Making the most of MBA Tours, Fairs and MBA Kumbh Melas
Written by Sameer Kamat
We’ve got a new contributor for the MCB MBA Blog. Her hobbies do NOT include knitting cat sweaters and judging vada-pav eating contests. And that saves her time that she can productively use to work on several more interesting topics. So watch this space, folks. — Sameer
With the upcoming MBA Tours in all major cities in India (Mumbai, Delhi being the popular stopovers), I thought it is the apt time to think about making the best use of these tours for the current application season. There are two categories of people who attend these events:
- People who are not applying this year / in this application season.
- B school applicants who are done with the GMAT and are working on their apps now / in the coming application season.
My post is mostly focused on the second type. Applicants in the first category can attend these tours treating them as informational events.
The quality of the tour can be judged by the type of schools attending it. If it’s a good tour, do whatever it takes to attend it. As international MBA applicants with limited opportunities of getting to know schools first hand, do not miss a good tour if you can avoid doing so. So let’s get going.
What to do at an MBA Tour?
- Plan well: Some of these tours have some surveys you can fill out before the day of the tour and will most likely bring up a list of schools specific to your inputs. If some of these schools intrigue you, explore them further.
- Do your research: Go through the list of schools that will be present at the tour. Shortlist your targets schools and then do some serious research. If you are a good number cruncher and have the average GMAT and average GPA of these schools on your fingertips, then god bless! But for lesser mortals like me, it’s better to carry a neat notepad which has all the numbers you could find off the internet and the school website in an easily accessible form for each school. This way you will ensure that you don’t end up asking silly questions to the Adcom. The best place to begin your research is BusinessWeek and then school websites, chat transcripts and current students. Most chat transcripts are published by schools on their websites. Also, being well informed will help you stand out from others who ask silly questions!
- What can you ask the Adcom and alumni at these events?
To the Adcom: A few sample questions below as a general guideline. As your research gets more intensive, you will have a better set of questions to ask.
Ask questions related to your areas of interest and what kind of research (if it interests you) opportunities are available. You might even ask what the top employers look for in your field of interest. Although it is a no-brainer that most top schools look for the same key attributes in their applicants, some schools focus more heavily on creativity than others, as reflected in the essay questions. If you see a change of trend in the essay questions of this year versus the past few years, do ask about that as it will provide you valuable insights about what the school is now shifting its focus towards. Queries related to financial aid to suit your profile are also a good way to get to know beforehand if there are ample opportunities for scholarships and how best you can project yourself to be eligible for some form of financial aid. Even the Adcom know that these are important issues for students who are considering B School and are usually forthcoming about this information. Don’t be tactless but devise ways of asking ‘what sets your school apart from others I am considering?’ After all, the schools need you as much as you need them. There have to be differentiating factors that will help you choose their school over others in the same league.
To the alumni:
Their background, their experiences at the school, what they liked most about the school, their reasons for joining, the type of learning environment, the student culture and the culture of the city where the school is located.
- Dress to impress: I cannot stress this point enough. If you have a business suit, well and good! Others fret not! Ensure that your clothing means business. Wear formal attire or at least smart business casuals. Flip flops/Oshos /open-toed sandals / Kolhapuri chappals are best left at home.
- A note for the ladies: Salwar Kameezes / Kurtis / casual clothing are a No No! Dress as you would for a recruiting event. In formals! For ladies with Rapunzel-like tresses, a slick polished pony tail to sweep the hair back from the face is a good bet.
- Exchanging / Receiving Business Cards: When someone hands you a business card, don’t shove it in your pocket. Rest your folder/purse down and then accept the card with both hands, read it and then put it in your purse / folder respectfully.
- Network with newly established contacts i.e. alumni/current students: As soon as you take their business cards / email addresses, drop them an email within 24 hours reminding them of where you met them and how deeply interested you are in the school and how you would like more info (specific one or two questions in subsequent mails). Do not forget to mention why their school is your top choice!
- Carry a snack: You don’t want the rumbling of your tummy to be heard halfway across the room now, do you? Well, the fact is most of these tours are held in five star hotels and they don’t offer any snacks for free. And to top it all, there are generally no lunch breaks and the tour goes on till about early evening. Unless you can afford to spend a few thousands on an elaborate luncheon at these hotels, it’s wise to carry some dry snacks that will keep the hunger pangs at bay. My bet: Mars bars / Snickers or a banana.
What not to do at an MBA Tour?
- Do not hand over your resumes to every Adcom person you meet, unless the tour guidelines ask you to bring your resume along. Carry your resumes in a neat folder / briefcase. Please don’t use “carry bags” or those high street bags that scream of brands. You might be carrying a swish D&G paper bag to hold your documents, but it still won’t cut it!
- Do not annoy the alumni/Adcom by asking them obvious/redundant/silly questions such as “What is the average GMAT?”, “What is the average salary post MBA?” All of these statistics and employment reports are available on every school’s website.
- As much as you are anxious about your profile, don’t be desperate and ask the school to provide you some feedback based on your GMAT and GPA. You can discuss your profile in brief to assess your fit with the school, but this can be tricky unless you can use that 1 minute to your best advantage!
Well that’s it for now. Hope that you benefit from these tips. Please add your comments with some of your own ideas.