How to Work the Room at an MBA Fair

MBA fairs are events where many business schools are present in one place, each at a school-branded booth, ready to provide information to prospective applicants.

During Corona times, these have been held virtually. But it looks like, pending anything unforeseen, we are back to live events.

So, how should you, the applicant, navigate these events? Here’s a 10-point guide:

1. Know why you are there. You are there to find out information about schools that is *not* on their Website. Ask questions that will fill out your knowledge of the institution and the program, so that you can make good decisions where to apply. Also, if you find out what’s not obviously said elsewhere, that may give you and edge in your MBA admissions essays or short answers.

2. Know why they are there. The schools pay large sums to attend, and their goal is to promote their school brand and get the best set of applicants. They also want to provide enough information about dates and timelines so good potential candidates get themselves together on time (including getting visas, etc.)

3. Be realistic about how many potential applicants any school rep will see in a day. That is, hundreds. That means she very likely will not remember you when you apply. But you may still reference a conversation you had at the booth, in your application.

4. Keep a savvy distinction in your head between a school rep and the admissions committee. It’s possible but distinctly unlikely that anyone from Adcom is at the booth. You are meeting the reps.

5. Knowing your’e not talking to Adcom, and that the rep won’t particularly remember you, you can relax. This is not the time or place to sell yourself. Ask questions. Find out as much as you can. That’s what you’re there for, and all that matters. If you are simply yourself it’s not going to harm your chances in any way. For the same reason, there’s no need to dress up for an MBA Fair. Dress normally. (Wear comfortable shoes!)

6. Knowing the school rep you’re talking to doesn’t make any admissions decisions –not even the first cut– also means there’s no point in monopolizing their time. Find out what you need and move on. Play nice for others who may be waiting.

7. Depending on your style, it’s worth having a planned route. You will have a good idea of the schools you want to talk to, and with a floor plan you can cover your ground in the most efficient way. But don’t shut out serendipity. Part of the benefit of an MBA admissions fair is discovery of the school you never thought of.

8. Quality of engagement is more important than quantity. Having had a handful of significant chats with school reps is more valuable than saying picking up the marketing material from 30 booths.

9. Go early. You want to catch the reps when they are fresh and when they have relatively more time for you.

10. Keep it professional. You’ll share some of your back-story and motivation in a decent conversation with a school rep, but you should remain at a business-like level. Your time at the booth can’t get you admitted, but it can dent your chances.

A Grammar Test. Do You Dare?

If I’m pushed, I’d say that content matters more than expression in MBA admissions essays and short answers. It must.  Adcom most wants to know who you are and what you have to say.

But grammar, spelling, punctuation still matter a LOT. Its like having the best soccer boots. Yes, that’s important. But you’re not going to score any goals if they are not laced up,

Are you laced up? Here’s a grammar quiz.  http://thedailypolls.com/can-you-get-a-2525-on-this-advanced-grammar-test/

It’s not so easy, mind. If you’re writing MBA admissions essays this summer, try it, see how you do.

Me, I normally steer well clear of Internet self-diagnostics. But  should I be reviewing clients’ MBA admissions essays for grammar and expression, as well as content, if I couldn’t knock a test like this on the head?

MBA grammar test

(On my honor, I went once through from the beginning, no corrections. This was a few years ago – reposting from 2017.)

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