Impressing modern-day admissions officers involves excellent online communication skills, in addition to meeting all eligibility requirements.
Much of the process of applying to post-secondary education programmes is conducted via digital channels, so your proficiency will be evident from your very first email inquiry or online form completion. From there, your digital footprint will continue to grow and you must manage it well. During the application process you are likely to be in touch with admissions officers via email, chat, or inquiry forms.
In Part I, we discussed how to impress admissions officers before you even apply, during the research phase. In Part II, we are focusing on impressing admissions directors during the application.
Indeed it is the application package that is reviewed by the admissions committee, but your communication with admissions officers before you submit the application also counts for conveying to the admissions committees the kind of person you are. MBA admissions is not just about test scores – it is much more about the person you are and what you will bring to the MBA or Master’s class. And your communication style illustrates that.
So, you need to bear in mind that all of your communications with admissions officers should impress them just as your final application package. How do you do that? Begin with an assessment of yourself. If someone were to analyse your digital profile, what kind of person would they think you are?
To begin to impress admissions officers, you first need to look at your “brand” from their perspective. Step back and look at all your documents, digital files, and social media accounts. What image do they portray? That is your brand. You want your brand to be as honest and professional as possible, while putting your best foot forward at the same time – a tricky thing.
Best practices for digital communication with admissions officers
Though a quick email or online form submission may seem informal, never practise anything less than total professionalism. This is easily done by reviewing what you write before you send it. Check for the basic troublesome elements like spelling, capitalisation, and grammar, of course. But more than that, make sure what you send is courteous, thorough, and conscientious about the importance of not wasting the recipient’s time. Your replies should be timely and just as thoughtfully written.
- Use proper English and review everything before you send it.
- Convey your thoughts or answers with clear, concise language.
- In emails, be polite. Offer a friendly greeting or salutation each time you communicate.
- Take extra care to follow all instructions on all submissions precisely. Let others make the mistakes, not you.
- Always remember that anything you send digitally may be added to your file as official documents.
Live chat: text and video
Live communication online can come in many different forms and can be quite intimidating if you are not used to the medium. Whether you will be communicating via text only or text-and-video, it is a live interaction with another person and must be carried out as if that person was in the room with you.
- Know the platform. Do not wait until five minutes before a video chat session to install the programme. Whether it’s FaceTime, Skype, a webinar, or any other online meeting platform, prepare ahead of time. A new app will require time to install software, set up an account (registration and password,) and perhaps even troubleshoot if you are unfamiliar with it. Even if you have used it before, log on to your account well ahead of time and test the functionality.
- Be on time. An online meeting is every bit as critical as a face-to-face one, so be punctual to every appointment or webinar.
- Do your research beforehand, not while you are on the computer with an admissions officer. Have all your questions ready as well as some notes to help you answer any questions the admissions officer may have.
- What is the admissions officer seeing on their screen? Test your webcam beforehand and remove any clutter in the background or anything else that distracts from the professional image you hope to portray.
- What is the admissions officer hearing on their computer? Are there people or noises in your home or office that will make conversation difficult? Background noise – like pets, kids, phones, televisions, etc. – can leave a terrible impression.
Video essays are much easier to control than live chat sessions in terms of content and disruptions. They are pre-recorded, edited, scripted, and sometimes even professionally made, which makes them even more important to get right.
- Be genuine. Remember, honesty and consistency are very important. You do not want to portray yourself one way in a video essay and then an entirely different way in person.
- Record a practice video and solicit feedback from friends, family, or colleagues. Allow plenty of time to make adjustments and still have time for editing and sending.
- Follow directions. Stay within the allowed length, cover the requisite topics, and follow all of the rest of the rules to the letter.
Social media profiles
Your online profile takes many forms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and so many more. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are three of the most common sites an admissions officer will go in order to find out more about you. It is all too easy and all too common for someone to forget that anonymity is almost a thing of the past. One quick press of the “send” button is all it takes to damage your reputation, your credibility, and your application. Keep these tips in mind when it comes to your social media accounts:
- Perform an initial review of your profiles to ensure that all information is accurate and there are no discrepancies with your resume, CV, or any other written forms you have completed.
- Periodically update your profile with a timely new picture or statement.
- Review the history of your “likes,” posts, “shares,” and other interactions through the lens of an admissions officer and try to remove anything unflattering.
- Use a professional picture as a profile picture rather than a candid photo.
- Proud of your profile? Add weblinks to your CV that connect with your social media profiles.
- Make sure all the content reflects the image you want to portray.
To elevate yourself above your fellow applicants in the eyes of the admissions officers, you need to impress them, and that is not an easy task. Most, if not all, applicants to post-graduate programmes are already adept at digital communication of many forms. Identify those unique qualities that make you a stand-out candidate for their programme and emphasise those traits consistently throughout all your communications with the school.