Wherever you are in the world, chances are that a current MBA student from a top school is waiting to have coffee with you. In London, Delhi, Tel Aviv, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Rio de Janiero, Zurich, Houston, and a host of other international cities, schools are dispatching current students to chat you up and get to know you better as acceptance decisions are made. Programs offering these informal meetings include Berkeley-Haas, Chicago Booth, Darden, Michigan Ross, and Dartmouth Tuck.
This is a great opportunity to show a school representative how invested you are in going to that program. While these are obviously very informal events, you can still burnish the profile you have already established in your MBA application by showing up with intelligent questions and observations about the program and the school community. While at a general school reception or fair you could get away with asking more general questions (though even at those events your questions should demonstrate basic knowledge of the program beyond what is easily seen on the school’s web site) at a coffee date like this, well into the application season, you’ll want to go a little deeper in showing your awareness of and fit for the program.
Don’t go overboard trying to make a good impression. Be yourself, listen to others, but take the opportunity to ask questions and offer observations that show how dialed in you are to the happenings at the school. These questions and observations can be about any of the following:
1) A recent or anticipated change in the curriculum or with a specialty track that you hope to join.
2) Live chats you recently participated in, and what new insights you gleaned from it.
3) Recent communication you have had with a current student or staff member. This isn’t to name-drop, but to show your ongoing investment in knowing what is happening at the school.
4) Student-led symposiums or other initiatives – show that you know what’s happening with the Berkeley Nanotechnology club, Dartmouth’s Summit on Health Care Delivery, or other clubs in which you have an interest.
5) Ideas you have for a case competition or club. Or perhaps thoughts on narrowing down choices among elective classes.
6) Plans your spouse or partner has to relocate and find new work near the school.
So pull up a chair, warm your hands around a hot cup of coffee, and show your school of choice that you already feel part of the team.
By Judy Gruen, MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.