When working with clients who are applying to graduate programs, I often observe that they focus 100% of their energy on perfecting their resume and essays. Written documents are critical components of a successful application, as are standardized test scores and college grades.
What can differentiate an applicant is evidence that the candidate reached out to current students or alumni of the program to learn first hand about the school’s culture, academic programs, student clubs, internship opportunities and more. Most graduate programs are described on their websites and applicants are apt to quote from this information to persuade an admissions committee (adcom) that this is a top choice school. The applicants who make the effort to reach out to those who experienced the program are more likely to uncover details that relate to their personal and professional goals, and be that much more convincing to the adcom. In the process of connecting with others, applicants can gain valuable insights and even good leads that can jump-start their success upon arrival to campus.
For example, you are working as a technology consultant in India. You do not personally know anyone at the U.S. schools to which you are applying. On the school’s website you can usually find a list of student clubs, and oftentimes, the club officer and contact information are also listed. You can send an email to this individual asking if he or she would be willing to speak to you about the club activities and other questions you have about the school. If this person is too busy to speak with you, ask to be referred to another club member. There may be a university alumni club in your country. You can also reach out to that person who may know of recent graduates with whom you can speak. If these efforts fail, ask the admissions office to assist you with student or alumni referrals.
Many international students cannot afford the time or investment it takes to visit U.S. or European campuses. Therefore, it is even more important to make that extra effort to connect with campus officials, students and alumni. In doing so, you are also gaining good practice that will propel your eventual job searches when personal and professional connections and outreach are critical to obtaining the offer.
Connections count – start making yours now.
With 30 years of career/admissions experience at four universities, including Cornell’s Johnson School, Karin Ash facilitated students’ entry into the world’s best companies. As a member of the adcom, she also evaluated applications. She knows what schools and employers seek. Want Karin to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!