Sunday, September 26, 2010

MBA Fairs - Any advantages?




Yesterday I attended the MBA fair in Mumbai organised by The MBA tour. Whilst, I had attended a fair by the same company in January this year, at that time I was clearly new to the bschool admissions journey and therefore my experience was different. I didn't know what to ask, what kind of an MBA I wanted to do, what schools are a good fit for me, etc. This time around having done a lot of research, I was better prepared.

Format :
The format of the event was completely different this time. The previous event had round tables to which groups of students were assigned and for about 15 mins each school representative would come to the table to present the main features of their school. It was almost like speed dating. A bell ringing 5 mins before the end of the session and at the second bell the representative would have to move to the next table, while a different school rep would be at your table. The advantage of this format was you were always present to listen to what each school had to say about their program, so incase you never thought you would like one, you might change your mind during the 15 min presentation. You had to listen to each one of them. The pain point though is that having around 10-12 schools doing this without breaks, feels like too much to take in with too little time, towards the end one nearly started to feel each school was just like the other.

Yesterday's event did have presentations from schools, but they had 3 schools doing it in parallel in 3 different rooms. Each session was 30 mins, so the schools actually had a good amount of time to increase their interaction with the candidates for general questions. The only thing was you had to always choose among the 3 schools that were running their presentations in parallel. Especially if there was a popular school doing their presentation, the attendance at the other school's session dwindled. But I still preferred this format, as I made up my mind to apply to a school I had not thought of earlier.

Fair interaction :

Although the round table format expected having a more personalised interaction owing to the fact that representatives got to interact at each round table with the candidates, the 15 min sessions hardly gave any time for this interaction. It also did not culminate into schools going behind a booth when they were ready to answer questions. Candidates ended up surrounding the admissions representatives 360 degrees and leaving little room for circulation. Yesterday's event had 33 schools from around the world go behind their booths with a large area in the center for students to circulate and visit them. My reservations about the usefulness of the school's interaction were allayed, the advice given by the admissions representatives were not generalized and were objective highlighting features and viewpoints specific to the school. I must say webinars have not proved this useful.

Takeaways from the MBA Fair experience :

  • Exposure to schools which you didn't consider : I made it a point to sit through presentations given by some schools that I had not considered, but were recommended by some of my friends. The exposure helps in widening your school pool.
  • Personal interaction : I was able to ask questions to the admissions committees that were specific to my profile and get very objective answers in comparison to responses in a webinar/emails. Every school view's on your specific questions could be different.
  • Fee waivers : Some schools did distribute a application fee waiver, some dollars saved!
  • Build relations with the admissions council through your interactions.
  • Check out the competition. Other candidates also have reasons to believe their candidacy is deficient due to some aspects in their profile, you are not the only one and maybe better off.
  • Little research, no problem : Even if you are just starting out and have done little research, yet going to a fair is a big plus in terms of exposure.
  • Check out the resources section of this blog for articles on advice on how to interact with the Admissions committee members.
In hindsight, both MBA fairs proved very useful since this is the only way for International students to interact with international schools, the next best thing to the campus visit.

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