MBA Info Sessions continue to be a hugely important part of the B school recruiting process, for both schools and candidates. They can come in a few different formats, but whichever type of Info Session you are headed to, there are a few rules you can follow that will allow you to make the most of the session.
Let’s talk quickly about the different types of Info Sessions
1. MBA Fairs
MBA Fairs are like trade shows for business school. They usually involve representatives from several business schools traveling together from city to city to connect and meet with candidates. Popular MBA Fairs include The MBA Tour, The QS World Tour and The Access MBA Fairs.
MBA Fairs will typically feature a mixture of panel discussions, group discussions with reps at their booths and in some cases, pre-scheduled one on one meetings with school reps.
MBA Fairs are a great opportunity to speak to lots of school reps and get a sense for the full landscape of offerings available.
2. Multi-School Events
Multi-school events are different from MBA Fairs in that the event is hosted by a group of schools themselves rather than a separate company. Probably the most well known multi-school event is hosted by what’s often called the S7 group of business schools; Johnson (Cornell), Darden (U Virginia), Ross (U Michigan), Haas (Berkeley), Yale SOM, Stern (NYU) and Fuqua (Duke).
These prestige US schools know that they’re often drawing from a similar pool of applicants and take advantage of this by traveling together to present to the local interested population. Unlike MBA Fairs which are usually attended exclusively by admissions reps on the supply side, multi-school events usually draw out local alumni of the attending universities, which presents a unique networking opportunity.
3. Single School Info Sessions
Single school info sessions take place both on campus and on the road. Every school has info sessions on their campus that usually involve a presentation by an admissions rep, and often a Q&A and possibly a campus tour or classroom visit that will often get current students involved. On campus info sessions are usually considered the most authentic way to really get a feel for the school and should be taken up whenever possible.
Schools will also travel to offer the single school info session if they feel they have enough interest in a given geography to warrant one. Single school info sessions on the road usually feature a presentation by an admissions rep, followed by Q&A with local alumni. Either on campus or on the road single school info sessions will sometimes feature a mock class with a professor, but not every school does this and it is more common on campus.
While this list contains the most common forms of MBA info sessions, the ways that schools recruit is constantly evolving and there are some less common but very interesting other ways to interface with schools. One such way is the Pre-MBA Case Competition hosted annually by MBA Link in Singapore.
The Pre-MBA Case Competition is a unique event hosted by MBA Link in Singapore
Although candidates often get nervous about meeting admissions reps and alumni from a school they’re interested in, the truth is that it’s harder to really mess up one of these interactions than you might think. Alumni are incredibly unlikely to report a bad interaction unless it’s truly abysmal and admissions reps are accustomed to nervous candidates and are very forgiving. Ultimately, your application will be the primary deciding factor on whether you get admitted and it isn’t easy to move the needle in either direction based on your behavior at an info session.
That said, there are a few simple do’s and don’ts you can follow to maximize the MBA info session opportunity. Follow these simple rules to chart a path to your ultimate goal, creating MBA optionality.
If work keeps you late and you aren’t able to show up at the designated time, you should still come. Walk in quietly and take your seat without fanfare. However, you should note that some events may not allow latecomers. Arriving anywhere from 20 minutes early to right on time allows the session to get started smoothly and is most respectful to both your hosts and the other attendees. Arriving too early, like when they are still setting up, can be as disruptive as arriving late.
Asking a question that is easily accessible online is one of the fastest ways to demonstrate to anyone listening that you’re still in the early exploration phase of the MBA application process. Examples of questions that are almost always on a school’s website include:
What’s the average GMAT score for your admitted applicants?
What kinds of companies do graduates from your school get employed by?
Do you offer scholarships?
Again, asking one of these questions won’t disqualify you from a program, it just doesn’t paint you in the best light and if you’re looking to overperform on the application you should leave these questions to other candidates.
Other questions you shouldn’t ask:
So what kind of questions should you ask? The best questions will be ones that the entire audience can benefit from and be open ended enough that gives the admissions rep or alumni the opportunity to freestyle a bit. Examples of good questions include:
There’s honestly a lot more good questions than there are bad questions. The bad questions are just unfortunately a lot more common. Asking great questions is one of the few ways to get noticed in a positive way at an MBA info session, so do your research, give it some thought and prepare a few good questions before you come. Just remember not to force it if the opportunity doesn’t present itself.
If you’re used to wearing formal attire at work, feel free to come dressed as such to your info session (maybe not for an on-campus info session on a weekend). If you work at a company where people dress more casually, that is fine as well. Keep in mind that candidates will tend to overdress a little for these sessions, and if you’re dressed too casually you may stand out.
Whether you choose to dress more formally or casually, do wear clothes that make you feel like you look good. If you’re someone who doesn’t at all care about your appearance, this wouldn’t be a terrible time to start.
Whether the admissions rep or other candidates are speaking, don’t be the person on their phone the whole time. It’s disrespectful and it can set the energy in the room going against you. Be polite and attentive or just leave.
Most MBA info sessions are set up to offer more casual networking after the formal activities of the event. If you have a (good) question you didn’t get to ask, or if you’re just curious to press the flesh a little with your admissions rep or alumni, it’s definitely ok to hang around and chat. In many cases aggressive “crop circles” will form around reps and alumni. Don’t be intimidated, but don’t try and intimidate anyone else either.
DO NOT GIVE REPS REASON TO BELIEVE YOU ARE ANTISOCIAL OR DISRESPECTFUL TO PEERS
This is one of the few things that CAN get you eliminated at this stage. It’s fine to banter a bit if you feel a good vibe with who you’re talking to, but keep it professional. Remember that you’re there to learn, not specifically to “make friends”. There is one exception to this rule that I talk about in the accompanying video at the end of this post.
If there is one thing that you should take away from this article, it’s this: MBA info sessions are there for you to learn about the school. The application is there for the schools to learn about you. Trying to apply without applying isn’t just annoying, it’s illogical. Admissions reps will under almost all circumstances answer any such questions by telling you to apply, and the best thing you can do to increase your chances of success is to use the session for its intended purpose: learn about the school.
As with all things, there are some exceptions to this and if your situation is so unique (having a low gpa is not unique) that it genuinely warrants an answer, remember that almost every school’s admissions team is accessible through email or telephone. Ask yourself if you need to know the answer to this question right now.
I made a short companion video to this article with one more tip for maximizing the MBA info session. If you’re really keen on making the most of this opportunity, you’ll want to hear what I have to say.