Aditya Shankar, a marketing professional and an MBA aspirant, attended an MBA fair in Bengaluru and came back a little underwhelmed.
If you’re attending an MBA fair in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai or any other Indian city, Aditya feels his experience and lessons will help.
He covers the format of an MBA fair, what you can expect while meeting admission officers during the information sessions, several myths and whether it’s worthwhile.
He also has some feedback and suggestions for business school representatives.
If you’ve reached this article, congratulations – this shows that you care about your time and don’t give in easily to the MBA hoopla.
Like a rational minded MBA pursuer, you research before investing close to 5 hours of your time.
So let me share my experiences with you after attending 3 separate seminars.
In short, I’d say I went to these MBA fairs, so that you my research-oriented fellow readers don’t have to.
Before you read further, let me tell you that I attended an MBA fair in Bengaluru (India) and the same can be generalised to most MBA fair experiences in India alone, not abroad.
Let’s accept MBA for what it is. It’s a shortcut ticket to better salary for millions of young to middle aged Indian students and working professionals.
And it’s the sheer quantity of people in such fairs that will ruin your experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I realise I’m as much a part of this sheep fest as any other person attending it. And in no way I’m taking a higher ground and looking down at the occasion.
I seriously don’t mind people pushing me around into seminar halls, trying to topple one another by rushing to seats, not apologizing when they step on your feet, asking weird random questions to the adcom, and hogging the attention of an alumni who is fed up of answering the same question to the same person since the last half an hour.
But even after all of that is the experience really worth it?
After all, most colleges these days have a far more enriching online footprint with resources, and alumni networks.
The biggest attraction of an MBA fair is to interact with the adcom members and ask them specific questions related to your application – and not questions such as do you provide MBA scholarships and what’s your fee structure.
You’re not only going to put them off but also just prove yourself as an ignorant, attention seeker who has a stupid syndrome of raising hands automatically when the floor is kept open for questions.
No, don’t do that.
Now coming over to the adcoms (a term for admission committee members). Most adcoms are flustered beyond repair but still put on a brave smiling face and try to show that they’re hearing as intently as possible.
Jet-lagged or not, the questions by the crowd can surely leave them blue.
As soon as the school presentation is over a crowd of students engulf the sole representative.
These students with no idea of personal or the representative’s individual space surround him and wait for their turn to have a jab.
With no time to pass a smile and introduce themselves, the students shoot their questions with such a tense expression that a shopper would’ve on a Black Friday sale.
Adcoms who come to the country for the first time and are not aware of such situations may take offense.
A certain adcom member from Stanford actually paused everyone, took 3 steps back and then said:
This is my personal space. Please don’t jump into this all at once.
The confused students in their spectacles and after work sweat thought personal space was a certain new admission requirement. The engineers in the group could’ve made a physical formula for personal space in their head by now.
The bottomline is that you can’t expect a seamless interaction between the adcom and the students, because:
Let’s breakdown the event a bit more. Usually an MBA fair is divided into 3 separate sections:
I’m going to share my experiences for all 3 of them, one by one:
Supposedly the most effective of all the 3 sections at the meetup. And it doesn’t disappoint you as much as other sections.
Entry to this area is strictly moderated by the organisers and only students who have scheduled their meetups in advance can attend.
Scheduling the meetup is not hard if you have logged in to the online portal before attending the event in person.
Now the experience part: I was expecting some sort of VIP one-on-one meeting.
After all IE Business School and Schulich had sent me invites, but found at least 50 other students in queue with the same invite in the same time span.
Time was followed to the point and just at the right time the queue was let inside the area.
The alumnus from IE did his best as he gave his Powerpoint presentation to 7 of us sitting in a semi circle around him.
He tried to highlight the college in terms of culture, curriculum, location, admission criteria and placement records.
A few questions fired, which were satisfactorily answered. Before you know the 20-30 mins timer goes off and you’re escorted out.
Time is definitely less, as it gets crammed by the Powerpoint presentation and doubts which other people have.
Still if you’ve questions this is the best section to shoot them and get them answered. Also don’t be surprised if a particular representative from a school didn’t show up.
It happened with me in one of the fairs as the adcom from Schulich didn’t turn up at the last minute.
After seeing hundreds of students piled up in a tiny seminar hall, this session is going to raise some serious questions in your mind, such as: Why didn’t I just give CAT, if I had to compete with this crowd?
If you’re an absolute beginner this session might help you by giving some pointers about what the school is like.
Even if you haven’t done much research about the school don’t raise your hands and ask about the fee structure or number of scholarships available.
Ignorance might be bliss, but it’s totally a turn-off when voluntarily shown over a microphone.
Certain questions that I heard, which you absolutely must never ask are:
Not so useful. The time devoted to questions from the students is much less (could be intentional). It will only be useful if you’ve zero idea about the school or what’s its unique offerings.
Most colleges just participate in this section rather than conduct individual seminars like in the previous section.
As a student the colleges you wish to talk to will almost 100% be occupied. If you do get a chance to get through and talk to the adcom or alumni, keep your questions short and specific.
Don’t hog all the time and attention and be courteous to the people behind you. If you think your talk here is going to leave an everlasting opinion on the alumni or adcom rep, you’re mistaken.
Such a case would’ve been possible if there were tens of students not hundreds bordering over to a thousand.
Again a disappointment. The college representative really doesn’t have the time to answer and give the proper attention to you.
Chances are that your high-quality question is going to be lost in a flood of stupid questions and the adcom doesn’t have any patience left to deep dive.
You’re better off taking the questions over an email or a personal chat on LinkedIn.
And with that I’ll wrap this article. The one shareholder that really gets the momentum in such fairs are the Admission Consultancies as they get super good quality leads to pursue.
At the end of the day let’s accept that the MBA fair is a money driven initiative.
My one advice to the colleges looking to increase the number of applications to their programs would be to look for alternate platforms to reach students.
There is no point in sponsoring flights, meals, and stay for the adcom members only to land them in a challenging cultural atmosphere where they don’t get the bandwidth to perform at their peak.
Alternate platforms like webinars, which can be conducted frequently and cheaply should be explored.
For applicants, I’d suggest do your homework before meeting a certain adcom member. If you’re new to the global MBA programs soak in as much as you can.
Don’t ask questions, answers to which you can find with a single Google search.
And while you’re doing that google search spend some time on other MBA forums, your LinkedIn contacts, & find alumni who can help you in a much more enriching manner than any MBA fair can.
All the best!
About the author: Aditya Shankar is an engineer who left his plush 9 to 5 job with a global Hedge Fund for a career in Marketing. Always creatively inclined he began his career by copywriting and now strategises content for brands and individuals. A conversationalist at heart he loves to connect with people and share a storytelling experience. Connect with him on LinkedIn.