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Why Choosing an MBA Program in Person is Better than Online

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Christophe Coutat

Meeting and speaking with schools gives you a direct connection to your programs of interest.

Christophe Coutat is Founder and CEO of Advent Group – the organizer of the international Access MBA and Access Masters Tours

Much as in our lives, technology has left its mark on the business education industry in a way that has changed it fundamentally. Online MBA degrees, blended Executive MBA programs, MOOCs. Now we have them all. Teaching, which was once exclusively immediate and real, has gone virtual. But there is more than one reason that face-to-face meetings and discussions have continued to thrive in the MBA world, particularly in regards to finding the right business school. 

  1. Personalization

    Despite the sleek visuals, exquisite language, and numerous rankings coming from prestigious publications, a month or two spent doing online research often leads to confusion among MBA candidates. All schools start to look the same. Naturally, future MBA students want to know what they’re signing up for. What is the added value of each university? And more importantly, how can certain institutions cater to their personal goals?

    Face-to-face meetings with school representatives provide a first-hand idea of the school’s style and focus. Do they emphasize entrepreneurship, or do they excel in corporate matters? Are they more strict and traditional, or more dynamic and relaxed? The personality and approach of a school are important factors for MBA candidates to determine before making any decisions, because more often than not, they’ve already become accustomed to working in a certain manner. It is simply easier to discern a school’s distinct approach to teaching, and how it matches one’s expectations and desires, by speaking with them directly in person.

  2. Better grasp of the curriculum

    Business schools have greatly evolved in the past few decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, they were all about spreadsheets and good people governance, but now they mirror business and the way business is conducted – be it in Europe, America or Southeast Asia. Judging by the curricular advantages, which school representatives emphasize, MBA candidates are able to make a much clearer differentiation between the various programmes. “Will this school help me launch my long-anticipated Singaporean start-up, or will it pave the way for my dream career in the London City?” Students can have very different aspirations. Unfortunately, when researching online, candidates are often led to believe that any school can get them where they want to be. However, that misconception is not as easily conveyed in a private conversation with an actual person.

  3. Negotiating opportunities

    From the candidates’ point of view, school selection and admission might seem like something more akin to what they did years ago when they were getting into their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programs. The truth of the matter, though, is that business schools can be as interested in having a certain candidate become their alumnus as that candidate is interested in becoming their student. Fifteen minutes of conversing in private can sometimes cause intense interest, and it is possible that negotiations for admission and financial support happen right on the spot. This is the unique advantage of in-person events. Similar opportunities are much less likely to develop online, as people tend to trust what they see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears. 

  4. Real-time support

    Most physical MBA events and fairs have the added advantage of on-the-spot candidate services. GMAT preparation, admissions consulting, funding opportunities, and candidate-to-school matching are just a few of the benefits of participating in a one-to-one MBA event. Meetings are scheduled in advance, MBA candidates take the time to ask their questions and listen to the answers, and they leave with more than just a pack of brochures in hand. At the events, school representatives and business education consultants are within human reach and ready to assist. This is in stark contrast to online services, where all questions are being directed to a small team of employees, who have to answer to thousands of potential candidates. 
Business schools adapt and innovate all the time, and that has created a very dynamic sector – a collection of education institutions capable of appeasing any taste. However, it is my belief that all the other services around these institutions have, over the years, enriched the business education sector to the point where they do not simply complement, but complete it. The existence of services which provide MBA selection in-person rather than on the web is proof of that.