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Campus Visits

August 9th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General, Interface Times, Interviews

"The world is your oyster."

The value of campus visits

All schools encourage campus visits and some schools, like UCB Berkeley or GSB Chicago, have asked how you learned about the school or whether you have made a campus visit in their application questions. Here’s the way Berkeley (Haas) admissions puts it:

“The best way to know what it is really like to be a Berkeley MBA student is to come visit, meet current students and faculty, and observe a class. Visiting gives you a chance to experience the Haas culture and community, and to learn more about both the Haas School of Business and UC Berkeley campus. We strongly encourage a visit because it could be helpful for you to determine if the program is a match for your needs. If you cannot make it to campus, Full-Time MBA Admissions sponsors a variety of off-campus information sessions and participates in MBA Fairs around the world. You can also connect with current students through the Haas Student Ambassadors.

We understand that not everyone has the ability to make a campus visit; therefore we do not have a preference for applicants who have been to campus. However, we are interested to see what you have done to learn more about the program, and what specific aspects of the Berkeley MBA appeal to you.”

Other schools like Columbia, which has an Early Decision Round, are critically interested in making sure that students who apply in that round are committed to go to Columbia if accepted. Students vowing that they want to go to Columbia in New York City but have never visited the campus open up a credibility gap.

If you are unable to visit the schools, try your best to attend an Information Session in Tokyo or in a nearby Asian location. For example, Berkeley will offer an Off-Campus Admissions Event in Seoul October 24, 2011 and in Tokyo October 26, 2011.

And whether you can make a physical campus or not, be sure to watch the 52 minute Interface video on our Home page ( You will see a picture of an iconic Harvard building in the video window, right above the Topics section. This 52 minute video covers 18 of the leading MBA schools worldwide and offers tips regarding your choice of schools.

Visits to the campus of the schools that represent your primary targets are certainly valuable. There is no substitute for “seeing with your own eyes.” You get a first-hand feeling for the culture of a school. You get a chance to sit in on a class, sensing the quality of the interaction and the students. In the final analysis, the quality of the students with whom you will be spending two years of your life is the single most important criterion in choosing a school.

Moreover, by making a campus visit, you demonstrate that you are seriously interested in the program, willing to spend the time and money to make the visit. You can talk to current students, Japanese and non-Japanese, attend an on-campus information session, and observe a class. You can cite your visit and impressions in your application.

These days the cost of overseas airline travel is not as expensive as it once was. In a well-planned trip, within a week you can visit several schools. For planning purposes, allow yourself at least one day for each school, which includes the travel time required.

With careful logistics and scheduling, if your time is particularly limited, you can compress two campus visits in a day. For example, in New York, if you arrange your trip carefully, and the information sessions and class visit availability works out conveniently, you might be able to visit both Columbia and NYU in a full day, HBS and MIT in a full day, and Chicago and Kellogg in a full day. I have done so— although the scheduling quite tight and is not ideal.

What is the best timing for these visits?

I recommend that you make the visits when classes are in session and when there are plenty of students around. In an ideal world, you would visit your primary targets during one trip and then make a second trip when you are accepted by the schools—to make your final decision and get more detailed information about housing (or arrange it) as well as summer school, and discuss other issues .

If you can, take your spouse with you on these trips, at least the second trip. Remember that during the one or two years that you will be overseas your family will, in most cases, accompany you, so that bringing your spouse is a nice step to build mutual support for your studies.

Should I interview during campus visits?

Many of the schools allow interviews by selection only. For campus visits at this early stage, you will not be interviewing. It is dangerous and premature to do so before you even have a game plan and your essays prepared.

In any case, never take an interview on campus unless you have been professionally trained at Interface for such interviews. I have known well-qualified candidates who made the mistake of prematurely getting into interviews during campus visits without professional training and who failed miserably. One was later accepted by Stanford— which fortunately for him did not allow interviews on campus, and he was trained by Interface for the Stanford interview to which he was invited.

How should I dress for a campus visit?

Since you are not interviewing, you can dress as students dress on campus. Wear elegant casual clothing suitable for the weather, so-called business casual. If you are eventually invited to a school for an interview, dress as you would for the office, in business attire, men: coat and tie, women: business suits.

What should I do during a campus visit?

Most schools arrange a tour of the campus, sometimes in groups and sometimes with an assigned volunteer. They also offer an information session. Participate in both of these. In addition, they will allow you to sit in on a class. You generally make arrangements for these activities in the admissions office of the school. Sometimes you can walk in on the day of your visit and sign up, although some schools require advanced reservations. Check the information on each school’s web page during your trip planning to arrange the scheduling.

It is important to talk to your Japanese colleagues at the school or those Japanese students with whom you can arrange a meeting, even if for a coffee in the student lounge. I also encourage applicants to show they have guts and international comfort by talking to non-Japanese students.

One tip is to get the name of the officers in the clubs or organizations that interest you at a school, send them an email, and see whether they will meet you during your visit. Always be on the lookout for ways in which you could help that organization were you a student at that school. Think of unique ways in which you can contribute and sound out those ideas with your contacts.

Ask each person you meet what they like best about their student experiences and what they believe could be improved. Ask club members what kind of help they need and see how you could contribute in a specific way.

Can you get into a school without making a campus visit?

