I spent lunch today discussing with a few people the things that prospective students do that annoy us. I'm posting this out there as an FYI.
I'm listed as a contact for prospective students. I volunteered; i.e. I'm willing to help out a prospective with any questions s/he may have about the school, my experience, etc. But there are a few things a prospective should note:
1. Please use common sense. I'm listed as a first year. This means that I am doing only core courses currently. This is listed very clearly in the academic information portion of the website. Therefore, I have no idea on the capstone courses, or on any courses that are beyond the core currently.
EDIT: I feel the need to add a 1.5: Asking for my opinion or my experience is guaranteed to receive a lot more of a meaningful response than asking me what kinds of projects are offered in the capstone courses, for example. The details of academics can easily be answered by the administrators of the program. But they're really just there to sell you the program and get you to spend the money to apply, so chances are the answers from them are just facts or sugar-coated facts.
2. Please be considerate of our time. I haven't yet encountered this, but a couple of others have: school work is very intense. When we can take time out for an email, it's not that long of a time commitment. Please do not ask for a 30 minute phone call. Better yet, please don't ask for a 30-minute phone call right in the middle of finals. Especially when the student has said "I have finals this week."
EDIT: I need to clarify this point. There are some people who don't mind having that phone call with a prospective. There are some people who do. Being pushy about the phone call is the message I intended on getting across - allow for the student to say that they don't have the time to do so without feeling guilty or put upon. If you really want to chat on the phone to a current student, there are plenty more people in the "contact a student" listing with whom you could try. The same goes for essay help/reviews. It's also pretty helpful to have more than one opinion/view of the school, I think.
3. We have no input into admissions decisions. Honestly, unless you have truly screwed up in some manner by insulting my mother or something, we don't say anything to admissions. It's a very easy reason: the close-knit community of the school relies on "fit". I cannot tell if you will "fit" with the class purely by your email alone. Heck, the admissions committee can't tell that and they get the entire package from you. That's why they have interviews. I'm not going to recommend a prospective student to the school just because s/he expressed interest in learning about the school. I'm a little more likely to comment to admissions about a student I took to class and got along well with at lunchtime during a school visit, but NOT on an email request. So giving me your biographical information, GMAT, GPA,etc, is not going to entice me to talk to admissions about you as a candidate.
The upside to #3 is you can ask the most insane questions and not get judged or looked at negatively (by me anyway). I wish I had known this at the time when I was doing my research. It would've been nice to know if one school is all about hardcore drinking and expectations that you needed to be super duper social, or whatnot, as opposed to asking all the questions you generally find out in the admissions booklets and such.