By Heream Yang
MBA fairs are a great way to discover new schools and network with recruiters, alumni, and current students. But if you’ve never attended one, you might not know how to make the most of it, or what the etiquette is. In our series of articles, we’ll explain how prospective students can maximize their experiences before, during, and after MBA fairs.
In our first installment, the Vanderbilt Business MBA admissions team answers your FAQs on what to know before you go to your first MBA fair:
Why should I attend an MBA fair?
While business school websites can provide valuable information on admissions statistics, student life, and career outcomes, MBA fairs offer attendees the opportunity to ask deeper questions about culture, admissions criteria, and other subjective topics.
“We often ask ourselves why we go to fairs, too, because it seems like you could get all the information you need on a website,” said Christie St-John, Director of MBA Recruiting and Admissions. “But the thing that you get at a fair that you don’t get from a website is human contact. You’ll meet your recruiter from the school, and they can answer your particular questions then and there. You will also perhaps meet alumni of the school, and maybe current students, depending on the time of the year.”
What should I expect?
MBA fairs are typically held in large hotels in downtown metropolitan areas during the evening on weekdays and the afternoon on weekends. Fairs usually last 2-3 hours and may begin with a panel of admissions representatives, covering general topics like the application process or MBA funding. Some fairs are sponsored by third-party companies and may feature representatives from test prep services, MBA counselors, and student loan companies. Certain fairs also offer opportunities for on-site coffee chats or interviews with school admissions officers and representatives.
The key event at MBA fairs is the school fair, where attendees can visit different booths to receive informational brochures and talk with recruiters and alumni. School fairs are typically scheduled towards the middle or end of the MBA fair and are a convenient networking opportunity for those who can’t attend the full event.
“You can really pick and choose from what sessions you think would be most helpful for you,” said Rob Schickler, Associate Director of Recruiting and Admissions. “You definitely want to attend the school fair… but as far as the other panels and presentations, don’t feel like if you can’t attend those, you can’t attend the event.”
When should I start attending MBA fairs?
While it’s never too late to attend an MBA fair, it’s a good idea to get a head start on your preparation so you can have the most beneficial experience possible. “I think the best time to start gathering information is about a year or so before you think about going to the MBA program,” St-John said. “You can certainly go if you’ve decided this year… Start now doing your research and investigation. You need to find out what programs are out there and whether your profile matches programs that you think you’d like to go to.”
MBA fairs kick off in July, when most applicants are in the exploratory stages of their business school search, and continue through early November, past many schools’ Round 1 application deadlines. “It is not too late to attend,” Schickler said. “if you’re applying for this year, in fact, the majority of people at these fairs are usually applying in that academic cycle in which they’re attending (fairs).”
What MBA fairs should I attend?
- For women: Forte MBA Forums
- For underrepresented minorities: Management Leadership for Tomorrow and The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
- For LGBTQ+ community and allies: Reaching Out MBA
- For military service academy alumni: Service Academy Career Conferences
To meet Vanderbilt Business at upcoming MBA fairs, check out the calendar of events.