Networking is an often overlooked yet absolutely critical part of applying to schools.  What is networking?  Simply, networking is reaching out to people attending or people that have graduated from your target school.  It is a combination of research and meeting new people with a purpose.  Before a mission, you had to conduct reconnaissance and gather intelligence, right?  Networking helps you do the same thing.

Through networking, you can get an idea of the school’s people and whether or not the school would be a good fit with your personality.  Are they the kind of folks you want to spend 2-4 years with?  Life is too short to be around people you don’t like.  Networking also helps you gain a lot of relevant information about your choice school.  Many schools talk up their offerings, but speaking to current students can give you the inside scoop of what resources the school truly has to offer.  After networking, you should know whether you can reach your goals with a degree from your target school or if it is just hot air.

Networking, though, does more than just help you conduct research.  It also helps introduce you to the people that may have input on your admission.  If the conversation goes well, the person you spoke with may just make a recommendation on your behalf.  It is important for you to remember that these networking calls have a purpose: to help you get into school.  To that end, we have some networking tips:

  • Find someone with common ground

Being a military veteran is a huge advantage.  Vets tend to go out of their way to help fellow vets, so the first thing you should do is find a veteran’s organization at your target school or, if your school doesn’t have a vets’ club, find military veterans at your school.  Also, leverage social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin to find veterans who have attended a certain school that you are interested in attending. Shoot them an email, letting them know your background and that you are interested in their school, and ask if you can take them out for a cup of coffee or schedule a phone call to ask some questions about the application process.  Easy as that!

  • Prepare insightful questions

Try to do as much research about the school prior to meeting the individual. If someone has been kind enough to schedule some time to chat with you, make sure you develop a list of 10-20 questions about their experience and their school.  Of course you don’t need to ask that many, but you don’t want to waste their time either.  We can help you develop a list of good questions, but some general guidelines include avoiding general questions and not asking anything that can’t be answered on the school’s website

  • Don’t take more than 15-20 min

Of course, if you have found your soul mate and the conversation is flowing smoothly you can take longer.  Generally, though, don’t take longer than 15-20 minutes.

  • Be energetic but authentic

As in interviews, you want to have a positive presence.  Be excited about the school and the opportunity you have and let that excitement show in your voice.  You don’t have to be a cheerleader, but no one wants to talk to someone that is already bored with school.

  • Follow up

After the conversation, make sure to send a thank you note.  Email is fine and remember to be genuine and reference something helpful in the email that the person mentioned during the conversation.  If the conversation went well, ask to be put in contact with more people.

Networking helps you inform your choice and helps you stand out during the admissions process.

One of our favorite networking books is called Never Eat Lunch Alone, here are some good articles about the book: http://www.techstartups.com/2010/07/09/never-eat-lunch-alone/  Borrow it from the library or buy it at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Never-Eat-Alone-Secrets-Relationship/dp/0385512058