One of the most valuable aspects of attending a top-ranked MBA program is the amazing network you cultivate during those two years. The MBA Insiders Blog at UCLA Anderson School of Management has just published a helpful article noting how your interactions with the alumni of your target MBA programs can help you determine whether the school is a good fit for your personality and career goals.
Alumni can usually provide the most honest opinion on which courses will translate into future job opportunities, and point out which social opportunities allow you to really connect with other students outside of the classroom to help build that network foundation.
Alex Lawrence, Assistant Dean & Director of Admissions for the Full-Time MBA Program, writes this latest post in Anderson’s From the Dean’s Desk series, and below are his top 5 reasons why you should connect with alumni during your application process.
- Experience the school culture. Each school has its own culture and climate. Speaking with alumni allows you to experience that culture first hand. You can also ask what type of people attend the school (bankers, consultants, marketers, teachers). Ask if it is a competitive environment, do people support each other, is diversity and inclusion valued at the school, etc.
- Get advice on best way to visit campus /see program in full action. Alumni can provide great advice on how to structure your visit, how to contact
faculty, meet with students, possibly sit in on a class, etc.
- Gain insights into career options and opportunities. One of the top reasons you are going to business school is to advance your career. Alumni are great resources to understand the impact of the school’s career management center on his/her career, what companies recruit/hire students at that school, learn about the career outcomes of other alumni.
- Provide a window into specific experiences. Business school is not just about taking classes. It is a wonderful way to test your limits and get out of your comfort zone. Alumni can provide a “window” into specific experiences for consideration—favorite courses, school faculty, classmates, global experiences, signature conferences, academic internships, community service, etc.
- Get answers to the “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” questions. Alumni can provide information that’s otherwise hard to find, such as answers to questions about financing your MBA and learning about pre-MBA internship opportunities.
The best way to reach out to alumni is through friends, family and colleagues, since that connection will incentivize them to give you a really honest insider’s perspective. If you can’t get in touch with anyone directly, reach out to the schools themselves and they’ll be able to put you in touch with someone willing to talk to you.
Nothing compares with hearing firsthand accounts that offer a realistic view of the business school experience that go beyond the brand messages of school websites and admissions events. Have conversations about why they decided to go to business school, why they chose the program they did, what were the highlights or surprises of their experience, and what they wish they had known when starting this process.
It truly is the people, not the brochure bullet points, that bring a school to life, so the more person-to-person contact you have, the more informed you will be when it comes time to apply—and when you finally set foot on campus.