We’ve now reached the third and final phase of the school selection process.
This final phase typically occurs while you are actually applying to school, and may even extend past interviews and into Admit Weekend for the schools where you are accepted. This is no longer about figuring out where to apply (save any last-minute surprises), but rather about determining what schools you actually plan to attend.
PHASE 3: Experiencing it Live
By this point you should have a very good understanding of the programs to which you’re applying; enough to write about them in your application essays, and to describe your interest in the school in an educated fashion in the context of an interview. Yet, no matter how thorough your research or how much knowledge you think you have amassed, nothing beats experiencing an MBA program first hand.
Thankfully, this is not difficult to do. All it takes is committing the time to go visit campus, and as long as travel logistics are at all feasible, it’s something we strongly advise you to do.
When you visit campus, definitely make sure to take part in all the organized activities. Take a campus tour, attend the info session and ask questions, get lunch with some students, and attend a class.
Attending a class is especially useful because it gives you a sense for the academic environment at the school (which will form a significant part of your everyday life), and also provides insight on the nature of the interactions among students. Is the discussion lively? Is there even discussion? Do students mingle before class? Do they speak with the professor during the break? Are they even paying attention to the professor during class, or are they heads-down gaping at their laptops? These are all valuable clues into what a school is really about.
Finally, when all the official activities are over, resist the temptation to take the earliest bus back home. Stay on campus a bit longer and try to imagine yourself doing this day after day.
Go to a coffee shop, sit down in the library or the study lounge, take a stroll outdoors if the weather is nice. If you have friends at the school, or if you hit it off with any of the students you met during the day, kindly ask if you can stick around with them a bit longer. Even better, make plans to go out with them that evening if you can. All this will give you a sense for what it would feel like to be part of a particular MBA program.
Indeed, while many aspects of your MBA decision are going to be clear and quantifiable, your personal fit within a particular program is largely an emotional thing. Yet it is no less important than career statistics or academic specialties. Fit is what is ultimately going to make you excited to wake up in the morning and go study and hang out and network with your classmates. It is perhaps the greatest single indicator of your future success during your MBA program and beyond. So don’t take it lightly.