Art of gathering information from admission officers/current students
Onset of August unofficially kicks off the preparation for applications to B Schools. Applicants start reaching out to admission officers/current students and gathering intelligence about admission process, courses offered, career opportunities, clubs, culture etc. This is a fantastic way to not only evaluate your goal alignment and fit with the school – a place where you will be investing 2 years of your life and considerable amount of financial resources, but also to start building your network and impress the school with your skills, personality and passion.
Every school has its own unique culture and they are always on lookout for applicants who display/possess some key qualities/characteristics that complement their culture. Good insights about a school will help you in unraveling what those key characteristics are and in writing high quality admission essays. During interviews you will be a lot more confident, able to easily distinguish yourself with the plethora of information and immediately strike a chord with your interviewer. Once you do that, then nothing stands between you and your admission offer.
But reaching out for information is a process that requires skill, a systematic approach and above all patience. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that applicants should keep in mind as they reach out to current students/admission officers. You will be able to extract quality information in least amount of time, build your network and leave a good impression.
- Do your own homework on basic information:-
This seems very basic. However, many students skip going through the school website and rely on current students for information such as class size, class profile, placement stats, clubs and specialization offered etc. Websites contain a wealth of information and are regularly updated with latest information that even current students may be unaware of. Not doing your basic research reflects poorly on the applicant.
- Do give a short 2 line background about yourself.
Always give a short 2 line description about yourself when reaching out to someone for the first time. It will help the other person build a mental impression about you. Include your prior industry experience, future career interest and nationality if you are an international student. Leave out all personal details.
- Do give reference of people
If you are contacting someone in school because some third person recommended him/her, then give your recommender’s reference when you introduce yourself. Your chances of getting a response then increase exponentially. More so because may be the admission staff/student greatly values his/her relationship with your recommender. Also make sure to keep your recommender updated about your meetings. It shows that you respect and take his guidance seriously and can seek out his help next time.
- Do try to get an appointment as a first step rather than information.
This is something I have learnt from my experience in retail & service industry. When you are making a sale or need something from someone, first try to build a relationship. Once you do it, your next steps are a cakewalk. So focus on building a relationship rather than simply asking for information during your first interaction with current students/admission office. People love to talk about themselves and their work. So a good starting point is by asking students about their work and achievements. Each interaction will tell you something new about that student and give you a starting point for your next conversation. Keep on strengthening that bond and you will see the student/admission officer gradually turning into your strong advocate.
- Do give students time to respond.
July, August, September and October are super busy months. Students are busy wrapping up internships or preparing for full time job placements. So expect a delay in getting a response. Patience is the key here.
- Be courteous.
While writing emails, be courteous. Recognize the fact that the other person is helping you out for no apparent benefit. Sometimes people unknowingly give a perception of things that is different from reality. Make sure that even with your best feelings in heart you are not giving a wrong perception. If that is the case, be clear that you will not get a response and your probability of getting an admission reject also sky rockets.
- Do proof read
Always ask someone else to proof read your emails before sending them out. Grammatical errors can sometimes leave a bad impression and project you as someone who is sloppy or does not give attention to details.
- DO send a thank you note after your interaction
Always send a well-crafted thank you note whenever you speak/Skype/call an admission officer or current student, preferably within 24 hours. Acknowledge their efforts. It leaves a positive impression. Though sending a thank-you note is not going to increase your chances of admission but not sending might dent, though in rare cases. But why take chances.
- Don’t come up with a laundry list of questions.
I sometimes get emails from applicants asking me anywhere from 10 to 15 questions. Never do that! It is a big turn off and your email will most probably end up in trash folder. No one has time to read so many questions, leave aside answering them. In emails, limit yourself to maximum 3 most pressing questions. Later on as you strengthen your bond, you can reach out and ask more questions.
- Don’t ask open ended or vague questions.
Applicants regularly ask questions like – “How can your school help me break into consulting”? Such questions are very broad and open to diverse interpretations. The answers can be long and people will tend to skip/avoid answering them. Try to be as specific as possible in your questions, like mention which industry/function you want to break into as a consultant. It will help people give you relevant and quality information.
- Don’t ask for profile evaluation please.
Please! Please! Please! Never ask any admission officer or student to evaluate your profile. First of all, it is a fruitless exercise. If there was any one who could predict your future with certainty, he would have been a billionaire by now. Being a MBA student or working as an admissions coordinator would then be the last thing in his mind. Secondly, no one knows what you are capable of achieving in your life except YOU and you don’t want anyone else to define the boundaries or set limits to your aims/aspirations.
- Don’t lose heart if you don’t get any response.
Reaching out to schools/students for information is a tedious process and if you don’t get success initially, it can be disappointing/demoralizing. I would only suggest – don’t lose heart and keep on trying. It is all about perseverance, patience and the right approach. See it as a preparation to what awaits you ahead in B school life. I can say with full conviction that in today’s world, figuring out the correct people, reaching out to them and asking them the right questions in the right manner are some of the fundamental skills required to be successful and neither many people have those skills nor do they get a chance to develop them. So make full use of this opportunity.
(Disclaimer: The writer is currently a student at Kelley School of Business and is a volunteer at Hoosier Host – a students outreach program at Kelley for prospective students. However the views expressed over here are writer’s personal views and have no relation to Kelley School of Business)