Written by: Michelle Miller, CEO ARINGO Americas, [email protected]

MBA candidates often cite networking as the top reason they want to go to business school. If you are reading this article there is a good chance you have a similar motive. And with good reason: on-campus recruitment and rubbing elbows with professionals and faculty from notable companies are indeed a benefit of attending business school. However, networking shouldn’t wait to begin until orientation or the first day of class. Reaching out to students, alums, staff and faculty are key steps in submitting a successful application. This installment of Hacking the Apps will discuss both the importance of networking before applying, and tips for doing so effectively.

So, why network? Let’s be clear: you’re unlikely to meet that one person who can guarantee you admission, and there is no secret handshake. However, meeting campus stakeholders (students, faculty, staff, and alums) is essential to the process. Conversing with these individuals who know the school and program intimately is sure to offer insight you won’t find on the web site. These insights will prove useful in the application, whether in the essays or later in the interview, as you’ll find yourself “speaking the school’s language” – a skill that can’t be faked. Remember, the top business schools receive thousands of applications each year: the candidates who demonstrate knowledge of the program and their own fit with the campus culture will stand out.

LinkedIn is your friend.  LinkedIn is a useful tool in seeking out contacts for your business school journey. But before you begin firing off hundreds of connection requests to busy alums or current students, use the search tools instead to seek out student organizations and clubs on campus. Many will have designated LinkedIn pages, and often contain contact information for interested candidates to connect with student ambassadors or other individuals who are happy to tell you about their experiences in class and on campus.

Yet another reason to visit the campus. Visiting the campus should already be high on your to-do list, and if it’s not, networking is another reason to prioritize this step. Those knowledgeable stakeholders you want to meet are frequently hit up by emails and social media – physically coming to the campus demonstrates that you are a serious candidate. Most schools don’t keep track of which candidates have visited, no, but your essays and interview will stand out when you can speak to specific classed you attended, students and faculty you’ve met, and other insider factors.

Who do you know? Make sure you are using your own resources. Talk to MBAs you know at work or through other activities. Even if they didn’t attend the same school you are applying to, they can offer you real world insight into the process of applying to and attending business school, and their experiences since graduation. Better yet, they might know a student, alum, or other individual from your chosen business school, and help you make a warm connection.

Remember that your job as an MBA applicant is to demonstrate your own fit with the program and campus culture. Networking with students, alums, faculty, and staff will provide details you won’t find from skimming a website. Take the time to meet stakeholders, explore the student organizations on campus, and visit the business school to immerse yourself in their unique environment. Your application will thank you!


NEXT: Hacking the MBA Applications – Part Four: How to Approach the MBA Application Essays