What Should I do at an MBA Fair?

As a prospective MBA applicant, you’re likely getting a lot of emails in your inbox inviting you to MBA fairs or tours in your city. These events gather together admissions officers, deans and alumni from dozens of top MBA programs so applicants can learn about a large number of schools in one afternoon or evening. With many other demands on your time, you may be wondering if it’s worth it to attend, what you’ll learn and which fair is the best.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the world of MBA tours.

Which one should I go to?

Some MBA applicants will have multiple options to attend an MBA tour in their city while others may not have any come to their town. If you have a choice, try to match the programs you’re interested in with the ones attending the fair so you can learn the most about the schools that are the best possible matches for YOU.

Here are some popular MBA fairs that will come to many cities around the world in 2019, including New York, San Francisco and Delhi:

The MBA Tour
CentreCourt MBA Festival
QS World MBA Tour

Once You’re There: Ask questions.

Be sure to have a list of questions ready for any admissions officers, alumni or current students at MBA programs. Some helpful questions include, “How do you think your program stands out? Do you have a list of current students or alumni that prospective applicants can contact to learn more about the program? What one piece of advice do you have for someone applying to your program?” Be sure to capture what you learn in a notebook or other centralized place so you can refer to it when putting together your applications.

Connect, connect, connect.

As you wander from table to table learning about MBA programs, you should be engaging with representatives from the programs. Collect names and cards of any admissions officers from programs that interest you and keep them in your notebook. At this stage, the schools are shopping for you as much as you’re shopping for them. So make a good impression! If you talk to current students or alumni, be sure to get their names, graduation years and something they said captured in your notebook. These details will come in handy when you’re writing an essay and want to refer to something you learned about the school from a student you met.

Collect brochures.

MBA programs usually have brochures or other handouts for prospective applicants to pick up at their tables. Take these home for all the programs you’re interested in, and study them! They tend to distill a school’s core values so you can learn what matters to each school and what types of students they are seeking. Websites do this too but not in this condensed form. Very quickly you can begin to understand if a program is right for you. If a brochure is highlighting entrepreneurship and that’s a key focus for you, maybe you should explore the school further.

What if I can’t make it to one?

If you can’t get to an MBA fair, make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for other events that you can attend. Sometimes smaller groups of business schools travel to meet prospective applicants at multi-school admissions events, which often occur in the spring or fall. One popular multi-school event includes Virginia Darden, Berkeley-Haas, Duke Fuqua, Cornell Johnson, Yale SOM, Michigan Ross and NYU Stern.

This type of event often starts with an MBA admissions officer panel that may include alumni or students speaking about the program. The presentation is followed by the opportunity for informal conversations with representatives from the MBA programs. Make sure to grab any brochures the schools offer so you can understand how each one distills its culture, values and mission.

The bottom line.

At the end of the day, MBA fairs and tours just make it easier to learn about top MBA programs and help you discover which will be the best fit for you. Use these events to connect with the school and understand what its differentiators are. If you can’t make it to an MBA fair, you’ll need to do this research separately. Keep in mind, MBA fairs do not replace school visits. Only when you’re on campus can you really get a feel for the place, people and culture that define each top MBA program. MBA tours can help you narrow down a long list of schools but you still need to do specific research on the resources each MBA program offers and how they can help you reach your goals. Many applicants find it helpful that MBA fairs often feature vendors offering products and services related to the MBA application process. Special discounts may be offered for MBA fair attendees.

Author: Jennifer Jackson
After completing her MBA at Harvard, Jennifer joined Hewitt Associates, a human resources consulting firm, where she specialized in working with organizations to improve attraction, motivation, and retention of employees as well as how to connect HR strategy to overall business strategy. She also collaborated on a small international team that designed and rolled out a new consulting offer to consultants worldwide.