Getting the Most from a Campus Visit
Every employer projects their best image during the recruiting process. Consider it a courtship, if you will. Chances are, their message and process has been carefully scripted.
They’ll tout their culture as a transparent meritocracy where people “play hard and play nice.” They’ll tout their perks and seduce you with stories of people just like you. And you want to believe them so bad. Sure, you’ll tap Linkedin contacts and Glassdoor reviews to flesh out the details. But there’s nothing better than shadowing someone on-site to get a real flavor for a company.
Are the offices cramped or clean? Are the halls bustling with energy…or eerily quiet? Most important: Do you like the people you’ll be around? Sure, everyone will be on their best behavior…at first. But stick it out until 3:00. By then, they’ll drop their guard. And you’ll know if the real culture syncs with the company’s carefully coated veneer.
Business schools are no different. You can talk to recruiters and alumni. And school websites are packed with information. You may get a gut feeling from these experiences…but you can’t be 100% sure until step onto campus.
“There’s nothing like actually walking around and meeting people face to face,” Stanley Harris, the associate dean of graduate and international programs at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, tells U.S. News & World Report. “No school puts its worst face forward online.”
Thinking about visiting campus this spring or summer? Wondering what you should asking about while you’re there? Here are some pointers from U.S. News:
Resources: What is important to you? If extracurriculuars are high on your priorities, work through the school to meet with a club officer or participate in a meeting or activity. Even more, warns Charles Moses, interim dean for the school of business administration at Clark Atlanta University, know your weaknesses and how the school can help you. For example, if you struggle with statistics or financials, Clark advises candidates to look for support like tutoring labs.
Teaching Styles: You’ll respond better to a style that best fits with how you learn. Do you prefer to read and ponder? Then, a case-based program like Harvard or Darden might reinforce your strengths. If you learn by doing, then you’re more apt to thrive in an experiential program like Ross. Either way, Moses encourages applicants to sit in on classes to gauge their level of comfort and engagement.
Talk to Students: Sure, sun-drenched atriums and teched out trading rooms will awe you. Ultimately, your happiness won’t be determined by the facilities or the curriculum. Instead, it will be based on your peers. If you’re going to spend two years – and drop six figures – on a school, you’d better love the your classmates and professors. That’s why Harris counsels applicants to talk to everyone they can during their visit. For example, he suggests that you ask questions like these: “What do they like most?”; “What do they like least?”; and “Would they come here again?”
Shawn O’Connor, Founder and CEO of Stratus Admissions Counseling, recommends other questions to reveal both school culture and capabilities. For example, he encourages students to inquire about career services and alumni relationships, to better assess potential employment opportunities. From a practical standpoint, he tells clients to learn how difficult it is to get into certain second year electives, to ensure you get the experiences that you want.
Observe: Finally, just watch how people interact. Are students smiley and chatty…or distant and measured? Are professors sticking around after lecture to chat – or racing back to their office to work on research? These should give you clues to be the underlying culture and student (and faculty) satisfaction.
Click on the U.S. News link below for additional strategies.
Source: U.S. News & World Report