The Consortium for MBA Applicants: Should You Apply?

Consortium MBA

Is a full-ride scholarship offer to a top-ranked program such as Kellogg, Columbia, or Stanford appealing? Have you advocated for the advancement of underrepresented minority groups over time? If the answers are yes, read on.

Now more than ever, there’s an urgent need for greater diversity in business schools and the business world. Recognizing this, many MBA programs have ramped up their efforts to increase enrollment for qualified candidates from underrepresented minority (URM) groups. One group working tirelessly to advance URM representation is The Consortium for MBA applicants.

The Consortium is “striving to reduce the significant underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in both our Member Schools’ enrollments and the ranks of global management.” 

Our Expertise in Applying through The Consortium

Each MBA admissions season, our SBC team guides several dozen clients through The Consortium. Indeed, multiple members of the SBC team are Consortium experts. For instance, SBC consultant Erin is a former Board member of The Consortium who also served as an Admissions Officer at two top MBA programs. SBC consultant Jessica, meanwhile, was a Consortium Fellowship recipient herself while at Darden’s MBA program.

In guiding our clients on whether to apply through The Consortium, we often hear that it may be more work to go through it because it entails all of the school-specific essays in addition to The Consortium essays. To refine our knowledge and better define the upsides of applying through The Consortium, the SBC team recently met with representatives at The Consortium to ask our burning questions and get clarification on what it means to apply via The Consortium versus directly through the MBA programs.

consortium MBA

This overview will explore the nuances and offer much-needed clarity for what many applicants view as an esoteric process. Here, we will stress-test the merits of applying via The Consortium and cover the topics of:

  • The Consortium’s Target: Underrepresented vs Underserved
  • Learn the Lingo
  • Should I apply to the MBA via The Consortium?
  • The Upside to being a Consortium Admit
  • Is The Consortium application easier than applying directly?
  • Consortium MBA Essays & Deadlines
  • Test Score Submission
  • Is there a possible downside to applying through The Consortium for a non-URM?
  • Is The Consortium the only avenue for minority MBA applicants?

The Consortium Target: Underrepresented vs Underserved

“Historically, The Consortium initially focused on African American men but was later expanded to focus on all African Americans, Hispanic and Native Americans,” Jessica explains. “In more recent years, their mission has expanded to include not just minorities but anyone who can materially advance the mission of The Consortium: to further advance significantly underrepresented minorities in the workplace.”

Underrepresented and underserved are not synonymous, according to The Consortium’s mission. For example, “while The Consortium’s mission supports three specific populations—African American, Hispanic and Native Americans—LGBTQ+ candidates are welcome to apply,” representatives explained to our SBC consultant team.

Candidates must show that they work to enhance aspects of these target populations. Or, if the applicant is part of a target demographic (URM), show more than just work that they have done within their community; go beyond and speak to The Consortium’s mission with clarity.

At our meeting with The Consortium’s representatives, a key takeaway was,

“Just working with underserved populations is not enough. That’s a misconception that needs to be clarified.”

Learn the Lingo

The MBA application process itself—without The Consortium—can challenge any applicant. Adding The Consortium’s verbiage and steps to the mix may overwhelm some applicants with all the different terms. Before we explore the pros and cons of applying through The Consortium, let’s cover key terms and definitions, as these are the scaffolding of The Consortium’s process and can help orient the applicant.

  • Member school: an MBA program that agrees to The Consortium’s terms and conditions, including application requirements and a minimum fellowship allotment to Consortium members who are admitted. Not all MBA programs who apply are accepted as a Consortium member school.

  • Core: The Consortium part of the application that includes the mission essay, mission LOR, resume, and the basics (data form, transcripts, test score). This consolidated core application is only $300 for up to six programs. Additional programs cost $25 each. In contrast, a typical application fee via the standard route is about $300 per program. An applicant uses one application form for up to 23 schools: any or all Consortium member applications.

  • Supplemental: The school-specific part of the application, including essays, short answers, etc.

  • Member: An applicant who was accepted to The Consortium.

  • Fellowship (not scholarship): Money a school gives an admit if the school decides to extend it and the candidate is a Consortium member.

Should I Apply to the MBA via The Consortium?

First, ensure you meet the requirements of being a US citizen with an undergraduate degree (college seniors may not apply). We encourage clients to apply to MBA programs in conjunction with The Consortium if they meet either of the following criteria:

  • The applicant is targeting MBA programs that are member schools of The Consortium. Columbia, Stanford, and Kellogg are the only top 7 Consortium MBA member schools at this time, with Kellogg and Stanford as very recent additions.
  • They have shown a commitment through work and/or community activism to advancing The Consortium’s mission and supporting URM causes. 

“The Consortium is URM-agnostic,” Jessica explains. “Consortium wants you to support the mission, but you don’t have to be a minority. An applicant’s impact and advocacy experiences should support underrepresented minorities.”

