5 Ways to make the best impression during a school visit

School visits are a great way to better understand an MBA program, network with students and admissions representatives, and assess the overall fit you have with the school. From participating in class visits, to sharing a meal with current students, a successful school visit can be what you need to better inform your application and demonstrate strong interest to the admissions committee. School visits, by and large, are optional, but did you know that participating in a school visit can be evaluative in nature? On one hand, a school visit help your candidacy, but it can also harm your chances with the program if you’re unprepared and an action gets taken the wrong way.

Here are five tips to get the most out of a school visit and to ensure that you leave a positive impression:

1. Do your homework and ask top-of-mind questions

Although the school visit is your opportunity to learn about the MBA program, strong candidates stand out by having conducted their basic school research prior to stepping foot on campus. Take time on your flight or train ride to the school by browsing through the school’s website, reading through sections like the student blog, admissions FAQs, and course information. Many schools have YouTube channels filled with great content, as well as podcasts and social channels you can follow like Instagram and Facebook.

After you’ve done your research, jot down questions that you could not get answers to from the website. Do you want to hear more about students coming from nontraditional backgrounds? Maybe you want to understand how the school’s location impacts the student experience? Your questions should focus more on fit and the student experience so you can leave with a stronger understanding of the program and a clear understanding of the program so you can communicate that in essays and the interview. It goes without saying that if you have specific questions about financial aid, the application, or particular classes, those are also fair to ask and get clarification from admissions representative.

2. Keep positive, friendly, and show interest

Business school is about your personal brand, and personal brands are best assessed when interacting with people. No one likes someone who is negative, talks badly about other schools, takes up all of the airtime, or otherwise appears not to be self-aware. What business school staff and students do like are people who are friendly, happy to be on campus, and are thoughtful in their interactions with others. In many schools, admissions representatives will document and ask students and staff about their impressions of prospective students, both good and bad - so make sure you’re on the good list and leave a positive impression!

3. Network and establish key contacts

Just like the world of business, networks and key contacts will help you advance. Use the school visit as an opportunity to establish key contacts, and accomplish this task by effectively networking. Prior to the visit, think through the types of contacts you need: are you interested in technology want to hear from a tech student? Are you interested in affinity groups like veterans groups, cultural groups, or diversity groups? Use these interests to seek out a student contact and follow up by getting their email information. Similarly, you want to ensure you have some form of 1:1 interaction with the admissions representative, and then follow up by sending a note via email.

4. Sign-up for more events, webinars, and mailing lists

Often times, business schools track your affinity with their program, including your registration and attendance during a school visit. Upon completion of the visit, sign-up for more events, whether they are online webinars or mailing lists. The more interest you show, the stronger “affinity score” you’ll have with the school.

5. Follow up, follow up, follow up!

In the world of business, follow up is key. Follow up shows that you’re attentive to details, timely in nature, and keen to foster relationships - all traits that fair well in career recruiting! Admissions staff often ask, “Would this student do well in front of a recruiter from one of our top companies?”, and sending a follow up is a strong signal that you would. Additionally, sending a follow up allows you to maintain a relationship and have a direct contact if you want to learn more. When you go on your school visit, consider asking for a card, or e-mail address, from students that you have meaningful conversation with, and from the admissions representative that leads the school visit, or that you had met with. Send a prompt email follow up thanking them for their time and sharing something that you learned and liked about the program. Many students have physical mailboxes, so consider leaving a hand written note for a student host or students you meet during lunch.