As most incoming MBA students know, the network you cultivate during business school is likely the most valuable part of the experience. Through the Internet and social media, you can get a head start and build your business school network as early as the application phase. That network can help you research schools, decide where to apply, and support you throughout your candidacy.
In addition to making those two years a whole lot of fun, these relationships will also become a lasting set of connections that have the potential to change the course of your professional life forever.
Here are three ways to build your business school network before you even set foot on campus.
Be social media savvy:
Business schools want to expand their follower base to share news, deadlines, and admissions events with prospective students. Follow your target MBA programs on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. School-sponsored student blogs, such as the Booth Experience blog from the University of Chicago, are another great resource.
Use these online vehicles to learn about the school and to personally connect. Friend people who can be your peers. Once admitted, you can take all of this social networking one step further. Don’t attempt to friend any of the admissions folks on Facebook. But do feel free to follow them on Twitter. Engage by asking thoughtful questions about the admissions process, and learn all you can from them.
Another way to get on the admissions team’s radar is by keeping them apprised of your progress with a tweet. For example, you could write something like: “Submitted my Round 1 application to @MichiganRoss today. Super excited for a chance to participate in the team-based interview.”
If you don’t consider social media to be another way to build your business school network and strengthen your candidacy, you may be missing out on a great opportunity that other MBA applicants will most certainly take advantage of.
Ask to be introduced to current students who share your interests:
Visit campus and go out of your way to meet specific students in person whenever possible. If you’re interested in finance, ask someone to introduce you to the head of the finance club. Find out who is running the women’s association if you’re a female candidate targeting that school.
Call the admissions office and ask to be connected to a student who is doing something you want to do, such as pursuing your dream entrepreneurial goals or concentrating on green business practices. Admissions should be able to hook you up with like-minded individuals who can help you understand how the school can serve your goals.
Once you’ve made contact, these are great people to stay loosely in touch with as you make up your final list of schools. Sometimes, you can even name drop a bit in your essays to show you have really done personal research and gotten to know the program and its student body.
Now is also a great time to reach out to alumni and current students that you already know. Reinvest in those relationships and talk to them about their experiences and how an MBA degree has enhanced their careers.
Work MBA admissions events to your advantage:
Go to as many business school admissions events as you possibly can. This is a great way to decide if a certain program is legitimately the right place for you by hearing students and alums speak, and by sizing up the way a school markets itself.
As a bonus, attending an event shows your interest and that you have done your homework. It makes a school feel loved. Everyone likes to feel loved, even admissions committee members.
It can be hard to stand out at these events swarming with people hoping to make a good impression. But sometimes you will have that meaningful conversation that can make a world of difference. Business schools often recruit local alumni to attend these events and help sell their program to prospective students. You may encounter people working in the same industry you hope to after earning an MBA degree.
To build your business school network during such events, try to find two or three people who match up with your experience and goals. Learn how their business school experience transformed them personally or professionally. If the person is willing to speak with you outside of the event, ask for an informational interview. Over coffee or even email, you can learn more about how he or she successfully transitioned to their current career.
It truly is the people, not the brochure bullet points, that bring a school to life. So the more person-to-person contact you have, the more informed you will be when it comes time to apply – and when you finally set foot on campus.