February 14, 2020

Avoid the Ding: How to Put Your Best Foot Forward During the Application Process

Vaibhav Khurana is an MBA- MSM Finance candidate at Weatherhead School of Management and graduates in May 2021.
From attending webinars and seminars, reaching out to faculty and current students, writing and re-writing essays, we do it all when we are applying to graduate programs of our choice. Each program requires a certain amount of effort for completing the application. But imagine after the long process, checking all the boxes and still getting rejected, or as in business school language we call getting “dinged”. It can be painful!

The good news is, this happens to most of us. I have been through my fair share of rejections when I applied to some programs and understand this feeling completely. But now, I am on other side of the table.

I work with the admissions department at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University as MBA Admissions Ambassador. My work involves talking with prospective candidates to answer any queries they may have about the school, program, or even Cleveland! Working in this position has provided me with an opportunity to learn how candidates are evaluated and why program “fit” plays an extremely important role.

I want to share some of my learnings that I hope you will apply so that you do not get “dinged” from your dream program.

Reach out to the network: A graduate program receives multiple admissions applications. Depending on the program you are applying for, your direct competition for one seat in the program can be anywhere from three to as many as 10 applicants! It is important to stand out. One way to achieving this is by talking to current students and alumni from the program and learning about the program. Once you have done that, do not forget to mention about those conversations in your essays! Doing so solidifies your interest in the program, and will give you insights about the program that you won’t get from just searching online!
Research before you reach out: While reaching out is important, be sure to thoroughly research the program first. Don’t spend your conversation time on asking questions for which you could have found answers by doing a simple Google search, such as asking information about median age of class, class size, and even median salary of last graduating batch! Almost all programs offer this information on their website.
Remember to be professional, respectful and courteous: One of the most common mistakes I see candidates make is forgetting to be courteous. Make sure your emails requesting information or time for calls are written in courteous manner. And most importantly, be very professional when you are talking to the people that you have reached out to. This means while asking questions, you must maintain decorum and be respectful at all times. Every interaction you have with your program, whether email or phone call, factors in when the admissions department sits to go over your application. Not being respectful, even to a current student, can have a far reaching negative impact on your candidacy.
Work according to their time: Everyone is busy! While this includes you, it also includes the person who you reach out to call. Be very respectful of their time, especially if you are in different time zone. Make sure the time you suggest for call is not at a difficult hour for the other person. That means if you have to stay up late or get up half hour early, do that! You are the one requesting time from someone else. You should always look out for their comfort over yours.
Don't forget thank you notes!: As cliché as it sounds, thank you notes are ALWAYS appreciated! Whether an email or a hand written note, thank you notes show you are considerate person. Many candidates forget to send thank you notes after a call, and that is a missed opportunity. Don’t forget to highlight a point from your conversation which can help the person you called remember you and give positive feedback about your candidacy to the admissions department.
While these may seem like simple tips, it is surprising how many candidates I see not following them. Next time you make a call or reach out to someone, make sure you follow these simple tips and reduce your chances of getting “dinged”!