Throughout the application process, I cannot emphasize how important it is to speak to as many existing students, alumni, and professors. Not only is it beneficial for the application itself but it provides an authentic view of what the school is about and whether or not you can see yourself fitting in with the culture for the next 2 years.
The three forms of “networking” that I have found to be the most useful/successful in terms of conversion are (in order of importance):
- Your work network: Within Google, we have Google groups for each of the top business schools where alumni from each of the school get together and form their little own community. I did my fair share of stalking and cold emailed anyone who happened to work in the same department as me, was in the same function, or happened to graduate from my alma mater, UC Berkeley in addition to having gone to one of the business schools for which I was applying.
- LinkedIn: Again, it is all about establishing some sort of connection and touchpoint. If you are interested in speaking with an HBS alumni, don’t go searching LinkedIn for anyone who went to HBS but look for people who share a similar background that you can call out. When I do a Google search I would search “linkedin berkeley hbs analytics” as I wanted to find alumni who went to UC Berkeley and are now HBS students or alumni who have a concentration in analytics. Send them a friend request and send them a LinkedIn message asking if you can borrow 30 min of their time to chat. This has been extremely beneficial and you will find out that business school alumni are gracious and willing to donate their time to help a future prospect.
- School website: Look for business school professors who are doing research in an area that is of interest to you and reach out to them via email. You’ll get a response maybe 1/2 the time due to the professors’ busy schedules but getting the perspective from both students and professors paints an overall better picture of what life at the school will be like.
I will say that looking back, not all schools were as generous with their responses. Not to be biased now that I am going to Wharton, but I will definitely say that by % of response rate in descending order:
1. Wharton and Kellogg
3. HBS and GSB
I emailed Wharton and Kellogg students, alumni, and professors alike and they were all extremely helpful, not only emailing me but I also had a face-time call with an existing Kellogg student and had students voluntarily check up with me to see how my application was going. Some of them were even gracious enough to read my essay despite having never met them in my life.
HBS and GSB, on the other hand, were rather cold in their responses. Of the 10 people I interviewed in total, I received 2 responses to which there was never any follow-up afterward. This is all anecdotal and not meant to be taken as fact but definitely, reach out to people from the school and their responses will definitely give you an accurate feel of how you see yourself fitting in because remember these are the people that you are going to be establishing a lifetime connection with.