Thanks to the internet, it is now possible to research MBA programs without leaving the comfort of your home. However, given the investment of time, effort and money that the MBA experience demands, there is still no substitute for meeting the admissions personnel of possible schools face-to-face.
The QS World MBA Tour attracts over 70,000 visitors worldwide, so the tour’s stops in Shanghai and Beijing, on July 17 and 19 respectively, promise to be busy affairs. Anyone is welcome, and the event is free for those who register online beforehand at www.topmba.com. Otherwise, admission is RMB40 (US$5.77) on the fair day, payable at the registration desk.
Though information fairs are not a platform for formal admissions into MBA programs, they may be your first point of contact with your target school. Thus, it is helpful to know what to expect and how to make a good first impression.
Prepare in advance: You may have to wait to talk with many of the high-profile schools’ representatives attending the event. The time you do get to spend with admissions officers will likely be limited, so you have to make the most of the opportunity. Draw up a list of programs that suit your individual goals, abilities and circumstances. Then visit the relevant schools’ websites to conduct further research. If you have the time, order a print copy of a school’s prospectus and bring it along on the day – it shows you have done your homework and mean business.
Focus: Don’t waste your time on schools or programs that aren’t right for you. Look at the current class profile and entry requirements and don’t forget to find out exactly how much a program is going to cost. Use your time at the fair to talk to representatives of schools that are realistic options instead of hanging around in lines for “big name” schools that may not be the right match for your skills, ambitions or bank balance.
Don’t overload admissions officers: Admissions personnel will be pleased to meet you, particularly if you are well prepared, but they can’t devote all their time to you. Keep your questions focused and relevant and prepare an “elevator pitch” in advance, which will give them the salient facts about you, your background and your goals in no more than two minutes. Feel free to bring evidence of your qualifications with you, but keep them in your bag unless they are asked for.
Broaden your scope: An increasing number of schools now bring alumni to fairs alongside their admissions personnel. These individuals have lived the experience and can provide valuable insights into all the pros and cons of the b-school environment – make the most of their knowledge.
Hunt for funding: Make sure you find out what scholarships schools offer, and how and when to apply. Also, check whether they have any special deals on loans with local financial institutions. Bear in mind that attending a QS World MBA Tour event means you qualify to apply for a range of dedicated scholarships from high-ranking schools such as Wharton and IE-Instituto de Empresa.
Evaluate: Many successful MBA students say they knew they had found the right school as soon as they talked to its representative; so, trust your instincts as much as your research. Make sure that you assess the people you meet. Are they interested in you and your questions? Can they answer those questions easily and authoritatively? Do they seem professional? Meeting people face-to-face like this is as much about you making a judgement as it is about them providing you with relevant and comprehensive information.
Enjoy the experience: It will help your decision-making process and offer useful insights into the international MBA arena.