? What position do you hold in the organization? And what does that say about how you would fit into an MBA class or project team? Triathletes and marathoners might like the personal challenge. Linguists and knitters probably enjoy learning new skills. Amateur chefs, musicians, or dancers could be balancing an analytical mind with creative expression.

What do you want?
If this isn’t explicitly an essay prompt (usually phrased as “Why an MBA?”), it will undoubtedly be an interview question. This is your opportunity to be nebulous before you refine your thoughts for formal answers. Where do you see yourself in five years? What does it look and feel like? Now how does that fit with the values or core principles of the programs to which you are applying?

The answers to these questions and others will dictate which bullet points to include on your resume, what to highlight in your essays, and even how to approach potential recommenders. As you move through the process, the answers will be distilled into the core of your candidacy—your personal brand—and it will show through in every piece of the package you present to the committee.

Good luck!

Sara Kabot, Forte Fellow
Class of 2014
UC Berkeley Haas School of Business