Next year’s MBA applications are rolling out, and the deadlines are earlier than ever. There are a lot of things that you should do right now – and here is why you should plan to visit business schools before you apply.

 

  • Business Schools are Different.

On paper, it’s easy for MBA programs to blend. Most offer similar core courses, experiential learning, clubs, recruiting, etc. Plus, there is a ton of information to absorb when you first start looking at schools – making it even harder to figure out what factors are most important to you.

One of the best ways to cut through the marketing and start to figure out which programs offer what you need is to visit. Business school is a huge investment – and the right program might not be the one that looked best from the website. Visiting before you apply allows you to shape the optimal list.

 

  • School Specific Essays are Hard.

Once you start to apply, you will understand just how hard it is to capture what differentiates a school and makes it a good fit for you, personally. There is no substitute for specific knowledge and firsthand experience on the campus. Candidates who visit can talk about the course they sat in on, the admissions officer they interacted with at lunch, and how much they had in common with their student tour guide. You might also pick up some inside information about new courses or opportunities. These details can make the difference between a credible interview response or essay and one that falls flat.

 

  • You Need to Convey Interest.

You know that this is a competitive process. You also know that schools worry about yield, and about fielding a class of students who will get along and be happy at their program. It’s extremely hard to sell the admissions committee on the fact that their school is your absolute first choice if you have never been there. Yes, people absolutely get in without having visited –but it’s much, much harder.

If you have the resources to visit schools before you apply, even a subset of your target programs, I really encourage it. There are also other ways to connect with programs remotely, including talking to students and alums and attending events in your city. The bottom line is that you need to do everything you can to understand and connect with your target schools.