The MBA admissions process has long been considered by some to be a black box. Some define it that way because of its unpredictability. And others for its perceived inconsistency and secrecy. But despite its mysterious reputation, one thing is pretty certain, there usually isn’t a “right” answer or “single” answer to most questions anyhow. Instead admissions teams look at applications holistically. They seek out nuances most of us don’t consider. They interesting analyze trends and patterns. They can spot inconsistencies from a mile away. And they give credibility to the intangible things that many of us might overlook.
The good news is that things have changed a bit over the past few years. Admissions information has become more accessible and the internet has made it far easier to gain access to critical pieces of admissions statistics that we look for. In less than a second, a well-crafted google search can get you just about anything you need, from past interview questions, to average scores at schools, to employment and pay information. But some questions still remain ambiguous, like the one from my reader who asked whether attending Kellogg’s BMA conference this year would influence her chances of admission. Check out our exchange below!
My question is in reference to the Kellogg BMA conference that is coming up. Do you see attendance to this conference as significantly beneficial to prospective students (looking to apply this fall)?
Thanks so much for your question and for reading my blog. As I mentioned in my introduction above, most questions don’t have a single answer, and I personally think that this question fits into that category. For the benefit of all the readers out there who might be pondering a similar question, I’ll try to break the question down both broadly and specific to your case.
But before I get into the answer, I’d like to point out to all my readers that the BMA Conference is a great event that not only gets a really good turnout every year but also tends to draw some pretty big name speakers and panelists. This year Soledad O’Brien (from CNN) has agreed to head to campus and help kick-off the event by chatting with some students and professors on Wednesday. Click here for the full conference agenda.
Now to respond to your question — On the surface, I’d say a attending conferences here at Kellogg, or at any school for that matter, will not be seen as a significant factor in your application. I can’t speak personally about what goes on in the minds of AdCom members when they’re making final decisions on candidates, but as I’ve alluded to in a number of posts before, admissions decisions are rarely made on the basis of one data point. I suspect this is especially true about data points that don’t give the committees more information about you. So I’d speculate that it’s pretty unlikely that an admissions decision would hinge on your attendance at the conference. You can also think about it numerically — consider the number of admits that get into Kellogg every single year but never come to a conference, and never even considered coming. I suspect that number must be huge. That said, I don’t think you should make up your mind so quickly. My perspective is that the decision is not quite that simple.
I think the real answer to this question is it depends. Because depending on how you’d frame the question of “what is beneficial” to you could easily change your answer. Is it most important for you to visit and learn about Kellogg? Do you want to get a better feel for the culture? Do you want to learn about the curriculum? Or are you looking to show the admissions committee you’re really interested? As I like to emphasize in nearly all of my posts, it’s my opinion that people far too often expect answers to be binary and they hope for solutions that will add tangible value to their profiles. But it often turns out that it’s more important to consider a broader range of possible benefits, some that often pay off in the longer term. I think that this also holds true for your question.
For example, in my opinion these conferences are a great way to meet smart and high-potential people — students and alumni — who were once in your shoes. Consider the possibilities that come with that. It’s quite possible you’ll make a really great connection, maybe a mentor, maybe someone who has good advice about the essays or general process, or maybe just a good friend. Or perhaps you’ll stumble across that one hidden jewel of information you didn’t know you were looking for. The gem that helps your bring your application story together and leads you to the promise land of better articulating your career passion.
A conference might also be the gateway to finally catch a live snapshot of the school’s culture. In fact, I just wrote a post earlier today where I raved for pages about Kellogg’s culture. And while I’d definitely be grateful if you continue to read my posts, there’s definitely no substitute for watching things happen real-time. Another thing I also said in my that post is that the MBA world can start to feel pretty small sometimes. So if you’re definitely set on applying to programs this year, then there’s the chance you may see some of the others again, even if you didn’t end up deciding to come to Kellogg.
To give you a little background about me, I personally made a trip or two to Kellogg while I was applying. And fortunately, I was able to meet a lot of really great people on my trips. On my first trip, I met a second year student — she ironically happened to be my class host — who I connected with right away during class, and it just so happened we kept in touch as I applied. And although she was a couple of years ahead of me, and is currently living the good life out in New York City, we still chat regularly and sometimes meet up when she’s here in the windy city.
That said, I’ll stress that I didn’t visit Kellogg with the singular goal of finding a resource. Instead, I came to experience campus, gather information, and meet lots of people. And that I definitely did. That said, I suspect that most people who visit probably have very different experiences, but I do believe that anyone who visits campus and is intent on gathering information about the school will usually be able to find what they’re looking for.
Sound like a lot to consider? I think so too. But in the end, the “tangible” benefit will be more correlated to what you make of the experience than it is of your actual attendance. And so you’ll have to balance all these potential benefits with the costs that you’d incur by coming and then decide if it’s worth it for you. And for some people it won’t be. And so my only “actual” piece of advice is just to consider everything on both sides (costs and benefits) and do what makes the most sense for you.
And, like I said before, the good news is that your attendance shouldn’t make or break your application. So try not to stress too much about it. But if you do decide to register, then the sooner the better, so you can take advantage of the early bird discount. Good luck with your decision!