Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How Much Interest is Too Much?

Lately, there's been a lot of talk about the increasing importance admissions offices are placing on the level of interest a candidate shows in a program to which he or she is applying. While it's true that we do like to know you are strongly interested in our MBA program, most admissions committees would also be delighted to receive a stellar application from someone they've never heard of before. So, when it comes to demonstrating your interest in a school, how much is enough and how much is just too much?

If you're considering applying to an MBA program it's a good idea to check out a school's website, add yourself to their email list, join a Facebook group, follow them on Twitter, read their blog (yay for you!), etc. These are all low effort activities that allow the admissions representatives at a program to become familiar with your name. If you're able to attend an information session hosted by the school or meet a school representative at an MBA fair, those are key opportunities to introduce yourself and make a positive first impression. Make sure to come prepared with a few thoughtful questions that show you've already done your preliminary research on the program. If you're invited to special events at the school, such as lectures or conferences, feel free to attend if the topics are of interest to you. Some schools do keep records of which candidates attend events, but not all. What you really want is enough contact to let the admissions staff know that you're seriously considering their school. If they recognize you when you come in for your interview, then you've achieved the desired result!

So, what behavior crosses the line into "too much?" Is there such a thing as too much interest? Yes, there definitely is. Have a question about the school's MBA program? Feel free to call or email to ask- but make sure the answer is not easily available on the program's website. Don't call or email every day or even three times a week. Yes, you would think I shouldn't have to say this, but I do. Don't copy ten people at the school on every email you send. Don't drop into the admissions office on a regular basis or ask for multiple appointments. Don't ask to take advantage of a schools services before you're a student there (e.g. career services). Don't ask for assistance figuring out which classes you should register for in your third semester before you've even been admitted.

Why is this all just too much? One main reason: it makes you seem high maintenance. Admissions offices are busy places. Many receive hundreds of emails and phone calls a day. While your first few emails are likely to receive prompt, warm responses, they're not going to be quite as excited about the twentieth one. The staff want to make sure they get back to everyone; in demanding their attention repeatedly you're making it harder for them to do that. It's also going to give the impression that this behavior will continue once you are enrolled. If your goal is to demonstrate your interest in a program, don't go overboard.

Once you've been admitted to a program all bets are off. Ask whatever you need to ask to make your enrollment decision. You'll find that the school's admissions staff will make time for you. Once you choose the program you'll attend, you can certainly ask questions to facilitate your transition to student life, but make sure to read any information you are sent as well. You're going to an MBA program to become a confident leader and a capable professional- now is the time to start acting the part.