When applying to MBA programs, it is imperative to take the time to get to know the schools. Through the application, essays, and interviews, Admissions Committees will want to understand why you are interested in attending their school, how you will contribute, and why you are a good fit. When thinking about your answers, it is important to be as specific as possible; there is no "cookie cutter" approach to these questions.
To help you answer the above, think about the following questions as you research the schools: What does the curriculum look like? How are the classes taught? How will a particular school's program help you achieve your post-MBA goals? What is the culture like? What extracurricular activities and/or clubs do you see yourself getting involved in? How will you contribute?
Below are four ways that you can go about researching schools. If you can't engage with the schools in all of these ways, that's fine. The key is to interact with the schools in some of these ways to learn more and show your interest.
If you're able to take the time to visit schools in-person, I would definitely encourage you to do so. Schools host information sessions with the Admissions Office, tours, and class visits (if in session) for prospective students on campus. These often need to be booked in advance, so the trips should be planned accordingly. The best times to visit, if possible, are in the fall or spring when students are on campus so that you can interact with them and perhaps even attend some activities (such as conferences). But if not, you can still participate in information sessions and tours over the summer. During the visits, be yourself and learn as much about the school and the culture that you can. Many prospective students visit; the ones who stand out are those who are enthusiastic and authentic.
Local information sessions
If you live in a major city (within the U.S. or internationally), local information sessions and/or MBA tours (such as the QS World MBA Tour) are a great way to meet Admissions Officers and learn about the schools. During these events, Admissions Officers may give presentations, participate in panels, or even offer 1x1 meetings with prospective students. Bring your resume and be prepared to ask questions!
The great thing about webinars is that it doesn't matter where you live – all you need is an Internet connection. This is why there really is no excuse for not getting to know a school. Most MBA programs host information sessions with Admissions Officers and current students via webinars. Check each school's website and/or call each school to see when such events will be taking place.
Conversations with currents students and alumni
Speaking with current students and alumni is an excellent way of learning about schools. These can be family members, friends, colleagues, or students you meet on campus. Often, such conversations provide unique insight into a school that can be mentioned in essays and interviews. If there is a particular club at a school that you are especially interested in, you can reach out to the officers of the club to request a 10-15 minute chat to hear their experiences firsthand.
One final note on researching business schools – have fun with the process!
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.