In their search for the most suitable programmes, MBA applicants typically are the active side. They compare programme descriptions, solicit opinions, and visit campuses. But what does it mean if the business school approaches them first, and how should they respond?
Once you realise that taking an MBA is likely to be one of the biggest investments of time and money that you will ever make, you roll up your sleeves and start the arduous selection and application process. You go to events where you can meet with admissions officers in person, sit (and resit) the GMAT or the GRE, think about financing, approach admissions counsellors, do some introspection, search the internet, and talk to different people. And sometimes, out of nowhere, you receive an email from a business school, which may be interested in you as an applicant. So, why is this happening?
Why is the B-school approaching me?
Actually, receiving emails from business schools is not that unusual. During the MBA selection process, aspirants often sign up for various newsletters and participate in webinars and live chats, or in One-to-One events such as the ones organised by Access MBA. Once your email lands in the database of a particular business school, you are very likely to receive emails about events such as introductions to programmes, invitations to lectures, individual CV reviews and admissions advice, or guided campus tours. Some of these emails may land in your spam folder, and rightfully so.
However, sometimes these emails are more than just reminders to participate in an event. In fact they may indicate that the business school finds your profile attractive. Business schools have a vested interest in recruiting the best students for their programmes. Competition to attract the best applicants is severe and schools rarely think twice before contacting the most promising ones directly. If you receive such an email, you should be flattered, because you are a prized asset in the eyes of business schools.
So how do you respond? It goes without saying that you should first thank the sender for their interest. Then, if you have questions, ask away. Make sure you understand the reason you are being approached. Is this an invitation for lunch? Is it a straight offer to join a certain programme? Or is it a scholarship offer? Once you are clear about the reason, you are in a position to make a decision on how to proceed.
How come B-schools have my email address?
An applicant may wonder how come business schools have their email address. The truth is that admissions officers have several ways of obtaining your contact data. For instance, you may have participated in an education fair and shared your contact details with representatives of business schools. You may also have signed up for webinars, MOOCs, live chats, or resorted to the services of test preparation centres, again providing business schools with your email address.
Admissions officers can also contact you via GMASS, a service run by GMAC, the owner of the GMAT exam. You are given the option to sign up for GMASS when you register for the GMAT exam. When you consent to participate in GMASS, information such as your most recent GMAT score and country of citizenship are included in a data pool. Participating schools, scholarship organisations, financial aid providers, and GMAC’s strategic partners from around the world can then access various categories of information to help their recruitment and can contact you about their programmes and offerings, or to invite you to participate in studies.
ETS, the administrator of the TOEFL exam, also has a similar service. It is called the TOEFL Search Service and helps academic institutions find the right international students for their undergraduate, graduate, and English-language programmes. It provides current, targeted mailing lists of prospective students to support their recruitment efforts. The service allows institutions to search for applicants by a multitude of search criteria such as country, TOEFL score bands, field of study, and projected country of study.
What to expect
Being contacted by a business school may be flattering but you should make sure not to get carried away. An email from a business school does not necessarily mean that you will be offered a scholarship or admission to a programme. You may be invited for lunch and based on that conversation you may realise that the programme does not correspond to your ambitions and plans, or that there are some strings attached to an offer that make it less attractive. Or it may just be that a business school you have met at a One-on-One event wants to know more about you.
However, if you get approached by a business school it most probably means that you are on the right track. Not many applicants are lucky enough to get contacted by admissions officers before they even apply. Your profile has attracted the attention of admissions officers who have gone to the trouble to write you personally, so this is a big deal. Use it to your advantage! Now you know that you can choose among top MBA programmes and that you stand a chance of getting admitted to a top business school: the one of your dreams.