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Email Etiquette for MBA Admissions: 4 Essential Tips

Dana Doyon

Dana Doyon - B-Speak! English

Dana Doyon is an mba.com Featured Contributor and English Coach and Curriculum Developer at B-Speak! English.


The cultural norms and practices surrounding email can be challenging to learn without any explicit instruction. To make things more difficult, practices can vary depending on the context of the email you are writing. For example, emails to colleagues, clients, potential employers, and prospective schools will all be at least slightly different.

When it comes to contacting the admissions staff at your prospective school’s MBA program, you will surely have many reasons to email. Throughout the admissions process, you will have questions, requests, and possibly a few concerns that you hope to have addressed. It can be difficult to know what topics you should or shouldn’t email about, how to say what you need to say, and how often or if it’s appropriate to make contact. 

How to email MBA admissions staff: Email etiquette best practices

In this article, we offer four keys to emailing MBA admission staff that will make a positive impression and make your emails more likely to receive a response. 

1. Use the subject line strategically

It can be tempting to breeze past the subject line altogether, or hastily add a one-word subject just before you hit “send,” but it is worth it to put some thought into this part of your email.

The subject is the first thing your recipient will see, and a well-written one will do several things:

  • Convey your professionalism
  • Provide adequate detail without being too lengthy
  • Give the recipient a reason to read the email
  • Serve as a marketing tool for your brand

“Simply saying ‘Question’ in the subject line is less impactful than the more professional ‘Question about fellowship program,’ which serves as a preview of what you will be asking and sends a signal you treat your email communication with consideration for the reader,” advises Petia Whitmore, former Dean of Graduate Admissions at Babson College and the founder of the MBA admissions firm, My MBA Path.

Be sure to always use a subject line and make the purpose of your email obvious without giving so much information that opening the email is unnecessary (which also means receiving a reply is much less likely). The recipient should know what to expect from the email, and the entire subject line will be more likely to appear in full on a mobile device, where many emails are opened these days.

2. Keep your language authentic, but always proofread

Writing these sorts of high-stakes emails is a daunting task in itself, but it becomes much more so when it must be done in a second or nonnative language. With regard to the language you use to write your emails, it’s important to balance the knowledge that admissions staff recognize and respect your status as a nonnative English speaker with the importance of demonstrating your proficiency in the language you will be using throughout all aspects of the MBA program.

Whitmore shares with us, “I know from personal experience how challenging navigating communication in a foreign language can be. While admissions professionals appreciate this added difficulty for foreign candidates and will be forgiving of minor errors, it’s important to remember they do expect English language proficiency as qualification for an MBA program.” 

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With this added pressure, some students tend to overuse online editing tools or ask a native English-speaking friend or colleague to heavily edit their emails, but your language is an important and noticeable part of your application. Whitmore shares that admissions professionals “compare your level of English in your emails and interview with your essays.” They look for consistency and want to get an accurate sense of your language ability. “If your email or interview communication is far from perfect but your essays are extremely polished and impeccable, that may raise a question about their authenticity,” she cautions.

3. Stick to email

You will likely encounter some situations throughout the application process in which it may seem like a good idea to reach out via other methods of communication. Perhaps you haven’t received a timely response to an email, you just have a quick question about your application materials, or you want to make sure the admissions staff knows about an award or honor you received but forgot to include on your resume.

In these cases, LinkedIn can be particularly appealing due to the professional nature of the platform as well as its instant messaging features. However, Whitmore tells us that it is always advisable to check on the school’s website for their preferred methods of contact and stick to those: “While LinkedIn is a great platform to use to showcase your professional achievements, you should use caution when it comes to messaging. Using the LinkedIn platform to reach out to admissions professionals can backfire if it comes across as pushy.”

There will still be cases, however, when you don’t receive a response to an email, and you should know how to address those situations, which brings us to our fourth and final tip.

4. Look for an answer elsewhere, or follow up respectfully

According to Whitmore, some schools may receive as many as 10,000 applications. It is likely, then, that they receive emails from the majority of those candidates. However, a good portion of these emails may have their questions answered in the school’s published materials, and still others (from specific candidate groups or on particular topics) may actually be inappropriate.

Whitmore offers some insight regarding unanswered emails: “It’s not always easy for an admissions office to respond to each and every email but I do know they try. If you don’t hear back, consider two things – [1] is the answer to your questions already [...] in the materials that the school has published online and [2] does the school actually welcome emails on that particular topic.”

If neither of these points applies to your email, it is acceptable to follow up several days later. When following up, you can demonstrate respect by using phrases like the following:

  • Just reaching out again to…
  • I’m (just) following up on my previous email…
  • I’m (just) checking if you’ve had a chance to…

Keep these four tips in mind when writing emails to the admissions professionals at your prospective MBA program, and you will come across as a more professional, culturally competent, and authentic candidate, and you will be more likely to receive the response you need.

Dana Doyon

Dana Doyon - B-Speak! English

Dana Doyon is an mba.com Featured Contributor and English Coach and Curriculum Developer at B-Speak! English.

B-Speak! English offers individual online English coaching for graduate students and professionals. Originally created for international students at the Darden School of Business in 2012, B-Speak! now partners with numerous U.S. business schools to help prepare their students for the communicative challenges of the MBA classroom and the job market beyond. B-Speak! works with students at any stage of their MBA journey.