You remember the drill from your senior year in high school when you visited college campuses for the first time and took the tour. If the weather was perfect or your student guide was especially engaging, you were sold. If it rained and your guide was a total bore, you inevitably left unimpressed.
Well, now that you are considering graduate school, it’s a totally different game, especially during the COVID pandemic. It’s unlikely you’ll get to visit a campus in person, and if you do, you’re pretty much on your own. But many business schools have spent the last few months creating elaborate virtual campus tours. In almost all cases, you can take a tour without a reservation, though Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and Wisconsin Business School ask virtual visitors to register for an online tour in advance. Wisconsin promises to craft a customized agenda for a potential applicant.
Chicago Booth and UVA Darden even have virtual tour apps for Apple or Android devices, though they annoyingly require that you provide your name and email address. Yale School of Management does its virtual tours by students live. UC-Berkeley’s Haas School boasts a self-guided audio tour with a map of the business school campus. “>Michigan Ross and Indiana Kelley do 3D slide shows that lets you zoom into different spots on its campus. Kelley’s version even features pop-up videos at different parts of the tour. One of the most disappointing? Cornell Johnson’s “virtual tour” is nothing more than four photographs, none of which allow a glimpse of the interior of a building..
In a virtual tour, you’ll get a glimpse of the overall campus, courtesy of those often overused yet unavoidable Drone shots, classrooms, team pods, library and career center. You’ll be given an overview of the core curriculum, elective choices and capstone projects. You’ll get the lowdown on all the clubs, leadership experiences and events that form the heart of the social life. You also, unfortunately, will be bombarded with a lot of cheesy music.
And while you won’t get the full sensory experience from merely watching a video, the weather is always perfect and the student tour guides are pretty darn good.
Here’s our guide to the best (and worst) of them:
UCLA Anderson School of Management
Time: 7:42 minutes
Release Date: July 17, 2020
Our Take: As virtual tours go, it’s hard to beat UCLA Anderson’s online jaunt through the highly collaborative, pay-it-forward culture of its MBA experience. Would you expect anything else from a school that is just a few miles from Hollywood? A half dozen highly likable and personable MBA students guide you through not merely the facilities but more importantly the culture of the place. You get both the “look” and the “feel” of things in less than eight minutes. There’s a great overview of the curriculum and the fact that the core is stuffed in the fall and winter quarters, allowing even first-years to begin sampling the more than 150 elective offerings in the spring. There’s the description of the capstone project in the second year when MBAs can decide on either a consulting assignment with a company or nonprofit or a business creation opportunity to plot out the launch of a startup. And there’s a vivid telling of the more than 50 professional, identity and interest clubs at Anderson, from the Entrepreneur Association and Women’s Business Connection group to clubs devoted to outdoor adventure, public speaking and wine tasting. Sure, you’ll get to see the newest building just opened, Marion Anderson Hall, along with the Korn Convocation Hall, its walls lined with flags that represent the school’s international diversity. You’ll visit one of the tiered classrooms, the business library, even the school’s accelerator, and you’ll get to walk the beach with a student along the Pacific Ocean. When the tour ends with each of these students saying “Come Join Us,” you will feel yourself drawn to this West Coast giant of a business school.
Yale School of Management
Time: 43:25 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 6, 2020
Our Take: Some business schools don’t have slick video tours of their campus but have recently hosted webinar tours. One of the best of them is Yale University’s School of Management where a second-year MBA and former Deloitte consultant, Snigdha Rao, expertly guides viewers through a slide show.
This is the most highly detailed tour of the bunch, bringing prospective students into every nook and cranny of Evans Hall, the relatively new and modern SOM home, from Charlie’s Place where SOMers often catch lunch (“It’s just a really nice place to collaborate and meet up with people too.”) to the classrooms (“Designed very intentionally (to reinforce) collaboration and community building.”)
Rao’s informal, non-scripted style allows viewers to vicariously experience SOM in a way that is rare for a virtual tour. At times, you literally feel as if you are following in her footsteps from one floor to the next in Evans Hall to the most iconic sites on the university campus, to the farmer’s market in New Haven. You’ll hear about Closing Bell, student get-togethers on Thursday nights for snacks and drinks, and the place to get swag from water bottles to t-shirts. At the tour’s end, there’s even a Q&A where you’ll get the inside skinny on everything from the bidding system for elective courses, the “magic algorithm” that creates your first-year learning team, and how Rao has stays engaged during COVID. By the time this webinar is over, you’ll feel like you would love to have the articulate Snigdha as a classmate and friend.
Stanford Graduate School of Business
Time: 5:37 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 19, 2019
Our Take: This pre-COVID look at Stanford GSB is a student-led journey through the school’s landmark Knight Management Center. Sawyer Clark, a first-year MBA, starts the tour in the Knight Center’s Town Square, the central courtyard and lifeblood of the MBA community. As he walks backward, Sawyer talks about the surrounding buildings, including the Coupa Cafe, Stanford’s go-to spot for a cappuccino, sandwich or snack (there’s actually another shorter 360-degree video tour that brings you inside the Coupa). There are multiple handoffs to other students who venture inside the Bass Library, a tiered-classroom, the CoLab community space where Stanford’s iconic Startup Garage and Venture Studio courses are based, the Arbuckle Dining Hall, and the Moment to Change art installation that has become a ubiquitous feature of every GSB photo ever since it went up. There’s even an inside look at the posh Highland Hall dorm for MBA students. All in all, not a bad overview, even with the cheesy soundtrack.
Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
Time: 2:13 minutes
Release Date: April 10, 2020
Our Take: Kellogg’s glimpse of its Global Hub is set to a bit of jazzy music as you are brought by hand through the school’s new home in Evanston, Ill., from the Spanish Steps to the fitness center. The speedy tour has no narration but rather flyover descriptions done with a fine sense of humor. It’s actually one of several virtual looks at the school. Others focus on the student experience (3:09), academics (5:12) and recruiting at Kellogg (6:23). While no substitute for the real thing, it’s a pretty good way to gain a sense of the Kellogg experience without setting foot on campus.
Harvard Business School
Time: 6:41 minutes
Release Date: 2019
Our Take: You won’t find a more impressive business school campus than the 40-plus acres and 36 separate buildings of Harvard Business School. But accessing the virtual tour, in keeping with Harvard’s often arrogant attitude, can only be done via its website here. Nonetheless, this is a workmanlike tour of the campus by an impersonal unknown narrator who does a very good job of reading the statistics and the history of this iconic leader in business education. It opens with, what else, but a drone shot of Baker Library and the Charles River and then zooms in closer to Aldrich Hall, where the first-year curriculum is taught in a building made possible by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in honor of his father-in-law. You’ll be told that each incoming class is divided into ten sections and that each section is curated by 18 different criteria to maximize diversity. The iconic Baker Library is the largest business library in the world, housing a collection of business papers and books that date back to the 14th century. You’ll move on to the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, the Harvard Innovation Lab, the business school’s private chapel with water gardens, and Shad Hall, the private fitness center with four outdoor tennis courts and a 4,000 square-foot space for weights alone.
University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School
Release Date: 2019
Our Take: Like a few other schools, Wharton’s self-guided virtual tour can only be taken after you provide your name, email address and expected start date for the school’s MBA program. That is an unnecessary feature for what is essentially a narrated 3D slide show. The tour was put up last year so it’s pretty much up to date, even anticipating the opening of Wharton’s Academic Research Buildings, its newest structure, in the fall of this year. As you make your way through both the grounds and the buildings, you have to click your way through to photos that allow a 360-degree view of a room or a building. A Wharton spokesperson says “prospective students tell us it is informative and user-friendly.” Make up your own mind by taking a twirl.
Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business
Time: 4:28 minutes
Release Date: July 24, 2015
Our Take: Though it is over five years old, this virtual campus tour of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business is one of the best for how much it covers and how well it captures the culture, the history, and the environment of the place. You’re immediately reminded that Tuck is the world’s first graduate school of management before getting glimpses of every piece of real estate on the Tuck campus, from the iconic mahogany rich Stell Hall to the three residence halls which make up some of the absolute best dorms for graduate students anywhere on the planet. You’re taken into the 24-hour gym, shown The Box food truck with its Mediterranean menu and, of course, the classic yet modern tiered classrooms. This is one of the few pre-COVID online tours that still resonates, although Tuck also offers a more updated 2:19-minute video on the classroom experience that was published on Sept. 23 of this year. Even better, Tuck offers a virtual glimpse of two classes: Managerial Economics with Professor Joe Hall and Financial Accounting with Professor Phil Stocken. If you want a taste of what it would really be like to sit in a classroom seat at Tuck, you can’t get any closer to reality than this.
Columbia Business School
Time: 1:58 minutes
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Our Take: Even though the introductory video is seven years old, this tour of the Morningside Heights neighborhood surrounding the CBS campus packs a ton of info and is expertly led by a pair of Class of 2014 MBA students. In less than two minutes, you gain a real feel for what it would be like living the Manhattan lifestyle of an MBA student at Columbia. The other videos in the series, each little more than a minute long, explore Uris Lobby and Deli, Watson Library, and Room 142, the auditorium-style, tiered classroom with purple seats that hosts classes and student events. CBS students routinely produce the best MBA Follies on the planet. Even though the business school’s new Manhattanville campus is less than two years away, it would be a great idea to enlist the creative talents of the Follies team and do a more updated take on the school, the curriculum and the culture.
Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business
Release Date: April 16, 2020
Our Take: This fast-paced tour starts out with a warm welcome from Melissa Rapp, the associate dean of admissions at Goizueta, and then brings viewers through the school’s campus without narration. There are plenty of drone shots, frequent cuts and short shots that quicken the pace so much they can leave viewers a bit dizzy. Yet, you’ll get a good feel for the place, from the classrooms, student lounges and hallways.
MIT Sloan School of Management
Release Date: April 28, 2017
Our Take: Lots of superfluous detail in this tour, from the fact that the walls in the lobby house preserved fossils such as fish, frogs and shells, or that the windows are tripled-paned. Do we really need to know that the vending machines in the main building are eco-friendly or that the “privacy glass” in the 35 study rooms on the second floor were designed to mimic the nearby Charles River? No less annoying is the fact that the anonymous narrator refers to each building, not by its name but rather its impersonal number. The center of the Sloan School is “E62” while the Dewey library, shared with the economics and political science departments, in the Hermann Building is “E53.” Why is Sloan reinforcing a nerd-like stereotype here? Sure, you’ll get some basics, from a look at a classroom to an auditorium. You’ll learn more about the sculpture on the grounds in this tour (from Cai Guo-Qiang’s Ring Stone to Pablo Picasso’s Figure Découpée) than you will about the rigorous MBA curriculum, the superb faculty of the school, or the student culture.