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4 Questions to Ask at MBA Admissions Events

4 Questions to Ask at MBA Admissions Events

When it comes to applying to business school, connecting with a school's admissions team can be a key part of the process. For prospective students, this connection often happens at admissions events.

School representatives travel to Chicago, Denver and dozens of other cities to attend business school fairs where they can meet applicants. Aspiring MBAs can learn about curriculum offerings, class sizes and experiential learning, often without having to visit the school. For those who are able to travel, admissions staffers also host on-campus open houses throughout the year.

While applicants can learn about a school online or through a brochure, there's an advantage to attending one of these meetups.

"The dialogue that occurs is often much richer if you are present with somebody in person," says Kelly R. Wilson, executive director of masters admissions at Carnegie Mellon University'sTepper School of Business. "I can get a better sense for who a candidate is in person, I believe, than I can over the phone or via email."


Prospective students can also use these occasions to learn key tips about how to boost their applications. Applicants often have five-minute, one-on-one chats with a member of a program's admissions team during school fairs and can use the time to learn how to improve their personal statements or other application components.

Below, admissions experts outline four questions applicants should ask to make sure they're selling themselves to schools in the best way.
  
1. What's an appropriate length for a resume? Many MBA programs prefer applicants work for a few years before applying and like to see resumes with a certain look.

"I would say no more than two pages for their resume," says Stephan Kolodiy, a senior admissions officer for the business school at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—Newark and New Brunswick. "Sometimes we get a resume that's five to six pages long, and that's way too much information," says Kolodiy, who works for the Office of Graduate Admissions.

Applicants can also inquire about which work experiences to list.
"They can ask how far back should they go in regards to listing their professional experiences, and that all depends on how long they've been working," Kolodiy says.

"Every applicant is a little different, so that could be something that we discuss during the course of the conversation."


2. What is the strength of your program? Every school has something that it considers brag worthy, says Jim Deranek, director of admissions for MBA programs at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management.

Applicants can use what a school representative says is the program's strength in a letter of recommendation. If an applicant learns that a school is especially proud of its offerings in marketing, for example, he or she should share this information with the letter writer.

"A lot of times, subconsciously, they'll include that in the recommendation," he says. Applicants can also mention these strengths in an application essay, Deranek says.


3. How can I meet others connected with the program, such as current students or faculty? Even as an applicant, it's important to build relationships with people from the school, says Wilson from Tepper.

"When they write their essays, they want to be able to demonstrate their fit," she says. Applicants should ask about opportunities to interact with current students, alumni or staff, she says.

"You can't determine whether or not you believe you'll thrive in an environment if you haven't experienced that at some level," says Wilson. "Our second essay question is related to how do you see yourself as a contributing member as a student and also as an alum. And that really sets up the opportunity for them to kind of speak to the aspects of the program that resonate with them. And then a good follow-up ​or an example could be relating something they talked to the student about, relevant to that particular issue that resonates with them.”​

The admissions committee wants to understand how applicants see themselves being a driving member of the community, Wilson says.

4. How can I address a possible weakness in my application? ​Sometimes applicants have a low GMAT score or other perceived academic shortcomings that could affect​ their chance of admissions, says Wilson.​ An admissions event is a good time to get specific direction on how to work around this issue, she says.

Prospective students who graduated from college many years back and had low grades might be advised to take classes to demonstrate how they currently perform in an academic setting, she says.

If a school allows applicants to submit an optional​ essay, that's another opportunity to address a red mark on their record, says Kolodiy. At Rutgers, prospective students can submit an optional essay on any topic they like, in addition to completing one of the required essays.

"That optional essay can be a personal statement," he says. "They can address anything they want us to know." If applicants want​ to explain a bad semester in college or a gap in employment, this essay is their opportunity, he says. "I love reading the optional essays. I often learn more about the candidate in that than I do in the regular essay question," Kolodiy says.

Asking more is better than asking less at admissions events, but experts say certain questions should never be said out loud.

“Things that can be easily found online, on our website," says Amy Lum, a second-year, full-time MBA student at Rutgers who's pitched in with a number of the school's admissions-related events.

"What’s the average GMAT?” or “When is the application due?" are not the questions applicants should ask, she says.

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