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When researching and deciding which Executive MBA Program is the right one for you, there are a number of ways to get the information you need to make your decision. Printed publicity pieces, local information presentations, web sites (school-specific and third party), school rankings publications, MBA Fairs and One-to-One interview sessions, and discussions with Admissions staff are some of the most common.

However, one of the best and most comprehensive ways to get first-hand information about a particular program is to make a visit to campus. This is really the best opportunity to see the program first hand and to get an in-depth and candid understanding of all aspects of the program you are considering. Schools will offer different types of visit opportunities - from simple interview days to comprehensive open days. Here are some things to consider when you visit:

  • See it live: Visit when your target program is in session. Try to avoid visiting during breaks/holidays or when classes are not in session if you can. The most value from the visit comes from seeing exactly how the program will be if you enroll.
  • Be Prepared: Some of your visit may be filled with presentations, panels, etc. However, you should be given plenty of opportunity to ask questions. Be ready! Have a list of things you specifically want covered and make sure you get the chance to ask about them.
  • Engage: Talk to current students, faculty, teaching assistants, alumni, as well as staff from areas such as Program/Student Services office, Admissions Office, Career Services, Alumni Office, Financial Aid, etc. This is a chance to ask specific questions that you want answered about your own situation - take advantage of it.
  • Attend Class: There is no better way to get a feel for the learning environment. Some things you will want to observe:
    • What is the style of teaching? Are students engaged in dialogue and debate with the faculty member and each other? Is it highly-charged or more subdued? Is it a rigorous, thought-provoking and challenging environment?
    • Is there energy in the room? Would you want to sit in a classroom with a similar group of students for the duration of your program?
    • Can you picture yourself learning and being challenged in the environment? Is it a good match for the way you like to learn?
    • Once you have attended the class, ask the students and the faculty member if that is a ‘typical’ style of class.
  • Network: Use the opportunity to talk to other prospective students as well. Get a sense of what they are looking for and why they are there. These are potentially your fellow classmates once the program begins.
  • Survey the physical surroundings: What kind of facility is the course being taught in? Is it well designed and does it serve the needs of the program? Is the technology up to scratch? Would you be comfortable learning in that environment?

Finally, the other thing people ask is whether it is best to visit before or after being admitted to the program. My view is that you should visit at some point during the admissions and recruitment process, but the actual timing will depend on the school. If you have to attend an interview for the admissions process, that might be the best time. For others, it might be when you are making the final choice between two schools. You should use your resources to visit those schools that you really value and you are realistic about enrolling in.

Richard Johnson