MBA Online Student Recruitment… the email opening gambit

Making a first email impression… comparing 4 examples

The definition of “gambit” tells the story… “a device, action, or opening remark, typically one entailing a degree of risk, that is calculated to gain an advantage.”

Today we want to see how our four sample online MBA programs open their email contacts with potential students. For sure, there is a degree of risk here. Making a wrong impression in this first contact risks not having the recipient pay attention to anything that follows. And for sure, the intent should be to begin to gain competitive advantage against other online MBA programs the recipient might be considering. (If you missed the first installment in this series, the introduction is here.)

Is there a “best” email?

I’d not try to pick a “best” email here in a quest for competitive advantage. Strengths and weaknesses vary from one to another. People will have different favorites.

  • I’m rather drawn to the friendly simplicity of the American University email that isn’t trying to “sell” me as much as acknowledge my interest and lead me on to the website. It was also the only email that didn’t fall victim to a personal irritant: failure to use the name of a real person in both the opening and closing. In today’s communications world there is no reason not to do that. It seemed especially odd for the two schools that give the name of a personal counselor in the main text. Why not use that name to end the contact?
  • The University of Dayton version stands out for noting specific benefits for potential students (possible advanced standing and possible GRE waiver) that many visitors might find an enticement to explore further. Syracuse University was the only school to mention the number of credits required and how long it might take to complete them. It also was the only school to tout a high rating, but without specificity.
  • The Simmons College example seems weaker than the others. It would benefit simply by adding the name of the potential student and the name of a real person to open and close the message. It is also the only email using a photo of a building at the start that might be any building on any campus. It does claim a unique and timely feature: creating an understanding of “gender dynamics” in the workplace.

A surprise? How often the word “immersive” or “immersion” appears in this collection. More notes are below after each email.

American University Online MBAAmerican University Kogod School of Business

Dear Bob,

You have previously requested information about earning your business degree online, and you may be interested in MBA@American from Kogod School of Business at American University.

American University is based in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., enabling students to learn from leaders in the field. MBA@American features online classes live in a virtual classroom. Coursework is completely accessible online, which means you can earn a Kogod degree from anywhere. You will also have a chance to meet your classmates and professors in person at immersion experiences in cities around the world.

The Kogod online Master of Business Administration is designed to be student centered. With small class sizes to encourage collaboration and team building, the program’s curriculum is grounded in experiential learning with an emphasis on gaining practical knowledge that supports success.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about MBA@American.


Judson VanAntwerp
Admissions Counselor, MBA@American
Kogod School of Business | American University
(301) 358-9142 |

Notes: Clean, easy-to-read text that includes a personal name to open and close. Early link to the online MBA home page where the “immersion experiences” noted are prominent. Some of the content (“student centered,” for instance, and “collaboration and team building”) is almost boiler plate. Jargon is absent, with the exception of “experiential learning.” Third paragraph puts emphasis on “practical” learning that “supports success.” Here we might have a link to more “success” information as that pathway isn’t obvious from the home page. Neither GMAT nor GRE is required for admission (home page content) and that might well appear in the email.

University of Dayton Online MBAUniversity of Dayton School of Business Administration

Dear Bob,

Thank you for requesting information about MBA@Dayton, the online format of the MBA program from the University of Dayton’s AACSB-accredited School of Business Administration. An admission counselor will be reaching out to you shortly. In the meantime, you can learn more about this program on our website.


GMAT waivers are available if you have at least three years of professional work experience, and if you hold a recent undergraduate business degree, you may be eligible for our one-year Advanced Standing MBA.The online program is designed for working professionals, enabling you to earn your MBA while continuing to work. Through live, face-to-face online classes, self-paced course work and in-person immersions, you can build a network of passionate professionals and apply your learning to real situations.

Learn more about admission requirements or contact your admission counselor, Emily EtsHokin, at 937-262-4370 or to discuss the program. If you are ready, you can also begin your application.



MBA@Dayton Admission
School of Business Administration
855-622-8312​ |​

Notes: A real name at the start, but alas only an office title at the closing. Two benefits get emphasis: (1) GMAT can be waived based on professional work and (2) people with an undergrad business degree might get advanced standing for faster completion. Both make sense for the “working professionals” who are the enrollment target as does the ability to “network.” What, one might reasonably wonder, are “in-person immersions” during the program? (There is a short “immersions” blurb on the home page but no link from that to more information about where or how often.) The link to admission requirements is good as is contact information for “your” admissions counselor. But why didn’t Emily sign the email?

Simmons College Online MBASimmons College School of Management

 Submit Your Application by

October 20 and Save $30


The priority application deadline for the January 2018 cohort is October 20 and we want to make sure that you have all of the information you need to take this important step in advancing your career. The MBA@Simmons program is uniquely designed to help you build essential business and management skills, deepen your understanding of gender dynamics in the workplace, and prepare you to identify and seize opportunities to lead in dynamic global environments.

Submitting your application by the priority deadline will give you key advantages including an earlier admissions decision and $30 off the cost of your application fee. You can even get a jump on reviewing content for your first course, Foundations of Business, which will be available a month before classes begin.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our admissions team at or 1-844-622-2872 if you have any questions about your application materials, program details, or your prospective faculty and classmates.

Notes: This is the only email that does not use a potential student’s name in the opening (and no name at the closing, just a prompt to “reach out to our admissions team”). Simmons emphasizes a $30 reduction in the application fee as a motivator to complete an application. A program note of distinction appears: a chance to “deepen your understanding of gender dynamics in the workplace” seems especially timely now and fits the Simmons heritage as a college for women. Is the opportunity to “get a jump” on my first course if accepted important? Perhaps.

Syracuse University Online MBASyracuse University Whitman School of Management

Dear Bob,

As someone who has previously requested information about online MBA programs, you may be interested in learning about MBA@Syracuse from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University.

MBA@Syracuse is the Whitman School’s top-ranked online MBA program. The curriculum is designed to prepare tomorrow’s leaders with the skills and knowledge to succeed in today’s competitive field of global business. The program brings the best of an on-campus education online, with live classes taught by university faculty, immersive coursework, and residencies held in the United States and international cities.

MBA@Syracuse is 54 credits, including three required residencies, and can be completed in two years. Students may also choose to specialize in accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing management or supply chain management.

You can begin advancing your career now with MBA@Syracuse. If you would like to learn more about MBA@Syracuse or the application process, please contact your admissions counselor, Joseph Nuredin, at (315) 808-2224 or


MBA@Syracuse Admissions

Martin J. Whitman School of Management
844-SYR-4622 |

Notes: Another email that opens with the name of the potential student but does not include the name of anyone at the end. (Although again, the name of a personal admissions counselor is used in the email.) Syracuse emphasizes high ratings. The online MBA is ranked 42nd by US News… the home page lists other rankings but not that one. Magic words do appear: “advancing your career” is a motivating term for working professionals that has tested well in our “Carewords” research. How, we might again wonder, does “immersive coursework” differ from other coursework? There’s no mention of that on the home page. This is the only email that sets out the number of required credits. The home page notes that most students complete the program in two years and that might be included in the email. A GMAT waiver is available for people with 5-years employment experience. If few applicants have that much, it makes sense not to include it here.

Over the next few weeks…

Expect a continuing review on an irregular schedule of the email content from each online MBA program, followed by comparative notes on the online inquiry forms, and individual notes on how the schools seem to be using social media.

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