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Networking from High School to Higher Education

When high school students are making the transition from secondary school to higher education they spend a lot of time focused on their grades. Don’t get me wrong, good marks and strong course selections are the foundation of any great application, but it’s only part of the package. An important component that is often overlooked is networking skills. From the pre-application information sessions to the interview process, strong networking and communication skills can make the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection.

The key is to use EVERY opportunity you have to network and connect with the schools of your choice to make a positive and lasting impression. Schools see so many qualified candidates on paper but if you can make a connection with an admissions officer or recruiter, when its time to decide who’s in – it is much more likely to be YOU! The great news is that networking is a skill that is simple to learn and with a little practice and these helpful tips you’ll be networking like a natural in no time.

Shake hands with people when you meet them. A confident handshake is the first part of any great networking interaction. It communicates that you are enthusiastic and motivated to connect with the person you are meeting. Handshaking also has an interesting biochemical impact, which is that when you shake hands with someone, they will feel more positively about you the next time you meet. This is critical when you are trying to make your application stand out from the crowd – you want your preferred school and its representatives to feel positive about you.

Say your name clearly when you introduce yourself. No matter how great your handshake is or how clever your small talk it won’t make any difference if the people you meet can’t remember your name. To prevent this from happening make it easy for other people to remember your name by ensuring you say your name slowly (you can even spell it out if you find people struggle with it), and give them some way to remember it maybe an interesting story about how you came to have it. Another important tip: make sure you remember their name too! It won’t do you any good if you can’t remember the name of the admissions officer you spoke with.

Do Your Homework. When networking for higher education, you are essentially taking an in person exam and that means you need to study. To prepare you should read up on the school, be very well informed about the programs, know why and how you want to attend and have questions ready for them about the student experience. This will allow you to have very powerful conversations and also demonstrate that you are the kind of student who will thrive at their institution.

Look the Part. Networking is all about putting your best foot forward and that includes looking your best and dressing appropriately. This means you should dress based on the dress code of the event, make sure that even casual clothes are clean and neat and always make sure you are well groomed . This doesn’t mean your wardrobe shouldn’t personality – it should – just make sure it’s also respectful of the people you’ll be meeting and the environment you’re in.

Say Thank YOU. A little gratitude goes a long way! Everyone appreciates being appreciated and this is especially true for recruiters and admissions officers who work tirelessly to recruit the best talent for their schools. To thank them, make sure you get a business card or contact information so that you can send a handwritten note to thank them for their time and to remind them how excited you are about the prospect of attending their school!

Lisa Orr is an etiquette and protocol consultant and owner of Orretiquette. She is a big supporter of GEM and recently hosted a Networking workshop for GEMgirls where she also gifted each of them with their own personalized business cards! Find out more about Lisa here: Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram