It's about that time of year when the eager beavers raise their heads to prepare for the next lot of MBA applications. I should know; I've been contacted a few times by various people looking to learn more about my time at Tepper.
I don't mind answering questions - that's why I'm listed on the Tepper Contact A Current Student page. However, I know that 80% of the people who are contacting me are just looking for an "in" in case things don't turn out well.
I can usually tell this, and therefore when/if we actually speak, I tend to end the conversation without offering to help. The offer of help is a sure sign that you know you're in :) But in order to get there, here are some tips:
- First, do a little bit of research on the student you're contacting. Something as simple as a LinkedIn profile look-up gives you some background information on the student. I don't know many students who don't have a profile, so it's a good way to find a connection.
- If the student has very little relevance to what you want to do, go find another. There are psychology studies that say that if there is something that connects two people - whether it be coming from the same background, same school, same interests, heck, even same name or birthday - the person to whom the prospective is reaching out to looks upon the prospective favorably. So, for me for example, if you're female, Australian, lived in Texas, have a business background, love videogames, or want to get into the tech industry, we'd get along great. If you desperately want to get into a Wall Street job, I don't know anything, I'm not interested, and you won't get anything from our conversation because I know that you're trying to do the connect thing without appearing like you're genuinely interested in what I have to say.
- Which brings me to the most important point: be actually interested in what the contact has to say. We're people too, and if you don't give a crap about what we have to say, we don't give a crap about you. However: don't go overboard. It's even more creepy and annoying to have multiple emails, phonecalls, text messages, etc, from a prospective in a short period of time.
- I have mentioned this before, but be respectful of the contact's time. Someone once told me that you should always open up a conversation with "is this a good time for you?". That way, if it isn't, the contact doesn't feel bad in postponing the talk rather than having to suffer through it. It allows for a gracious exit :) Oh, and timezones matter also.
- Be conversational with the contact. Tepper is known to build a student body of down-to-earth, friendly people. So be one of those; don't be stilted and formal.
- Basic polite manners help. If we have a good thing going and I do offer to help, follow up with me and tell me what's going on! I don't necessarily need a thank-you note, but a quick email saying thanks also helps a little. And I may not remember you 6 months down the track. Thankfully, Google threads related emails, so please keep our prior correspondence in any follow-up emails so I can know who you are! I volunteer as an admissions student so I meet a lot of people; my memory is bad enough :)
I've helped out a few people over the year. A couple of folks got admitted without any of my direct input (I can only hope that some of my help was useful); unfortunately one did not make it off the waitlist even with my assistance. BUT, one fellow was waitlisted, kept up his contact with me, I recommended him to be admitted, and a month ago he let me know he got in. :)
But I do want to iterate: do not treat the relationship with the current student as one in which you get a letter of recommendation out of him/her if the time calls for it. I personally am very sensitive to who I would recommend because ultimately, I'm the one saying "I want this person in my class to work with me" - and if I don't truly feel this way, I won't say anything.
Other people may be different; I'm merely talking about my own feelings here.