Taking a Stand While Applying to Business School
Today we’re going to talk about a topic that may be top of mind given recent world events where much dialogue has occurred on social media – how your online presence can impact your candidacy. Do adcoms even look at applicants’ social media profiles? Will taking a stand on a social or political issue that may be viewed as divisive reflect negatively on you in the eyes of the adcom?
These are valid questions that warrant consideration and reflection. It is quite likely that the MBA admissions committee will at least glance at your LinkedIn profile (most applications even ask for the link these days), if not your profile on Instagram, Facebook, or other platforms that are publicly available.
Further, according to Kristen Lindeman, a Vantage Point Senior Consultant and former MIT Sloan Adcom, “your social media is absolutely fair game and adcoms don’t shy away from googling candidates.”
It is also possible that, if you are granted an interview, your admissions interviewer will use your online presence to get a sense of who you are outside of the interview room (unless it is a blind interview and they’ve explicitly been asked not to, of course). Last but not least, once admitted, you will meet boatloads of new faces at admitted students’ weekends and on campus. You know how tempting it is to look up a new peer online, right?
So, how can you ensure that your social media doesn’t negatively impact your MBA applications?
Pro Tip #1: Give Your Social Media the Mother-In-Law Test
The best way to make sure you are presenting yourself positively on social media when applying to business school is to perform what we call ‘The Mother-in-Law Test’. Imagine you are meeting a new significant other’s family for the first time – it’s likely they’ll want to get a sense for who you are and google you. What will they find? Google yourself and find out.
Additionally, review your privacy settings across all your social media accounts and make sure the publicly available information, pictures, etc. are things you would want your future mother-in-law to see. In other words, photos of excessive drinking, scandalous or irresponsible behavior, etc. are not a great look. Scanning what’s out there and adjusting if needed is easy to do and important.
Furthermore, it’s important to be respectful and cautious with things you post or comment on. It is true that MBA classrooms depend and thrive on respectful discussions of diverse viewpoints. So, indicating you support a certain cause or sharing a carefully considered, well thought out perspective on an issue isn’t off limits. But we recommend you tread carefully – now is not the time to have heated debates with political adversaries in a public forum or post anything that can be read as insensitive or uninformed. When in doubt, always consider asking for a second opinion from someone whose views don’t always align with your own before posting!
Lastly, feel free to post or comment in ways that demonstrate you congratulate others on accomplishments, acknowledge their skills in a particular area, etc. Encouraging others is a key element of leadership, exactly what the adcom wants to see.
Pro Tip #2: Social Media is an Extension of Your Personal Brand
If done right, your social media presence can actually be used to your advantage when applying to business school. Remember that personal branding work you (hopefully) did at the beginning of your MBA application process? If you did it right, you should have a strong sense of how you will present yourself in your application materials. Think of your social media presence as another vehicle to showcase the unique skillset you bring to the table and reinforce the career interests you’ve set your sights on for the future.
How do you do this exactly? Most important is your LinkedIn profile. We recommend including a headline that crystallizes your career experience thus far and may include a nod to your passion areas tangential to or outside of work. For example, your headline could read something like ‘Innovative strategy consultant with experience in the consumer products and technology spaces and a passion for mentorship.’ In addition to your headline, make sure your LinkedIn profile is robustly built out and consistent with what you’ve included on your resume and in the applications themselves.
It’s also ok, and can even been strategic, to add a little personality and individuality to your social media profiles. If you talk about a passion in your applications (e.g., running, hiking, travelling, etc.), it can be a nice touch to incorporate it into your profile. Additionally, think about how you can add authenticity to your future career goals by following accounts related to your target industry or posting links to newsworthy articles about the sector.
If you’re applying to business school and looking for more MBA admissions advice, follow our social media presence (see what we did there) on LinkedIn and Instagram! You can also reach out to schedule an initial 30-minute consultation here.