During the school selection process you should build your personal impressions about all the programmes that you are interested in. An MBA programme is a considerable investment in terms of time, effort and money. A Master’s programme also takes you away from the job market for one or two years. There is now a huge choice of MBA and Master’s programmes, so you should make sure in advance that your overall experience during your studies will give you what you expect.
In-depth research on the most suitable schools and programmes might take more than a year. Be active during this time and take every opportunity to communicate with business school representatives. Always be open to new options, advice and cultures.
Attend school presentations
Attend school presentations in person or online. Many webinars are now regularly offered by business schools, covering topics such as programme details, admission requirements and career services or lectures on current topics by professors from the school. The advantage of real-time presentations (as opposed to recordings) is that you have the chance to ask questions and get immediate answers from school representatives. Live chats are also easily accessible and very informative.
Meet school representatives, students, professors and alumni
Individual meetings are the best opportunity to get insiders’ perspectives, tips and hints. Be ready with your questions in advance and always be aware of the personal bias of the people you are talking to. University fairs, one-to-one events and single school presentations in your location are all excellent opportunities to get in touch with insiders (admissions officers, current students, alumni and professors) from the schools you are interested in or schools which offer programmes in your chosen field of study.
Visit campuses, attend open classes
Visit at least one business school within your reach, even if you are not yet sure whether you will apply there. Most schools have open days on campus where you can take a tour of the school, attend classes, interact with professors and students and get many details from the admissions officers. Even if an open day is not announced, feel free to contact the admissions office and enquire about an individual visit.
Do’s and don’ts for communicating with business schools
Making the most of all the opportunities listed above requires you to acquire some specific communication skills and approaches. When talking about communication with business schools and universities, people’s experience is very diverse. Sometimes you will hear stories about how nicely the contact person responded and how fast they replied. Or you might hear the opposite.
So what are the keys to avoiding miscommunication, delays and frustration? The answer is surprisingly simple: people need to understand each other, so the key is communication. Planning is also important, so the first piece of advice to prospective international applicants is:
- Start the application process early.
It is always important to remember that, especially when applying to admission to universities abroad, you will need documents issued by local authorities and it can take more than a month to receive, translate and certify them.
Early preparation helps you to be on the safe side. You will have time to double-check with the schools before the deadline, and you will have enough time to gather all the documents and copiesyou need.
- Look for the most up-to-date information directly from the university.
Don’t rely on other sources of information but double-check directly with the university. If a university office is not responding as promptly as you expect, or it seems not to be very cooperative, naturally you can get tired and stressed. However, don’t try to find solutions to your problems somewhere online by using Google or social media sources. This may cause you to rely on inaccurate or outdated information.
Imagine that you ask online for a deadline to submit your official test scores. A fellow applicant replies with a date, so you relax and take your time, not knowing that this deadline only applies for students that matriculated before a certain time. In the worst case, you will miss a deadline and won’t be able to apply on time. The official in charge, or the official website of the university or department in this case, is the only contact a student should rely on.
- Learn the admissions terminology.
Usually it is very important to learn the school's professional vocabulary. This is true both when you apply to your home country and even more when you communicate with universities abroad. In this case you can use some help from college counsellors or international education advisers. They can help you understand the admissions jargon, but for any specific information, always contact the university directly.
- Read through the official website, brochures and the FAQ section.
Universities usually have written information on the most frequently asked questions (FAQ). FAQ and the answers to them are usually available online or in a printed leaflet or brochure. Take the time to read them carefully before you contact the university for further details and clarifications.
- Be open to cultural differences
Those who apply for graduate studies abroad should be aware that there can be quite a few differences in the communication style and overall culture to the ones at home. For example, some cultures are more welcoming, open and flexible in their communication, in contrast to others that strictly respect rules, hierarchy and a more formal communication style.
Getting to know the culture will not only help you communicate with university representatives more effectively. In the long run, it will help you integrate better in the country where you will be studying and living for a year or two.
- Respect university rules and communication channels
Learn how the school representatives communicate with prospective students. This is usually explained on the websites. Try to understand and stick to the communication channels – email, phone, live chat, meetings on campus, live onsite or online presentations, etc. In general it is quite useful to try to understand how the administration in a university works. The application process usually gives quite a few good examples of what to avoid in order to receive timely and accurate information.
- Don’t call the school the day after the deadline
After sending your application package, don’t call the school the day after the deadline and ask if your application is complete and correct. Usually the schools have received hundreds of applications and they probably won’t be able to respond to your questions in a quick phone call. In fact, every time someone calls asking for his her application, the process of evaluation probably slows down.
Furthermore schools tend to expect those who apply for a graduate programme to be able to send a complete and correct application. This is the time some people realise why it is important to check admissions criteria and required documents well in advancemore than one day in advance.
Application for admission to an MBA or a Master’s programme abroad is an enriching and learning process. Make the most of it as it a preparation for your successful studies and new cultural experiences.
This article has been prepared in cooperation with Iliana Bobova, an international education adviser and career counsellor, currently Head of Admissions Consulting at PrepAdviser.