10 creative ways to show your target schools the love

Charli TaylorMBA Applications

Let’s talk about a sensitive subject: rejection.

I know it’s on your mind right now as MBA deadlines approach fast. You’ve probably spent more than a minute or two contemplating that dreaded ding. Will a gong ring in your ears when you get the email? How much will it hurt to know your dreams of attending school X have been snuffed?

If you’re applying to multiple schools – as you’d better be! – then rejection by at least one or two of them is virtually inevitable. And we speak from experience – even if you get into five schools, the one that dings you stings. Because no human enjoys rejection.

But it’s not your rejection we wanna talk about right now.

It’s the school’s. Because – as I just said – NO human likes rejection. And guess what other people are human… School administrators, deans, and admissions committee members!! Betcha didn’t think about that!!

Here are some of your favorite schools’ rejection stats:

Business school (name) (state) Rejection rate
Harvard 9.1%
Stanford 10.9%
BYU (Marriott) 22.2%
Arizona State (Carey) 28.3%
Columbia 30.2%
Wharton 32.9%
Penn State (Smeal) 37.2%
Wisconsin 38.5%
MIT Sloan 39.7%
Texas-Dallas (Jindal) 40.4%

(Source: US News and World Report 2017 data via Poets and Quants)

In other words, this is the percentage of students that each school admits, but who then reject the school in favor of some other school or career option. Ouch, Wharton. That’s gotta sting having a lower yield than Arizona State!

Kinda makes you have more compassion for the hardworking staff of your favorite school’s adcom, doesn’t it? As I was writing this article, Poets&Quants published this awesome look into school yields. Check it out for more perspective.

Why not make their job a little easier and prove to them that you’re not a rejection risk?!

It’s compassionate. And it’s great admissions strategy.

So, I know one thing you’ve heard a million times is that you simply have to visit the school if you are a serious contender.  While there are countless good reasons to check out your intended MBA digs, for some, visiting Mars seems like a likelier proposition.  What do you do if you are half way around the world or real life intervenes?

Adcoms understand that it’s not realistic for everyone to come to campus, but they want to be assured that you are sincerely engaged and have done your due diligence.  They LOVE their school and they want to make sure that you do too! Just think about it – if you were running the adcom, wouldn’t YOU prioritize candidates that you KNEW were serious about your school? They’re going to look for all the signs that the feeling of love is mutual – that if they say yes to you, you will say yes to them.

So I’ve compiled…

10 ways to connect and show your school spirit:

And since my personal passion is all you amazing internationals, I am giving it an international focus. So here are things you can do even if you’re far far away.

1.     Connect with alumni in your country.

You can find alumni contacts through the adcom, the school’s alumni office, at school events in your country, social media and of course, through good ol’ LinkedIn. Remember, be thoughtful about the alumni you connect with. Especially with “cold calls” on LinkedIn, you will probably have a higher rate of success of you reach out to those with whom you share a common interest, like an industry for example. Don’t be shy to ask them for an informational interview. Alumni are passionate and proud of their school so come prepared with great, well-researched questions and make sure to follow up with thank you notes within 24 hours of your visit.

2.     Find an alumni club in your city

Most schools have alumni clubs that operate in major metropolitans globally, and these clubs do cool things.  Booth has a worldwide alumni night (coming up in September – if you’re in Italy, you can meet our founder there!) and Cornell has their famous Zink’s night celebrated around the world in October. HBS organizes public lectures by HBS alumni and visiting professors. Loads of alumni clubs host events and many of them want you, as a prospective student, to attend.  Why? Because if they think you are a good prospect, they want to make you feel like one of the gang so you’ll choose them when it comes time to accept an offer.

3.     Research the international activities of your target school.

Business schools are increasingly expanding their global reach.  Professors lecture abroad and organize international projects for their students. Students attend treks and clubs and centers often have international outreach. You won’t always find out about these events through the adcom, but if you are savvy, you might find members of the community coming to a city near you.  More often than not, they would love to welcome you to a lecture or out for a couple of pints (of beer or ice cream but probably beer).

4.     Make sure that you are in the CRM of the admissions office.

As an admissions and recruitment officer, I’ve held numerous in-country events for prospective students at various stages of the application process and my first port of call to connect with them was through our trusty CRM. If you haven’t done it yet, go to your favorite schools’ webpage and signup today!  Sign up for their email list and set up your application, including your geography, so they know where to find you!

5.     Check for exchange programs in your vicinity

Schools are more interconnected then ever and exchange programs are becoming the norm. Have a look on the school website to see if students from your target school are on exchange in your region. If so, reach out to them and see if you can connect.  Sometimes they’ll work with the adcom to host informal events.

6.     Show up at online events.

Admissions offices often host online events just for people like you who can’t show up. They are making the effort to reach out, connect and support you, so show ‘em a bit of love back by showing up virtually.  Remember their trusty CRM?  Well, a little known industry secret is often, when you attend events, online or otherwise, it’s noted in the CRM so the adcom has a record of your engagement.  Pretty cool, huh? So show up and ENGAGE. Don’t be clicking through all your other open tabs or they will know you’re not paying attention.

7.     Get social

Nearly every school is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (hey, bonus – we are too – follow us for awesome top tips).  Follow them and engage and you could pick up valuable information about your school as well as vital contacts with current students and other aspiring applicants –  oops – I mean potential future roommates!!!

BTW, we made this easy for you. Just give us your email on the popup dancing around on this page to download the complete list of the top 25 schools’ twitter and insta feeds!

8.     Stalk Students (politely, of course!).

Speaking of current students, reach out to members of school clubs that are relevant to your interests! We compile a list of these links for our clients, but a quick google search will get you there! Ask for an informational interview with club chairs in your career-focused club of choice. Stalk students via their public blogs and reach out with a thoughtful comment – they’ll love you for reading and responding.

9.     Chat up Alums through your LinkedIn Network

“Hi, I’m Charli, and I am applying this fall to Kellogg. You and I share a passion for the travel and hospitality industry, and I wonder if you’d have 15 minutes to chat with me and share some of your experiences.”

A polite cold email like this to an alum you find on LinkedIn won’t always get a yes, but it can never hurt! Choose alums that know something about what you know about or what you WANT to know about. Even better, get a shared connection to introduce you. Don’t be shy about asking your existing network to support you by making these useful connections.

10. Go to Campus

If you can swing it, do it. Go to campus, take the tour, pop by the admissions office and say hello – make sure your presence is registered. Then follow up with thoughtful thank you notes. Even if there is no formal program when you are there, let the admissions committee know you are stopping by. If you can’t visit campus before you submit your app, consider visiting for the interview if the school offers on campus interviews. There’s just no substitute for living and breathing the life on campus for a day. All the items on this list will show the adcom the love. But this one will help you feel it yourself most of all!

Show the love.

Remember, that many admissions offices have official and informal channels for students, alumni , professors and other members of the community to share insights about a prospective candidate so connecting can help you in more ways than one.  Afraid of putting your head above the parapet? Don’t be. The adcom has a lot of respect for candidates who make a sincere effort. Given that a woefully small percentage of candidates engage in any significant way, you’ll be sure to stand out -even if you can’t visit the campus.

And don’t forget to download our complete list of School Instagram and Twitter accounts!! Get it here!