How should I use alumni and current students to my advantage in the application process?

Nov 4, 2009
Tags: Admissions Events, B-School, Choosing the Right School, School Selection

Written by Julie R. Barefoot, Associate Dean and Director of MBA Admissions, Goizueta Business School, Emory University

There are several ways that you can proactively use alumni and current students to your advantage:

  1. Speak with alumni and students at an MBA recruiting fair or at an on-campus recruiting event and ask them specific questions about their experiences at the school— about the classroom environment, interactions with faculty, relationships with classmates, the availability of courses, extracurricular activities, and how an MBA from that school has prepared them for their career.
  2. Visit campus and attend an MBA class. During your visit, ask current students about what the program experience is really like—ask them what they like best about their program and what areas the school needs to improve. Ask similar questions to students, alumni, and admissions professionals, and see if you receive similar responses!
  3. Ask an alum who knows you well to serve as an additional recommender or to provide informal feedback about you to the MBA Admissions Committee via email or letter. The MBA Admissions Committee is very interested in receiving feedback from their alumni and current students. After all, who would know better about what kind of student will succeed at their alma mater than an alum or current student?
However, please know this caveat: It is critically important that this recommendation is substantive in nature about the quality of your work experience and your ability to contribute in a meaningful way to MBA class discussions. What you don’t want is for the alum or student to write that you “come from a good family” or that you’d be a good addition to the school community without giving specific details about why that would be true. This recommendation should note in what context the alum or student knows you and for how long, and why they believe that you would be a valuable addition to the incoming MBA class—with some specific reasons to support their comments. 

Your recommender should also be up-to-date about your work experience and your MBA plans—asking an alum who is not familiar with the details of your current job situation or your MBA goals to write on your behalf is not a good idea. 

So, in summary, alumni and current students can be a valuable source of program information and potentially, can have a positive impact on the admissions decision—if the information that they share with the Committee is relevant to the admissions decision and supportive of your ability to be a positive contributor to the program.