One of the themes that Southwark repeatedly stresses with our clients is the importance of transparency in the admissions process. By transparency, we mean open engagement with the applicant pool such that the selection process doesn’t feel like a complete mystery to the nervous applicant who is awaiting a decision. Admissions transparency can be achieved in a number of different ways – ranging from the broadcasting of facts, figures and precise timelines on a school blog or email newsletter to simply engaging directly and frequently with the applicant pool in discussion forums, Twitter conversation or via a Facebook page.
It’s no secret that today’s applicants to business school can be quite demanding. They want information about the process and they want it immediately – via your school’s tweets, texts, Facebook statuses, blog posts and more. What’s worse is that in the absence of official information from the school itself, applicants will go elsewhere – community sites, discussion forums, blogs, admissions consultants, water cooler talk, etc. – often resulting in incorrect information. In fact, more often than not, a lack of transparency in your admissions process leads to a greater degree of speculation and misinformation in unofficial channels….and thereby results in increased ‘customer service’ for the admissions team (as the phone begins ringing and emails start overloading your admissions office inbox). A lack of transparency can also lead to a good deal of bitterness among applicants – especially those you reject.
The specific level of transparency that your admissions office chooses to provide is clearly something that merits internal discussion and will likely be tailored to the nuances of your process. For example, should you tell candidates exactly how many interview invitations you will issue, or how many people you have on the wait list – or should you merely do a good job of outlining the ‘life of an application’ and keeping in constant contact with applicants? Regardless, it’s safe to say that having at least a basic degree of transparency is vital in today’s admissions climate.
So what does transparency look like? Let’s take a peek at an email that Harvard Business School recently send to all of their Round One applicants (the school’s R1 deadline was this past Monday). It is a nearly perfect example of transparency in MBA admissions. I have included the email below for your reference, but it strikes the perfect balance of being informative and authoritative while also remaining low-key about the process and acknowledging the nerves that often go along with anxiously awaiting an admissions decision. This email and its tone strikes me as being perfectly suited to today’s generation of applicants. I should also mention that the HBS admissions director – Dee Leopold – typically blogs over the course of the application round and provides more details, facts and figures as the review process gets moving – so you should think of this email as more of an introduction/opening statement.
Also, on a historical level, this is an important email for one other reason. As recently 10 years ago, HBS was mostly noted for having one of – if not the most – opaque admissions processes in the MBA universe. In fact, the idea that an email with this level of transparency could come out of the HBS admissions office would have been unfathomable back then. In short, the lesson here is that any school can shift its stance on transparency over time!
Please review the email below and feel free to reach out to Southwark if you have questions about the degree of transparency in your own admissions process.
From: “Harvard Business School” <[email protected]>
Subject: Welcome to HBS Round 1!
Date: September 16, 2013 12:31:00 PM EDTTo:Reply-To: <[email protected]>