Digging Deep with Your MBA Program Research: Anecdotes & Advocates
Communicating with insiders (current students, alumni, and faculty members) can be beneficial to your MBA applications for a number of reasons. In addition to learning about a given school and your potential fit, you’ll also generate material for your essays, demonstrate your interest in the program, and perhaps even make an ally or two.
As you aim to go beyond the schools’ websites and promotional materials, we specifically recommend reaching out to individuals in a few key groups:
People who are currently enrolled in a given program can obviously provide the clearest picture of the present state of the school community. They are often able to describe their school’s overall culture more vividly than brochures put out by the admissions offices. Current students can also help you understand the ins and outs of academic and extracurricular options.
So how do you get in touch with MBA students at your target schools? One obvious strategy is to reach out to friends and acquaintances who are studying at a given school (or who know someone who is). It’s also helpful to get in touch with the leaders of clubs and programs in which you are interested; their contact information is generally available through the club website. This will help you to understand the club’s needs and priorities, as well as the impact you could make while on campus. Students can also provide a sounding board on this topic as you work to demonstrate your potential contribution during the admissions process.
While students offer a great view of the program itself, a school’s graduates can often provide the best perspective on just how far an MBA from a given program can get you in a certain field. Meeting with alumni working in your target post-MBA industry (tracking them down either through your own network or school-sponsored events) may help you anticipate the program’s strengths and weaknesses in setting you on the right professional course. You might also gain some valuable insight that will help you to refine your career goals and better understand what short-term position would best prepare you for your long-term plan.
Professors at business school tend to be a bit less accessible than students and alumni, but if you’ve identified someone whose research interests match yours or if you’ve sat in on a class that you found particularly intriguing, there’s no harm in sending a note to let the faculty member know and to ask them for a brief call or meeting. The individuals responsible for designing and delivering the MBA curriculum can offer great insight into the specific skills and lessons you would learn from one class to the next, and improve your understanding of the ways that an MBA would bridge the gap between your current skills and those you will need to achieve your goals.
So if you’re working on a business school application, consider reaching out! These folks are often happy to discuss their experiences with prospective students, and admissions committees also like thoroughly informed applicants (of course in all cases, patience and manners are of great importance). You might also gain advocates from your target b-schools, who you can later tap for unofficial ‘letters of support’ after you have submitted an application.