Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The MBA School Visit Part One: “The Checklist”

Our guest blogger is Ashley Wells, a member of Forte's MBA Launch program for MBA applicants. She is excited to share her perspectives on the process of pursuing an MBA.

The MBA school visit can certainly be a nerve-wracking experience. On my first school visit, I felt both excited and terrified. I was effectively considering a completely new life for myself at the schools I was visiting, and that in and of itself can be overwhelming.
For me, as I imagine for many of you out there, preparation is the biggest key to reducing my nerves and helping me to feel more in control of my experience. Here are some thoughts for you to consider regarding your school visits:

How to Prepare:
·        Research the school in depth in advance (1-2 months), and refresh your stats and information about the school just before visiting to have the basics fresh in your mind. Writing down this information in a notebook you keep with you can be great for keeping all the facts straight, especially when visiting multiple schools in the same city.

·        Have an idea of your personal story and reasons for going to B school. Of course, this doesn’t have to be incredibly crisp as it does in the interview phase, but you should have the basics—what you’re doing, where you’re heading, why B school, why now—ready to share, as you will be asked this by multiple individuals.

·        Schedule class visits to the MBA courses you’d like to sit in on. Remember: most MBA programs don’t have Friday classes, so don’t expect an easy Friday away from the office. You will likely need to be there on Wednesday or Thursday to attend classes and be on campus when students are present.

·         …Which brings me to my next point. Take off work—I mean really—in advance. Try your best to stay totally plugged into the B school experience while visiting. I saw many people responding to work emails during the class visit, and taking work calls in the middle of information sessions, which made for a big distraction to them and everyone else.

·        RSVP to events and programming Admissions makes available, such as information sessions, school tours, and office hours with the AdCom. Many insider tips into the application process are dished out at these events.

·        RSVP to B-school events that are open to recruits. Due to smart planning, in one weekend, I was able to attend NYU Stern’s Opening Doors for Women event, a Columbia Business School “Spotlight On” series event, and was invited to several student-run happy hours and Halloween events. There’s no better way to learn about the school first hand than attending these events.

·        Look up the clubs at the school that interest you, and email the student leads of those clubs to meet up for coffee or a drink at their convenience to discuss the program.

·        Of course, if you have friends at the school or in the community, make time to treat them to a meal—trust me, they are temporarily poor and will appreciate it—to also hear from them firsthand about their experience.

·       Get your transportation logistics sorted out. Taking a red eye to San Fran to visit Stanford in the morning when you get off the flight….not a great idea in the slightest. Showing up to Chicago without a clue on how to ride the Metra out to the school…no good. Download HopStop and plan out your transport in advance if you are in a city, organize your car rental in advance if you are driving, and give yourself plenty of time to account for missed turns, traffic, train work, and all the terribly inconvenient hold-ups that always seem to happen when you least expect.

·       Research the city. This place could very well be your home for the next two years, so make sure you check out the city and not just the school itself to get a feel for your potential new home.
What to Wear:

·       I couldn’t find this information anywhere and had to ask friends. Here is the deal:

·       Dress business casual to professional when meeting with the AdCom or going to any formal recruiting events.

·       Dress smart casual in the more informal settings, such as going to a coffee chat or meeting with students you’ve reached out to.

·        Prepare as you would for an interview: get a manicure, don’t dress too “flashy” or wear anything too tight or low cut. Remember, you are here to get a feel for the school and make a first impression and build relationships. Look your best to feel your best.

·       Comfortable shoes. You will likely be going across campus multiple times and doing lots of walking, so now is not the time to be a martyr in 5 inch Louboutins.

What to Bring:

·        A notebook and pen to take notes.

·        Business cards to hand to people you meet to stay in contact.

·        A portfolio or handbag big enough to carry all of the “take home” materials you will inevitably receive as a part of your visit.

·        A list of questions that are tailored for each audience you will be interacting with (student questions, AdCom questions, event questions, etc.).

·        The addresses of where you’re going in your notebook or Smartphone.

·        A water bottle, snacks, mints, and so forth. Between bouncing to and from campus locations for several different events, not to mention the typically limited on-campus options, it’s a good idea to have some basics with you to keep your energy up throughout the day.

·         A focused and energetic attitude that’s eager to fully soak in the school visit experience!

Preparation, energy, and focus during the school visit help get you to Business School…and beyond!
I’d love to hear your feedback and questions in the comments section below.

Ashley Wells is a Strategy and Operations consultant at Deloitte. She is currently enrolled in Forte’s inaugural MBA Launch program for women. She is an MBA 2014 candidate hopeful and is excited to share her experiences and insights throughout the MBA application process. She has a degree in Political Science from The George Washington University.

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