Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, visiting business schools and speaking with MBA admissions directors face-to-face has become a lot more difficult. However, several companies hosting MBA admissions events are helping candidates get around the issue, by moving their events online.
Creating virtual MBA tours
The MBA Tour, for example, recently hosted its first ever virtual event. Going online was something Petia Whitmore, managing director at The MBA Tour, had been planning for a while, and now was a great time to realize the ambition.
Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Petia explains, schools were still keen to connect with candidates. For this reason, she and her team decided to move their next event—planned for Jakarta—online.
“Candidates came prepared and equipped with questions,” Petia recalls. “It showed a level of interest in these virtual interactions that was very encouraging.”
Other tour providers have been putting similar strategies in place. QS, for instance, has run more than 20 digital events so far, with more planned for the next few months. According to Claire Whittingham, managing director of digital and events at QS, these online events have been a useful way to help candidates continue their business school applications despite disruption.
Access MBA events, too, are going through the shift online. “Instead of cancelling our events, we expanded them to reach out to a wider audience online” comments Christophe Coutat, founder and CEO of the Advent group, which organizes Access MBA events.
Virtual MBA events | Challenges
Attending admissions events online does bring its challenges, however. Interacting with schools online can require more effort than it does face-to-face, while technical difficulties are always a consideration.
Internet access can be patchy in some regions, and not all online platforms work equally well.
“We are trying to mitigate these issues at The MBA Tour,” Petia notes. “There will be live sessions, but there will also be more asynchronous components, like a resource library where candidates can access recordings and supplementary materials.”
Building a virtual tour platform also forced Petia and the team to think carefully about what candidates want to get out of tour events most.
Keeping the small-group interactions of a physical tour was top priority, so she ensured that attendees can still speak to school representatives in a friendly, informal environment—through Zoom calls.
Switching to online events also brings the challenge of staying engaged, which can be a lot more tricky with the distractions of a home environment.
In response, tour providers are condensing events from full day programs into a couple of hours, and taking on feedback from attendees all the time.
The benefits of moving online
Despite the challenges that come with attending a virtual event, getting to know business schools this way does have its advantages.
The flexibility of digital offerings means that it’s easier to access top schools than ever before, Petia explains.
Online events are also more cost-effective to attend—since you won’t need to pay for any travel or accommodation—and offer greater convenience.
If you live outside of the urban hubs where events typically take place, the new prominence of online events will almost certainly improve your access.
In addition, online offerings could curtail the environmental impact of globe-trotting tours.
“The ability to offer digital events as a complement to our physical events allows us to provide a more sustainable opportunity to make connections,” Claire from QS reflects.
The future for virtual events
Even when the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic is over, Claire does not think that virtual tours will disappear when large gatherings and international travel are possible again.
At the MBA Tour, too, Petia expects virtual events to complement tour schedules in the future. “Even when we return to normal, whatever that looks like, the possibilities we’re discovering will continue to be viable,” she says.
Petia and her team are currently perfecting an immersive online platform, where future events can be hosted. The platform will help you get the most out of events through features like networking chat rooms and dedicated booths for attending business schools.
Whatever the future holds, event providers like The MBA Tour are confident in the continued value of business school, and will keep helping you connect with programs that fit your goals.