In order to visit the campus at an effective time, we suggest that you check the academic calendar to ensure that the visit will coincide with classes and not vacation (when the school is closed, therefore making it impossible to form a complete impression) or test periods (when everyone is busy and no one will have time to talk to you). It is advisable to visit during the height of the semester and usually preferable to visit in the middle of the week (not the weekend) when the campus is active. If you visit during a semester break, most of the students and some of the faculty won’t be around. The active period is usually from the middle/end of September until the beginning/middle of December, and from the beginning/middle of January until the middle of May (you should verify exact dates with the school – the dates are likely to change from program to program and from year to year).
If you intend to submit your application between August and January, it’s important that you visit the school beforehand in order to gather information and concentrate on preparing your application. Based on past experience, a visit to campus in the months closely preceding the submission of your application is likely to come at the expense of the quality of your application. In such cases, the advantage of a campus visit is likely to be much smaller than the damage caused to your candidacy.
A campus visit can also take place several years before you apply. In our estimation, visiting campus well in advance may be more valuable than visiting close to your application deadline:
A visit to campus well in advance of applying can have several advantages. One of them is the opportunity to familiarize yourself with various schools, the different opportunities, and the world of leading MBA programs and the application process. This will likely help you reach the best decision for the coming years (career development, recommenders, networks), and to identify which schools interest you the most. Another advantage is the ability to build long-term connections with students and possibly even with the faculty members you will meet during your visit. These connections can help you in the future to strengthen your candidacy as the same people you met on campus can send support emails to the admission committee after you submit your application. Long-term connections like these will allow such students to develop and cement the relationship with you, something which is certain to be reflected in the content of the support email and increase its effectiveness. In addition, an early visit is likely to save you time and money if you can combine it with other travel plans from work or within the framework of a vacation.
Other advantages of an early visit to campus are likely to manifest themselves in preparing your application: the fact that the visit takes place a long time before the application is submitted is likely to help you focus on preparing your application as the submission deadline approaches. Candidates who devote time to a campus visit a few weeks or months before submitting their application are sometimes sorry they didn’t visit earlier for two main reasons: A) “I could have spent more time on my application had I visited earlier.” And B) “The visit caused me to change things in my application that I had already prepared,”; “The visit made me understand too late that school X is exactly for me/not for me.” When you write your essays, you can point out that you visited school X years ago. The fact that you visited so early and stayed focused on the school is sure to win you “points”.
Notwithstanding, a visit to the school well in advance has some disadvantages. In the event that you don’t maintain, strengthen and develop the connections you made during your visit, the benefits of the visit will lessen. In addition, an early visit may take place at a stage where your knowledge of the world of leading MBA programs is minimal. In such case, there is a danger that you will say things that might sound “dumb” or “out of context”. You can close that gap with a little research and a preliminary chat with an alumnus/student. Likewise, insufficient knowledge may prompt you to visit schools that you will find irrelevant in the future (i.e. “Had I waited, I could have saved the visit.”) However, keep in mind that a visit will likely help you decide which schools are relevant for you…
In addition, you need to take into account that some of the information you pick up during your visit will be outdated after a year or two.