The Importance of MBA Networking Before Applying to Business School
By Megan Lerchenmuller
Networking, networking, networking.
When it comes to business school, networking is key to a successful experience. We know you can’t wait to hit campus to network with your classmates and alum, but before you hit submit on those applications, we want to answer one key question for you: How much does networking matter before business school?
The answer is…a LOT.
The business school application consists of many components and it’s crucial to come off as authentic in each component. You can have the most impressive background in the world but if you can’t clearly portray to the admissions committee why you’re interested in their program, what makes you a strong fit, and that you’re highly likely to become a successful part of their alumni repertoire, you’ll miss the mark.
Additionally, it can be difficult to truly understand a school’s culture from reading their website and we highly recommend that you get a good read on culture before you make this huge career investment. There are many buzzwords like ‘global’ and ‘entrepreneurial-minded’ thrown around and it can be confusing to differentiate programs. There are a few key ways to effectively network before business school, which we outline here.
Network with current students and alumni during the application process.
Current students will be able to give you real-time insight into what the business school program is actually like (beyond those beautiful glossy programs), as well as program offerings that may not be easily identified on the school’s website. They’ll be able to give you a better understanding of the different pieces of the program, what is worth pursuing, and what isn’t.
Finally, alumni will be able to give you perspective as to what it’s like to be a part of the broader community, as well as paths they’ve taken to achieve career goals similar to yours. Through these conversations, you should be able to better hone in on specific aspects of the program that interest you and what value you’ll be able to add to the community.
Get to know the school, IRL.
Visit campus if you can, audit a class, and speak with professors. A great way to get a feel for what it’s like to be an MBA is to attend prospective weekends, which will usually provide you the opportunity to do all of the above, and usually include a social activity where you can meet current students, admissions officers, and fellow prospective students.
Foster visibility with the admissions committee.
Top schools receive thousands of applications per year, so being able to match a face to a name is a key differentiator. In interacting with admissions officers and ambassadors, you’ll accomplish the dual goal of understanding specific ways to set your application apart and putting that face to that name.
Networking is an important muscle to warm up as you prepare to attend a business school program but prior to that, it’s a valuable tool to give you sincere insight into the investment you’re planning on making. Remember that every interaction is a potential opportunity for you to put your best foot forward – be casual yet treat every conversation like an informational interview. Make sure that you’re making genuine connections, not just ticking a box. Hey, if you make a good enough impression, you’ll find champions for your candidacy in unexpected places.