Applying for MBA programs means lots of contact with others. Students, Alumni, Faculty and Admissions representatives will all float in and out of your schedule during the peak months. Don’t forget to follow up with them if you want to make the best impression.
We were all trained to be polite, so you’d think that following up with a simple thank you would be second nature, but in the hustle-bustle of the digital age, it’s all too common for such niceties to slip through the cracks. Believe it or not, schools take notice when you follow up with them, for mainly one reason: it’s what you’d be expected to do as a professional in the post MBA world.
Business schools love it when you demonstrate the skills of a leader up front.
Sure, MBA programs are great places to hone your leadership skills, but having some good raw material on the front end is what separates the good applicants from the bad---and you definitely don’t want to end up in the latter pile. In addition to the stuff on your resume and the engagement with your community, schools like to see the kind of skills becoming a c-level executive. This means being polite, courteous, thoughtful and thankful. And make sure you ask for business cards so you can leave any meeting with the person’s contact information.
What is the most appropriate way to follow up?
If you’re dealing with official school representatives, whether it be admissions committee members, school staff, or even alumni interviewers, at the very least, you should be emailing a note of thanks after any encounter. An even better touch is if you can get something hand-written to them in the mail. A good rule of thumb is to invest in some nice (but not flashy) personalized stationery and keep it by your desk along with a quality pen. Don’t use the pen for any other purpose, so it’s always there on the ready. This will encourage a habit-forming process of reaching out to those helpful folks you encounter in your application process.
Timing is of the essence, but don’t think that means you must reply immediately.
I personally feel especially with electronic notes, that waiting a couple of days is best. When you send a quick “thanks” from your phone in your Uber away from the school visit or office meeting, it feels rushed and perfunctory. When you wait a couple of days, it not only communicates that you are thinking about them well after your encounter, but it also forces them to think about you as well. Business school reps encounter thousands of prospective students each season, so reinforcing your encounter later in the week will keep you in their thoughts longer than someone who bolts-on a thank you to the actual encounter itself (by sending it immediately). If you are the kind of person who like to go ahead and get such tasks done as soon as possible, then simply delay delivery on your email system for a couple of days out.
Written cards are another story altogether, so when writing someone, don’t delay.
Because snail mail can take several days and then on-campus mail delivery another few days after that (recall from your undergraduate days that each school has its own post office on campus which handles all incoming mail), you should write, stamp and send your written correspondence as soon as possible after your meeting. This should result in your message arriving within a week of the encounter, which is a good rule of thumb for sending thanks of any kind.