They say it’s not what you know, but who you know that makes the difference. This also can be the case with MBA applications. Are you leveraging people on the inside to increase your odds of admission?
When applying to top business schools, it’s often the case that applicants don’t know anyone at the school. This shouldn’t necessarily stop someone from finding an “inside man” to be your advocate, particularly if you believe in the six degrees of separation theory.
If you’re headed for MBA world, you no doubt have a Linked-in profile with over 500 contacts, right?
Linked-in is a great place to start when trying to discover contacts inside a particular school. Do a search for your target school in your contact base and see who may be among the alumni ranks. Setting up a casual, informational interview is usually all it takes to get the floodgates cracked open. That one person in your circle who went to Wharton is going to know several more, and eventually, you will find a way to connect with current faculty and students. It’s not generally customary to try and elbow your way into an insider who is actually on the admissions committee, so only reach out to such folks if you truly know them already. Schools frown on applicants gaining an unfair advantage, but they respect anyone obtaining a fair one.
You can also reach out to the schools directly.
Requesting time with a faculty member or a current student to give you some perspective is often something that will be accommodated by the admissions office. Taking initiative to get to know your target school makes a good impression and demonstrates genuine interest. Always act with humility and appreciation if given the opportunity to meet with anyone connected with your target school. If it feels appropriate, you can even ask them to advocate for your admission in whatever way they think makes sense.
Schools will generally ask you during an interview what steps you have taken to get to know the school.
One of the best ways to demonstrate such effort is to have spoken with students, faculty, staff and alumni contacts. Schools assume you are doing your homework and putting in some effort up front to educate yourself on how well you would fit within a program. Simply reading the website and going on the tour will not really impress anyone.