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by Mike Chen | August 17, 2007

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Campus Visits (continued)

Gathering information for your application

While campus visits will help you to decide to which schools you should direct your application efforts, you should also be gathering as much information as you can to bolster your application should you decide to apply.  This is critical.  Many schools ask the following types of essay questions:

  • Why do you want to attend this school?
  • What is it about this school's program that particularly interests you?
  • Do you have any names of students, alumni, or professors whom you know?

Most applicants fail to answer these questions effectively.  Typical reasons include responses that are vague (e.g., This school has a very strong finance program) to ones that are very general (e.g., Professor Smart is a great lecturer).  Still others are flat out wrong or need further explanation (e.g., Wharton gives me the opportunity to network regularly with employers in the New York City area).

The best responses to these questions will be well thought-out, particularly relevant to the school in question, and most importantly SPECIFIC.  Before you visit schools, make it a goal - by the time you finish your visit - to have answers to the above questions.

I've mentioned examples above of essay questions more likely to be thrown into the rejection pile than in the acceptance pile.  Instead of merely saying a school has a strong marketing program, is there a specific sub-department that the school has?  For instance, is a school particularly strong in brand management?  Did the school have a collaboration with a consumer products company?  Did a particular faculty member produce some award-winning research?

Regarding the question whom you know at a particular school, you should understand why an AdCom is asking such a question.  First and foremost, the AdCom wants to guage if you have done your research.  Do not simply list names on the application.  You should reference the people you list somewhere else in the application, most likely within an essay detailing how the school has made a positive impression on you.

In addition, an AdCom can also gain an idea of how dedicated you are to attending a school if admitted.  For most schools, there is a high correlation between applicants who get to know a school and its people well and those who eventually attend the school.

The answers to these questions are not obvious, and are usually not posted in primary areas such as a business school's website.  The most specific answers are the ones that result from doing your own research.  I believe the best research comes from actually being on campus and speaking with students, faculty, admissions officers, and anyone else within the school who works in an area of your interest.

While we're on the subject of gathering backgrounds on people in a business school, make sure to write down any and all contact information you can.  E-mail addresses are a great way to fire off a question you may have later after you arrive home.  Many students even have business cards which can come in handy during the admissions process and where you can jot down notes about specific student(s) whom you are able to meet.

Discover where you can get your future MBA

If you can afford it and are able to get away from work for a few days, I highly recommend visiting several targeted business schools before you submit any applications.  This visits will help you to determine which schools are the best fits for you.  In addition, you will be able to gather the information you will need to put together a convincing application which differentiates you from the thousands of other applicants vying to get into the same school.  With both the start of the school year and the application season just weeks away, now is the time to start planning your school visits.

Preview of Coming Attractions

Next week we will continue with our series on Application Components by examining GPA and academics.  How do these affect your chances of admission?  What can you do if you have a poor academic record?  We'll address these issues and more.

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