An admissions consultant’s webinar intended for applicants to the Harvard Business School last month attracted a record 11,971 registrants, with as many as four in ten from India.
The event was held by Accepted.com founder and CEO Linda Abraham, who has been doing webinars to drum up consulting business for the past four years. Abraham says she was shocked by the response which was as many as 40 times more than the typical webinar she holds.
A harbinger of a strong application season ahead or a sign of a further shift in where future applicants are likely to come from? “I think we are going to see a very busy MBA application process,” believes Abraham. “But I don’t think this webinar on its own can be taken as a sign that Harvard is going to be flooded with applications this cycle because so many of these people are so early in the process. If anything, it reflects the incredible brand pull of Harvard Business School, particularly abroad. For many people, Harvard is their dream.”
CATCHY OR CLEVER?
It also may have gone viral because of what Abraham says was a “catchy title” for the free webinar: Get Accepted To Harvard Business School. “At the time, I didn’t think it was all that catchy,” she laughs. “Maybe a little clever, but I didn’t think it had that kind of power.” The webinar–which can now be seen as a recording–takes prospective candidates through the four strategic goals of an MBA application to a top program and how you apply those goals to an HBS application.
Abraham says it was the third time she has given this particular webinar, with small modifications. In the past, she adds, 300 to 400 registered for the event and perhaps 100 showed up. accepted.com began promoting the event on June 9th. A day later, Abraham noticed an increase in traffic to her website.
“Hour by hour, there were more and more registrants. We have a license that allows for 1,000 participants. But we hit 1,000 registrants on the first day. The next morning, we looked at it and there were over 5,000. We were shocked. We had no idea what was going on. If we had 500, we would have been thrilled beyond belief. It was crazy.”
MANY POTENTIAL APPLICANTS WERE FROM EMERGING ECONOMIES
The numbers continued to climb until getting nearly 12,000 registrants for the one-hour webinar, causing Abraham to schedule a series of them. She estimates that only 15% of the potential applicants were from the U.S. Most of the registrants were from emerging economies, ranging from India, Egypt and Pakistan to Bangladesh, Morocco and Tunisia. Some 40% were from India,
“We noticed from the questions and countries that people were coming from showed that they were not terribly sophisticated,” says Abraham. “They were very early in the process and interested in financial aid which I don’t cover in this seminar. The third thing we noticed was that it really took hold in the developing world.”
When it came to holding the webinars during the third week in June, many of the registrants failed to show up, as expected. Roughly 5,600 registrants signed up for the second of the three webinars, but only 600 were there in real time. “One of the questions I asked at the beginning was, ‘How many of you are applying in round one, two, three or later? I expected round one and two. But something like 78% of them said they planned to apply next year or later. The questions showed they were very early in the process.”