The Most Efficient Way to Network

As an MBA admissions consultant, I’ve seen time and again how networking in advance of applying to MBA programs can make all the difference between a standout and forgettable application. Yet, I’m often surprised by how often this part of the process is overlooked, especially now when many programs have gone virtual. Although some parts of the MBA application process have changed to reflect the current environment, you will undoubtedly still be asked why an MBA is right for you given your past experiences and future career goals. Each school will also expect a detailed and authentic answer for why their program is the right fit for you. Based solely on their websites, schools can start to blend together. It’s true that they will all provide you with fundamental business skills and bulk up your leadership qualities. But there are critical nuances you will need to understand to answer the ‘why X school’ question convincingly and, more importantly, decide which program is ultimately right for you if you are fortunate enough to be accepted.

In the age of COVID-19, networking has clearly changed and the vast majority (if not all) will be done virtually. Setting up calls or short Zoom sessions with current students and alums is a great way to hear about individual experiences, all the more beneficial if their background or goals are aligned with your own. Schools are also expanding their offerings of video and virtual content, from campus tours to sessions with the admissions team. But perhaps the most efficient way to network, especially if you are trying to learn about a number of programs, is through MBA fairs and tours.

These events, all virtual for now, gather representatives from multiple programs for presentations and, in many cases, small group or even individual networking sessions.  One of my clients recently signed up for a tour and, almost instantaneously after sharing a few details of her profile, was sent requests for MeetUp sessions with nearly all of her top choice programs. The great thing about these virtual networking sessions is that the capacity is limited so there’s less of a chance that you’ll be stuck in a ‘circle of death’ trying to get the admissions officer’s ear than there would have been at an in-person event. However, be sure to grab one of those spots quickly, as meetings with the popular programs will fill up.

While the below list is by no means exhaustive, here are a few MBA fairs and tours you may want to consider attending:

  • QS World MBA Tour (various dates in September & October based on geography): this event attracts a broad range of programs, including many international ones, and offers an opportunity for a virtual resume review (for free!) and access to scholarships
  • Poets & Quants CentreCourt MBA Festival (October 6th & 7th): this event attracts a large number of top programs, including all of the M7
  • The MBA Tour (dates throughout Fall & Winter): this event also attracts a wide range of programs and has events ‘based’ in a number of cities to help with time zone challenges
  • Forte MBA Forums for Women (various dates in September & October): geared toward women as the name implies, these events provide peer support and strong networking opportunities with top schools

In preparation for an MBA tour / fair, be sure to have your ‘elevator pitch’ prepared and polished. This is basically a short statement of introduction that highlights your professional background, career goals, and why an MBA is the next step in your journey. You should also have a few specific questions prepared for each of the programs you anticipate talking to during the event. Lastly, it’s always a great idea to send a short thank you note to the hosts of the small group events you attend – they will take notice and file it away.

If you’d like to discuss your networking approach (or anything else application-related) in detail, contact us here for a free 30-minute consultation.


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