Certainly failure to make a campus visit is not going to automatically fail you just like success in making a campus visit is no guarantee that you will be admitted, if you don’t have the required credentials, the winning essays and the winning interviews.

Most Japanese find the time to visit the schools of interest to them by making the time, using accumulated vacation or taking a long weekend plus a few week days. With the right trip planning you can manage a fair number of campus visits with a week.

If you really find it impossible to make campus visits to the schools of your choice, then by all means at least attend the information sessions and other events in Japan offered by the schools or their current students and alumni. The Interface Japanese staff do a great job by informing you of these activities beforehand in the Topics section of our Home Page (

Time flies. In September I will be offering the first group interview training workshops that are dynamite to build the foundation for your interview skills. These workshops are inexpensive and offer networking and other advantages to applicants. I strongly recommend that all MBA applicants join these workshops. Just as winning essays require much more than proficient English, winning interviews require much more than proficient English.

All you need to join the interview workshop is a résumé.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

MBA Consulting: 一石二鳥

May 18th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Interviews, Leadership, Test Preparation

The Louvre Back Court

One of the topics that my clients often bring to the table in MBA consulting and leadership coaching is the desire to enjoy a better work-life balance. Well before the tragedy of March 11 and its aftermath people seemed to be working harder and harder and spending less and less time in leisure activities that rejuvenate and actually improve productivity at work.

With the challenging time demands placed on you in your work and in your test preparation for MBA studies, you likely feel that there is just not the chance to engage in extracurricular activities, no matter how much you wish to.

Attractive MBA candidates have an active life outside-of-work

This absence of activity outside of work leaves your résumé looking shallow compared with candidates who balance their contributions on-the-job with involvement in the community off-the-job. When MBA admissions are assessing the attractiveness of MBA applicants, and the quality of their test scores, academic experiences and professional experiences are judged to be similar, the offer of acceptance may well go to the candidate who is active in extracurricular activities.

Clearly, work is the focus of your life but it is not your only life.

No one would suggest that you not focus on your job and strive for excellence in your professional life. However, if you have no activities outside of work since graduating from your university, and you desire to become involved in your community, ask yourself why you have not taken action. The answer is probably related to the need for improved time management.

Good time management is a skill invaluable for the rest of your career, and as you progress in general management in your organization, you will be increasingly involved in activities outside of your office. These will include social or quasi-social activities important in business and client relationship building. They may involve participation in extracurricular professional organizations, like your local chamber of commerce. Or pro bono lectures at local universities.

Learning to “kill two birds with one stone”

A good time manager knows how to “kill two birds with one stone” as the idiom goes, and sometimes more than two. You would be surprised at how much extra time you can squeeze out of a day if you work at it. Remember that the skill development in time management that you acquire during this phase, when your are preparing your MBA application, is an ability essential to succeed in MBA studies, during which you will be required to read, analyze, and discuss hundreds of pages a week of materials written in English, and to interact daily in English on study teams or in group projects with your MBA classmates.

Improve your English in the real world

Most of you are struggling to improve your iBT test scores in preparation for your MBA or other graduate school application, and the most likely greatest challenge for you in the iBT test is the speaking section, consisting of several tasks integrating listening and reading skills with spoken English. Unless you supplement formal study of iBT textbook material with informal practical English discussion in the real world, your improvement may be far less than your potential.

Already worried about being called on in an MBA class? This is the so-called ‘cold call’, in which suddenly your professor may ask your opinion on any of the material assigned for your MBA classes. Don’t wait until MBA summer school to prepare for such English communication. Start now by speaking English and developing English-language negotiating skills to enhance your iBT score, improve your ability for MBA study itself, or for that matter, for your entire life.


You can “kill (more than) two birds with one stone” by integrating the focused study you are doing for the iBT with participation in Toastmasters International, a virtually free-of-charge public speaking organization with branches around the world, and even chapters in overseas MBA and other graduate schools, including Kellogg, Harvard (Kennedy School), and MIT. There is even a Wharton alumni club Toastmasters in the Silicon Valley.

Aside from presenting prepared English-language speeches in Toastmasters, you will also have chances to “think on your feet” in extemporaneous public speaking and discussions of current issues, training that will improve your iBT score, pre-prepare you for MBA interviews, and provide interactive English practice simulating the real world of an MBA student.

Consider, for example, the TABLE TOPICS component of Toastmasters meetings. For 20 or 30 minutes before the prepared speeches, your Topicsmaster will select a topic and call on several members in your group to give an impromptu 1-2 minute response. You may be asked to give your opinion and will learn to concisely present 2 or 3 reasons to support it. Other exercises ask you to state a problem and its causes, indicate a goal and the ways to achieve it, or describe a process.

Many of my clients enjoy Toastmasters not only for the value in developing their English communication ability but also for the opportunity to broaden their international network and develop their leadership as officers in the club. You will learn to speak like a leader. I have never known a leader who could not communicate effectively. Have you?

How to join Toastmasters

1.    Go to Toastmasters International @

2.    Use the ‘Find’ function to locate a Toastmasters club near you, or start up a club, in itself a leadership opportunity.

3.    In Japan there are 108 Toastmasters clubs, including 19 in Tokyo. Some meet during breakfast or lunch time, others in the evening, some on weekends. Select and visit the club most convenient to you in location to your office or home, or in the scheduling of its meetings.

It’s as simple as that.

Happy Toastmastering!

All the best,
Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier