If you’re an MBA hopeful who has gotten into at least one MBA program, that is a tremendous personal victory you should celebrate. But remember that the hard work of the graduate business school admissions process isn’t over when you receive an acceptance letter.
What you do next is crucial. You must figure out whether to accept the B-school’s invitation to attend. And that high-stakes decision could alter the trajectory of your career and influence your future, experts say. Making the correct decision may be especially difficult if you have multiple admissions offers to compare or if you are worried about whether the benefits of an MBA will outweigh the price.
Anyone accepted into an MBA program who is unsure about whether to enroll in that program should strongly consider attending the school’s welcome weekend — if it has one — and going to other types of admitted student events the school hosts, according to experts.
“Go to admit day,” Stacy Blackman, a former U.S. News contributor who is the CEO of her own admissions consulting firm, wrote in an email. “There’s no better way to get a feel for the schools.”
This advice applies regardless of whether the events occur virtually or in person, experts say, adding that admitted MBA students who cannot arrange a campus visit should capitalize on whatever virtual campus tours the B-school offers.
An MBA program’s formal events for admitted students are designed to provide information about the selling points of the program and can provide useful insights, especially if students arrive with thoughtful and informed questions, according to experts.
Shefali Shah, who received her MBA from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business in New Hampshire, suggests that potential MBA students ask for details about the academic and extracurricular opportunities they find most intriguing at a B-school.
“For example, if you are interested in the Investment Management club it may have limited spots that are only open to students that have prior experience,” she wrote in an email. “These are the details that are important for a prospective student to understand before choosing a program.”
Before attending MBA admitted student events, potential MBA students should conduct independent research on the MBA programs they are evaluating, experts say, and they should actively participate in the events rather than passively listen to prepared presentations.
“Something that helped me at admitted student events was making sure I introduced myself to professors, career center faculty, alumni, students, and other prospects,” Sarah Vancini, an MBA alumna of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, wrote in an email. “I focused on learning as much as I could about them and forming genuine connections. I was careful not to overshare as I wanted to learn as much as possible from them rather than dominating the conversation.”
Vancini says she deliberately did social activities with current students and alumni after school-sponsored events. “This was helpful to get a feel for what the school was like more candidly without the formalities of an official event.”
MBA admittees should observe an MBA class and explore the region where their potential B-school is located, if possible. Informal conversations with current students and professors can also be illuminating, experts say, adding that interacting with possible future classmates is one of the best ways to determine whether a B-school is a good fit.
One of the most effective ways to determine whether the unique aspects of a particular business school are beneficial is through conversation with current students, Vancini says. “It’s important to meet up with students actually experiencing the program’s differentiators to understand comprehensively if it is actually valuable.”
Getting to know other admitted students is a must, according to MBA faculty.
“Students at admitted events should network with their fellow students and seek students with common interests,” Robert C. Bird, a professor of business law at the University of Connecticut School of Business, explained in an email. “Students met at these events could become team partners in projects later and contacts after graduation.”
Bird warns potential MBA students to be polite to everyone they may wind up going to school with. “This is a welcome event, not a business function, and being too pushy at this early stage can give an overaggressive student a poor reputation,” he says. “First impressions matter and you want to have those impressions be uniformly positive.”
Michal Strahilevitz, a marketing professor at the St. Mary’s College of California’s School of Economics and Business Administration, put it this way in an email: “Your MBA experience will be greatly affected by your relationships with the other students in your cohort, so it is always a great idea to connect with other students as soon as possible.”
Vaibhav Lohia, a graduate of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, recommends asking students and alumni of a B-school the following questions, since their answers could yield information that is unavailable on a school website:
— What is recruitment like?
— What is the social culture like?
— What is the learning culture like?
Lohia advises asking about whether it has been simple or hard for current students and recent graduates to find career opportunities and whether the school’s career center tends to be helpful to job-hunting students and alumni. Prospective international MBA students should ask if a school provides assistance during the work visa application process, he adds.
“Ask about social events and community engagement opportunities,” Lohia wrote in an email. “Try to learn about what students do over the weekend. If you play a sport try to ask about local league opportunities. If you are someone that is passionate about a particular cause (for example LGBTQ rights) inquire about clubs that work in that area.”
He also recommends finding out elective courses offered at the B-school in order to gauge whether those courses align with your professional interests.
Shah recommends asking logistical questions about the MBA lifestyle at the school, including questions about whether students usually live on campus or nearby and where students typically congregate when they aren’t in class.
“If you are married or have a family find out about the opportunities for your spouse or child to get involved,” she recommends. “If your spouse needs to find a job because you are moving to a new area you can find out if the school has helped at all with that process.”
Searching for a business school? Get our complete rankings of Best Business Schools.
More from U.S. News