Not all business schools allow visitors to sit in on a class, but if they do, it’s a great way to sample the wares. Just make sure you don’t make the wrong impression as you participate.
Every business school encourages in-person visits. Touring around campus and meeting current and prospective students is a great way to try a target school on for size. In fact, it’s not advisable to apply to a school if you haven’t visited in person because schools often view non-visiting applicants as being not as serious as those who take the time to stop by. Some schools even allow for an informal interview during your visit, with a select handful of schools even providing official interview options if you schedule them far enough in advance---a tremendous advantage.
But what about sitting in on a class while you’re there?
The class visit is usually the most popular component of the in-person tour. Most often, you are met by a class ambassador who escorts you into a regular session of a popular class (usually with a well-liked professor) where you spend the entire lecture just as if you would if you were a real MBA student. They typically must be scheduled in advance, but occasionally you can get added in if you are already on campus. The class visit is designed to give you a taste of what it will actually be like as an MBA candidate there, but is really done in an effort to sway someone to choose their school---in short, it’s a sales pitch disguised as an instructional session.
While the class visit is a low-risk opportunity to pretend you are an MBA student for a day, there are a few cautionary tales to tell.
One thing to watch out for is your instinct to actually participate in the class. The thing to remember is that you are a guest, not an actual student, so in general, you should not speak unless spoken to. Sometimes, a professor will call you out to answer a question or to add to the discussion, but for the most part, you are there to observe, not to impress them with your knowledge or enthusiasm for the topic. I have seen and heard of plenty of mis-steps with over zealous class visitors who can’t help themselves before blurting out something that either makes a bad impression, or at least makes them appear rude or presumptuous. The good news is, you don’t have to take notes!