How to Get the Most out of MBA Fairs

It’s MBA fair time again. If you’re like many applicants, this will be the first time you’ve ever come face-to-face with official representatives from your dream MBA programs.

Wow, high stakes, right? Don’t ask a dumb question, or else you’ll never get into your dream school. Right? Of course not.

The reality is that truly the best way you can help yourself at these events is by asking thoughtful questions to learn things that you really want to know. It’s always nice to strike up a deep conversation with a a school representative, but remember that they’re going to meet possibly hundreds of applicants at the event, then probably have to grab their bags and jet off to the next city to do it all over again. And again and again. So, instead of trying to hit a home run with a question, go with some legitimate questions in mind, ask the right questions of the right people (e.g., a recent alum or current student may be better equipped to talk about what the school experience is like for students’ spouses), and be respectful of admissions representatives’ time.

Note that the foot traffic at these events always has interesting ebbs and flows. One minute a table may be swarmed with applicants, while the next minute it could be empty. If you really want to engage an admissions officer in a ten-minute conversation, pick your spots and do it while the table isn’t overly crowded. Early in an event is often a good time to do it, before the place gets too crowded. You can also wait until the end of the event, although sometimes admissions representatives are trying to hurry up and pack and head off to the airport. Admissions officers always appreciate when an applicant is sensitive to the challenges of manning these fair booths.

In terms of what NOT to do, the folks at QS wrote a nice list of rules & etiquette for MBA fairs earlier this year (it was actually written for EMBA fairs, but the advice still applies for full-time MBA program fairs). And, an unfortunate applicant who bombarded some Fuqua representatives last year provided a template for what not to do at these events.

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