If you are just getting started with the MBA application process, this is a question that could be tormenting you like none other. Which 5-7 b-schools should I apply to? If you have trawled any admissions related forums, you would already have picked up buzz words like “fit” when collating your “target b-schools” list.
Essentially this means how well do you fit into these b-schools’ environment. Will the teaching method suit your learning needs? Will you thrive in a small class size and a college town environment? Will you perform better if the programs emphasize on hand-on learning as opposed to theoretical learning? Do you have any geographic preferences for the post- MBA job?
These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself.
We always recommend applicants to conduct a primary research by reaching out to the stakeholders- students, business school representatives and alumni. The insights you get from these resources will not only bring clarity about your “fit” with business schools, but also help you write more convincing essays explaining the same.
Here are some ways that you should use to conduct your research:
1. Campus Visit– Every B-school encourages you to visit its campus. There is nothing like sitting through a case study class at Harvard or Darden to understand whether you like the case method and can live with it for two years (500+ case studies). You can attend a class, workshops, open houses to really get a feel for the school, besides getting a tour of the campus.
Some b-schools such as Tuck, Kellogg and UNC Kenan Flagler give you the option clubbing your interview with the on-campus visit.
2. Register for online events – Attending school hosted webinars and chat sessions is among the simplest ways to get to know b-schools. Most have a school briefing followed by a Q&A round, where school representatives will answer your questions. The topic of discussion could be general MBA admissions queries or specific to a department (e.g. marketing) or an industry (e.g. private equity). Chicago Booth for instance regularly hosts regular online chats while Wharton has a long list of archived webinars uploaded on their website. Previous Booth chats are also available for your reading.
3. Register for off line events– Just like the online chats, almost every school out there hosts coffee chats, receptions and . These are small events held regionally by alums or student ambassadors. Hearing the experiences of these people is as close to the MBA experience you will get before joining it yourself. You may be so impressed by the story of one alum during this session, that you may upgrade the school on top of your target list.
Wharton has Summer Coffee chats, Haas has the Winter Break Coffee and Tuck simply has Tuck Coffee. Yale hosts Summer Socials where current students travel across the world for information sessions on the SOM.
Booth’s Chicago Conversation aims to get the applicants interested in a specific industry together in a city where that industry thrives. Industry experts and alumni join the discussion and share their perspectives. Past conversations have included ‘Infrastructure’ in Dubai, ‘Media Entertainment and Technology’ in Los Angeles and Entrepreneurship in Asia at Hong Kong.
The top b-schools also conduct tours across the major cities of the world, where some visiting members from the admissions team make their presentation.
Take note that these events can sometimes accommodate only a small number of people, so book your slot as soon as the registrations open. Never miss these!
4. MBA fairs : These fairs, held at major cities across the world, give participating b-schools and applicants a chance to congregate under one roof. Many business schools do not undertake individual tours, but do come as part of the tour. Some tours to watch out for are The MBA Tour, QS World MBA Tour and Access MBA’s One-to-One MBA event. Some events available exclusively to US applicants are the Forte Forum and Inside the MBA.
5. Subscribe to mailers from b-schools’ admissions teams and set Google Alerts.
6. Read blogs and watch vlogs– There is a wealth of information you will find in the blog section of every b-school. Blogs can be written by a number of people- the admissions team, faculty, students and also the Director of admissions. At Booth, you will hear from the admissions team through the Booth Insider. The Admissions Director at Ross, Soojin Kwon, and Dee Leopold, Admission’s Director at Harvard have their regularly updated blogs. Sarah Neher, Director of Admissions at Darden, gives application advice through her video blog. Infact a lot of crucial information about the admission process such as the deadlines, the essays or the interview process are first revealed by the admission directors, on their blogs. Stay tuned to these!
Kellogg’s blog which is called The Inside Perspective is shared by both the admissions team and students. Wharton’s student blog is called the Student Diaries, whereas Fuqua’s informative blog is called the Duke MBA blog.
Every b-school that you could want to apply to will have atleast a few students blogging their experiences- read them and become informed.
7. You can also reach out to b-school students and alumni through Linked In.
8. Admissions Ambassadors: Many b-schools have second year students designated as ambassadors that you can directly email to. Wharton calls them Admissions Fellows and UCLA calls them Admissions Ambassador Corps; at Ross and Columbia Business School, they are simply called student ambassadors. MIT has the MBA Ambassadors Program where current students host sessions during the spring semester. According to Wharton, the Admission Fellows play a key role in the admissions process by conducting on-campus information sessions where they provide their perspective on the Wharton experience.
9. Videos and podcasts: Many b-schools have regularly updated YouTube channels. Stern has a “Day in Life of a Stern MBA” series and virtual tours of the campus and surrounding areas.
10. Interactive platforms: B-schools like Ross and Columbia Business School have superbly interactive features such as Ross’ “What interests you” prompt. Once you select the career path that interests you (such as entrepreneurship, consulting, technology etc.) you are guided to the next page which lists out information about the school’s resources in that career path. For example, if you select consulting, you will find employment figures, companies that hire in consulting, specific curricula, related clubs and even students you can contact to figure out more – and all this information is on one page!
CBS has a very interesting concept- Notes to the next class. Students and alumni can add small notes about their experiences on various subjects such as academics, student life, career, admissions, orientation, graduation and many more. Although, there are several informative notes and quotes from alumni who graduated between 1900 and 2010, it was a pleasant surprise to see a note on teamwork from an alum who graduated in the class of 1971.
11. Don’t underestimate the good ol’ way of reaching out to your friend’s friend who had been to business school two years ago. Your network built from college mates and work colleagues is just as important.
In today’s time and age, its difficult to not conduct any research before applying . With 11 ways to deploy laid out before you, you can no longer be short of ideas.