Open Letter to Adcoms: How to market your school to students from a distance

Some time ago I wrote about, in general, how poorly business schools seemed to be marketed to prospective students. We live in the information age and expertise in IT and the internet is now widely available. It struck me as quite staggering that what are effectively multi-million pound professional businesses (who you would hope have some idea about such things) seem to utilise such a key method of communicating with potential customers so badly.

Rather than moan  I thought I might explain how I thought this might be done better or specific examples of where it was done well, badly. I should add that this isn’t a direct criticism of the places mentioned, as they are not the only examples by any means.

1. A decent campus tour video

Considering you may spend up to two years in somewhere you have never been to, this is quite an intimidating thought. “Why not visit?” I hear you cry? Well, I would like to, but I’m currently investigating around 20 schools. Even if I was in the US I doubt I’d be able to visit them all. It’s no substitute for an in-person visit, but surely a decent video tour of the facility would at least help?

Good: Darden (Virginia) is a good example of how this can be done well (if a little chino-heavy):

Bad: By contrast this the most-viewed tour video of HBS on No really. Looks great if you love tourists!

Harvard is not atypical. In most cases, the advice is ‘just come visit’. Not always helpful.

2.  Online Information Sessions

So I can’t visit, can’t get the T-shirt, I watched the video instead. I have video conferences/webinars every week at work? Maybe we could use some of this not-so-modern technology to add a more personal touch to the generic information on the website?

By contrast the absence of any video tour offering, I was really impressed by Harvard’s interactive slide-show as part of their online admissions events with a knowledgeable narration and a verbal answer to questions submitted by chat-box afterwards. Several other schools have a silent chat room system that for all I know could have answers written by a paid-for reseracher in Southern Asia, and the personal touch of a sterile lab.

3. Well-timed information sessions & updated diary of events

Ok, so following 1) we’ve established I can’t visit and can only do so by video, and following 2) I’d struggle to get more than a basic understand of your offering. Ideally I’d meet someone from your school when you’re in town. Considering essays for most business schools get released in the summer, I’d like to apply in Round 1 to make life as convenient as possible for you, maybe it would be a good idea to allow me to speak to your team before the July-R1 essay season?

I appreciate the start of the academic year is a convenient time to start your events for the year, but considering you aim to fill your class by Christmas maybe having some information sessions between April and August would be a good idea?


That’s right, come back in July. Why would you ever need more than 2 month’s notice?

Even better? Why not frustrate me by showing all the events I’ve missed at times that were probably too late for applicants last year, but too early for the majority of applicants this year?Image

Silly applicant, have a look at what you’ve missed!

Just a few of my own examples, as the frustration factor builds I’m sure there’ll be more. What have you found most frustrating in your searches?

The calm before the storm (hopefully)



Its a few weeks now since I had my burst of excitement following the score, and had all the excited ‘I could actually do this’ thoughts. Reality has hit, and hit hard.

Once my scores were received at the schools I put on my list during the GMAT I got some congratulation mails from some of them and links to more information about their program. I made the wise move of replying with a brief thankyou and some starter questions. Rotman (Toronto) came out the blocks early letting me know that they were in the UK and were meeting prospective candidates.

I naively thought it’d be a friendly chat over a coffee and a chance to ask some questions face-to-face. I left well informed about the programme but had under-estimated the nature of the discussion, I should have been better prepared and left whimpering with my tail between my legs. Two things struck me;

  1. I need to get used to an American conversation style before interviews. My British polite style was swallowed up, and I struggled to get a word in. This could be a BIG problem, I’ll need to be much more forward.
  2. As soon as I was asked about my own background, I went blank. After mumbling a little about my experience in an unconvincing way I could tell I’d hardly made an impression. A big opportunity missed.

I’ll be staying positive though – I’m better off learning this early on rather than stumbling into my interviews badly prepared mentally.