This fall there are a series of good fairs that allow candidates to interact with schools face-to-face. Because I also attend the fairs, I can offer a few tips on how to get the most our of them. There are two fair formats, the open format in which you visit the school’s stand, and the 1:1 format that places the candidate and school in a short 1:1 session.
The following tips can be used in both formats.
- What is the difference? The goal should be to understand how the various programs are differentiated from each other. Leading business programs offer a very comparable product. Ask the school rep about the school’s USP and how it is different from others.
- Ask hard questions. Example: What is the return on investment? High priced educations should be able to offer statistics on where graduates go and what they earn.
- Comparable profiles. What have students with your background (or study area) gone on to do with the degree? Where are they now? Can you contact a few?
- What are the risks? Investment fund managers are forced to disclose the risks of their products. Are there any case-studies of failure (instead of the success cases that everyone broadcasts?) What can be learned?
- Get a contact name. Can you use the school rep as a contact for future contact? If not, can he/ she refer you to someone in admissions? A successful application can be greatly supported by admissions staff so be sure to get a name– make friends before you need them! Many things can be negotiated, if you know who to ask… (for example, can you waive TOEFL, can you extend the deadline…?)
- Talk openly about GMAT. School rankings and brochures imply that everyone has a 750 GMAT. Is this true for your profile? Try and get an honest target from the school that corresponds to your profile.
- Is there a fit? Is there an emotional connection or positive association to the school? This is significant and should not be ignored.
- Is it too good to be true? Is the school urging you to sign up? Any reputable institution has a formal application process so be afraid of any fast offers.
As a final note, you are under no pressure to perform at the fairs. It doesn’t make any sense to be nervous. Go with an open attitude and an inquisitive (but a bit critical) attitude. The people at the fairs are your peers and don’t forget that this is also a terrific networking opportunity. We have met many inspiring individuals at the fairs that are now personal friends.
Be careful with personal data! If your boss is not supposed to know about your MBA plans, maybe use an alternative email!