Recruiting season is starting up again and business schools around the world are launching their yearly cycle of information sessions. Admissions teams from the world’s top schools will be hosting campus events and traveling abroad over the next few months, offering prospective candidates the chance to learn more about their programs.
If you’ve indicated an interest in an MBA, you’ve probably been inundated with invitations to attend these information events. Know that you’re being offered the opportunity to make a lasting personal impression with an admissions gatekeeper, which can give you valuable insights and connections to strengthen your application. Taking full advantage of these events can set you apart from other high achieving professionals.
In my former role as Dean of Chicago Booth, I had scores of memorable encounters with prospective students (aside: memorable doesn’t always equal positive), from MBA info sessions to formal interviews or campus events. How do you make the most of these opportunities and ensure that your experience at these events is worthwhile and productive?
Here are 7 tips on how to get the most from the experience & make a positive impression:
- Prepare beforehand. Don’t walk into an information session cold. Spend time researching the program before you walk in the door, at minimum visiting the school’s website. Doing some initial research will help you narrow your selections and focus on only the schools that are the best fit for you. Make note of any questions or concerns you have and bring those questions to the session.
- Arrive early. One of the critical (and often overlooked) aspects of an information session is the chance to talk with school representatives, alumni and current students. Arriving early will likely give you a chance to speak with these representatives one on one rather than in large groups. You’ll have a much better chance of getting your questions answered and making an impression on the recruiters (yes, they will take note of who attends and who they think is a “good” candidate at these sessions).
- Make sure you get your questions answered. You’ve spent time researching the school and highlighting questions you have – make sure that you get them answered. Ensure that your questions are thoughtful; know the basic information (application requirements, courses required, number of concentrations, etc.) so you can tune your queries to your particular circumstances and interests.
Says my Fortuna Admissions colleague and former Wharton head of admissions, Judith Silverman Hodara, “Go with a specific question you can’t find in any website or article. Not only does it demonstrate you’ve done some due diligence, but you may also be able to use the answer that you get as you begin to shape writing your essays later in the season.”
- Meet as many school representatives as you can. This may be your only chance to meet and talk with students and alumni of the program. Make sure that you take advantage of this – get a sense of why they chose the school, what they think of it, how it prepared them and their advice for aspiring MBA students. You’ll come away with a much better feel for the school and whether it’s a community in which you can see yourself spending the next two years.
- Make a note of who else attends the session. The other participants at the session could be your classmates. Is that positive or negative? What do you think of the other attendees? Spend some time talking to the other participants to get a sense of their motivations, perceptions, and personalities. You’ll end up with an even better sense of whether the school is right for you.
- Write down your impressions. As soon as you can, jot down your thoughts, observations, questions, and highlights of the session. If you are like most MBA candidates, you will attend many such sessions and after a while they will all blend together. Taking some time to reflect on each experience will help you keep them straight in your mind.
- If a faculty member is present, pay attention to his or her teaching approach. Faculty members don’t always participate in these events, but when they do, they offer great insights into the program. Listen to how they present, get a sense of the school’s teaching approach and make sure you ask thoughtful questions. A faculty member can provide you with insights on the academic side of the school that you won’t get from an admissions officer or even an alumnus.
Think of your approach to the MBA information session like doing due diligence on a potential investment. In fact, getting an MBA may be one of the biggest investments you’re likely to make. If you prepare thoroughly – and don’t just “wing it,” you’ll ensure that the investment you make in your future is a good one.
For more insights and advice, view MBA Fair Dos & Don’ts by Fortuna’s Matt Symonds or check out this 11-minute video strategy session, How to Maximize Your Face-to-Face Interactions with Schools.