Have you ever gone on a date with someone and received about a dozen texts from the person over the next 24 hours? Or maybe you’ve been on the other side, where you’re sending paragraphs and getting one word responses.
The truth is that MBA programs don’t like that kind of attention anymore than you do. Schools take demonstrated interest into account when judging applications, so they’re more likely to admit an enthusiastic student who has made a visible effort to learn more about the program. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go overboard. As with dating, there’s a line between interested and stalker that you don’t want to cross.
There are two reason why programs want students that have an actual interest in their program. The first is that yield (the percent of accepted students who choose to attend) is a major factor in program rankings and is taken as a measure of a business school program’s prestige. The second reason so many MBA programs pay attention to demonstrated interest is that they’re trying to create a well-rounded class of students who are enthusiastic (and well-suited) for their program.
Some, like Fuqua, Booth, and Kellogg, use a software that tracks whether a student has emailed admissions staff, how many times they attended admissions events, whether they did any alumni interviews, and other metrics. All of this data is taken into account when evaluating their application. Fuqua, Booth, and Kellogg are just a few of the top business programs that already track demonstrated interest, and more programs are following their lead.
Here are five things you can do to show interest, and three things you definitely shouldn’t do.
Things You Can Do:
Visit the Campus In-Person – Visiting the school in-person is a great way to show interest and learn more about the school. Even if you’re only just beginning to look into an MBA, it doesn’t hurt to check out your choices in-person and maybe sit in on a class.
Attend MBA Fairs and Local Admissions Events – If you’re attending an MBA fair, make sure to sign up for any mailing lists offered. Some programs will also hold admissions events in different cities so that prospective applicants can learn more about their programs and the admissions process.
Have a Non-Generic Answer for “Why This School?” Questions – Most program applications will include a question about why you want to attend that school, and you’ll probably hear the same questions in interviews. Don’t make the mistake of reusing a generic answer on multiple applications. Each “Why This Program” essay should be personalized and well-researched.
Show That You’re the Right Fit - Your interviewers and application readers know they work for a competitive program. You don’t need to spend all of your time extolling the program’s virtues. Instead, focus on why you’re a good fit. Use your essay, and hopefully later your interview, to explain why the school’s programs, culture, and classes will help you grow personally and professionally.
Send Thank You Notes – It’s old-fashioned, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t help. If you have the chance to attend an admissions interview or alumni interview, it never hurts to follow up with a thank you note to your interviewer.
However, while programs always want enthusiastic students, you don’t want to come on too strong or do anything to annoy the people reading your application.
Things You Probably Shouldn’t Do:
Submit Extra Information – If the application asks for two recommendation letters, you don’t need to send four. You also don’t need to send them updates on your professional achievements or awards unless you’re asked to do so. However, if you find yourself waitlisted, informing the admission officers of new professional accomplishments may help you get off the waitlist. At the very least, it demonstrates your continued interest in the program. However, this tactic should only be used if you’re waitlisted and you truly have something noteworthy to report.
Ask Easy Questions – Though it’s great to ask additional questions of admissions reps at events and it’s fine to reach out and ask about a very specific interest or program, don’t ask questions just to show you’re interested. Before you send an email directly to the admissions office, do your research and see if you can find the answer online.
Constantly “Follow Up” – Whether or not you’ve submitted your application, you don’t need to constantly update them on your progress or follow up on an application. Unless you’re genuinely unsure that the application is complete, there’s no need to call or email to check on the status. And repeatedly calling to ask whether they’ve made their decision is not going to win any admission officers to your side.
Not all MBA programs take demonstrated interest into account, of course. Try to research the admissions policy of each school to which you apply so you know where to direct your energy. But “demonstrated interest” can be an great way to help your application stand out and show commitment to your top choices.