You’ve booked the flight, you have meetings set up with admissions staffers and students and will arrive on campus next week to attend class at your dream school.
Hopefully you have planned ahead. Here’s how to make the most of that visit.
1. WORK YOUR PLAN
Your scheduled meetings with a campus contact are going to be 30 minutes or less. Make the most of your time by having some clear goals. Review the school website in detail so that your questions can reach to a deeper level. For example after reading about Kellogg’s MMM program, you could ask more specific questions about the Business Innovation Lab which is a capstone experience in that program.
2. NETWORKING GOES BOTH WAYS
Research the folks you are meeting with on LinkedIn to know more about their background. On a recent visit to Kellogg, I used LinkedIn to discover that I shared a common friend with someone I was meeting and that helped serve as an ice breaker and a connector to build this new relationship. While it is understood that a campus visit is generally a time for you to gain information, you can help set yourself apart by also acknowledging that your background might be of value to your new contact.
3. USE ALL YOUR SENSES
When you are immersed in the campus environment, use all five of your senses to get a feel for this program. Observe how students interact with each other. Do these seem like “your people?” Are there inviting spaces for students to gather and collaborate? Sit in the chairs! Are they comfortable? Could you imagine yourself working on projects here? How did you feel during the class you visited? Are the teaching methods aligned with your learning style?
Eat a meal. While this may not be the driving force of your decision, finding a place where you would enjoy eating the food could add additional insights. For example, if a program says that social impact and sustainability matter and yet you see no evidence of having local or sustainably sourced food in the cafeteria, that might give you some clues about how deeply they value this commitment. There are definitely distinct cultures among the MBA programs and using your time on campus to find out where you fit best is an important part of the application process.
4. GO BEYOND THE SCHOOL WALLS TO LEARN
You are not just going to school in this new place. You are going to live here too. And if you have a significant other, you will want to get their input. Many programs have a “Partners’ Club” and your significant other can find out about life at this school for students’ families.
Make connections through affinity clubs such as the Veteran’s Club or the Women’s Business Association where you will find students with shared interests. Visit the restaurants and diversions that are popular with MBA students. You want to make sure that you feel comfortable in every aspect before committing to such a big decision.
Be really honest with yourself. If you know that you can’t handle cold weather or that you need to be in a big city to thrive personally, take this into account when addressing your “fit.”
5. FOLLOW UP AND THROUGH
Hopefully your visit is the start of a strong professional relationship, so don’t just take the goodies you learned and run! Follow up with your contacts and thank them for their time. Follow through to share any additional information that came up during your conversations that could be useful to the people you met.