How to Plan a Campus Visit at Business Schools

How to Plan a Campus Visit at Business Schools main image

Campus visits are an important part of the business school application process. Seeing a school firsthand can help applicants better understand the culture, learn about courses, meet professors, and see what their life might be like if they enroll there. As a result, they may have an easier time deciding where to go to school.

Still, applicants have to plan ahead and make sure the visit is a fruitful one. Top business schools recently shared their recommendations for getting the most out of a stop at any campus.

Narrow down the list

Applicants should conduct basic research to determine the schools that most interest them. For starters, they should only consider schools that offer coursework in line with their future professional goals. Potential students must consider their school size preferences  and they must also look at the required credentials for getting onto the program of their choice to ensure they have a chance of acceptance.

Decide when to visit

There are good and bad times to visit a campus. It all depends on the applicant’s goals. For example, if someone knows they are applying, then they might pair the visit with an admissions interview, suggests Dawna Clarke, executive director of Admissions at University of Virginia Darden School of Business. That would require coordinating with the school to schedule a definitive appointment.

On the other hand, those who are determining whether to include the school on their target list should visit as soon as possible, adds Clarke. This way, they’ll have plenty of time to decide and apply. Applicants should also consider the point in the academic cycle.

“Of course, visiting at any time will help you begin to visualize your life at a particular school, but visiting when students are around will allow you to get a much better feel for the experience,” says Clarke. “There is so much value in sitting and observing how people engage with each other informally. Make sure you leave yourself some time to do so.”

Discover school offerings

Often, business schools and universities provide potential students with the opportunity to take tours, sit in on classes, have lunch with students or alumni, etc. Some encourage those applying to combine a visit with the admissions interview. Business schools often offer special interest visits for groups, such as those in the LGBTQ community or students of color – which are usually more in-depth stays.

Whatever their interest, applicants can gather information online or via phone and plan accordingly. While they should also investigate the school on their own, unencumbered by the school’s mission to portray a certain image, they can take these opportunities to learn about the culture from the school’s community.

Take note of observations

After a while, applicants might find all the schools blend together. To avoid this, they should take notes and photos to remind them what they saw and felt at each campus. Also, they should make check out the places and people that most interest them at every stop. For instance, someone who wants to focus on marketing, should visit that department and talk to those students at every school. But it shouldn’t just be limited to academic pursuits, for example, if you’re av avid gym goer, you should see where you could work out.

Also, check out the events the school hosts for students, says Morgan Bernstein, executive director of full-time MBA Admissions at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. This will give applicants an idea of what kind of experience they will have outside the classroom.

Check out the surrounding area

Applicants should visit the area around the school to envisage what living there would be like. After all, most graduate students spend lots of time off campus. The town or city should be somewhere they can call home. Perhaps it will offer activities that spark interest, but, most importantly, it should be an area where they could find internships or full-time opportunities that fuel their professional aspirations.

Ask questions

There’s no point in traveling just to see a building or two. The real test of a school’s fit lies in its people. As a result, applicants must talk to those who have already experienced the school.

“You'll get more out of your experience if you have prepared some questions to ask your student or admission hosts,” says Bernstein. “Remember that students love to talk about their MBA experience, so have some thoughtful questions that ask about their personal business school journey.”

Don’t be a show off

Applicants should avoid trying too hard. They should be respectful to everyone they encounter because bad behavior could make its way back to the admissions office. Also, they should maintain perspective.

“While it's important to come with questions to ask students and admissions officers, do it for your benefit, not theirs. No admissions officer is taking copious notes on who asked the most impressive or the most questions, or how many times you could quote random facts about their notable faculty or alumni,” says Bernstein. “Campus visits are provided so that you can step into the shoes of a student for a few hours and see if it fits.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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