“It’s a case-by-case basis whether to apply to The Consortium, either based on URM background or the industry you serve towards URM,” she adds.

The Consortium’s representatives shared this essay advice with the SBC team:

“The candidate must speak to The Consortium’s target demographics in the mission essay. Be comfortable with saying you work with one or several target demographics, such as being involved with ERG at job, mentoring students 1:1. Be really explicit and let recommenders know to echo that as well in their recommendation letter.

“Any involvement with any organizations prior to, during and after b-school counts and should be covered in the mission essay. Speak to what you have done and not just what you plan on doing. The type of organization is not important but rather what the candidate has done within an organization to help the target population(s).”

But do you need to show you’ve already saved the world?

Consistency in supporting the mission is crucial—no grandiose accomplishments required. As The Consortium representatives shared with us, “This can be a DEI project in undergrad; it doesn’t have to be spectacular. Or if the applicant is URM, it can be first black president of organization, first Hispanic leader, etc.”

In our call with The Consortium team, we also learned that “Individual experiences count, such as the desire to help generations to come because the applicant is first gen college grad; the individual who is breaking the generational pattern and investing in the future, by doing A, B, C,D via the higher education plan. This also supports the mission. The experiences do not have to be high-impact or leadership necessarily.”

We loved hearing from The Consortium team that efforts to increase URM’s role in the global ranks and company management—advancing representation for African, Hispanic and Native American in business—are sought after and valuable. “Whether it is business, social, personal, even if it’s mainly overcoming challenges as a URM,” The Consortium wants to hear about it all.

But, Jessica cautions, “I would not necessarily encourage candidates with non-profit backgrounds to apply with The Consortium just because the industry background is social justice.”

“For example, I worked for a non-profit for three years straight from college, but we didn’t serve the URM population. Also, while The Consortium tries to push its overarching message and guidelines to be consistent for each school and how they evaluate candidates, it will always be slightly subjective based on the MBA program’s admissions team.”  

Curious if The Consortium is right for you? Request a free MBA advising session here. SBC is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers, several of which specialize in diverse candidates and The Consortium application.

The Upside to Being an Admit to The Consortium

Admits to The Consortium enjoy several significant benefits, including:

  • Fellowship moneyA full-ride fellowship may be granted to Consortium members by the MBA program (it’s never partial, but it can be zero dollars or only the admission offer). Among Consortium members, more than 60% receive a fellowship from the MBA program, extended to the applicant at some point after the admit date. Some fellowship recipients forfeit because they opt for admission to another MBA program. Fellowship is not transferable across other member schools. The consortium fellowship covers MBA tuition and any additional fees. It doesn’t cover room and board. MBA programs can offer additional scholarships/stipends to cover room and board and books apart from The Consortium fellowship. 
  • Orientation Program (“The OP”) — A job fair of sorts held before school starts. Many students leave this conference with early internship opportunities, often leading to jobs after graduation.
  • Lifetime Consortium network —Includes access to over 100 corporate partners and 11K Consortium alums.

If any of those sound appealing to you, read on… it’s worth evaluating further!

Consortium MBA

Is The Consortium Application Easier Than Applying Directly?

Surprisingly, it’s more work for MBA applicants to apply via The Consortium, even though all the application(s) are done via the same Consortium portal. But it is worthwhile if the target schools are Consortium members and the applicant wants to maximize their admit and scholarship potential. 

There’s no downside to applying through The Consortium other than the added time it takes to fulfill its application requirements. This includes essays, academic requirements, and recommendations. We see some overlap between the MBA application essays and The Consortium essays. Remember, The Consortium essays and recommendation letter (LOR) are in addition to the regular MBA program application requirements.

Recap on the lingo:

  • Core: The Consortium part of the application that includes the mission essay, mission LOR, resume, and the basics (data form, transcripts, test score).

  • Supplemental: The school-specific part of the application which includes essays, short answers, etc.

The Consortium portion is the beginning of the core application. The main submission for Consortium membership is the mission essay. The mission essay is the primary, no-word-count essay for the core application that member schools agreed upon.

The mission letter of recommendation (this is a 3rd recommender) and this Consortium portion are not shared with the schools. This core application includes information every school needs: the data form, transcripts, test scores, resume, optional essay, and primary essay(s); applicants do not apply through the schools’ individual applications.

A note about recommenders

The core application for The Consortium asks for two common LORs—both professional—and one Consortium-specific mission recommendation. Note that the third letter can be from one of those previous professional recommenders. However, the system doesn’t allow for multiple submissions from the same email address, so use a separate email address if the #2 and #3 recommenders are the same person).

The Consortium decides (yes or no) on an applicant’s membership based on the core application. The Consortium updates its data form application annually, often moving the commonly asked school-specific (supplemental) question(s) to The Consortium core application.

Member schools can only see the supplemental (school-specific questions) aspects; they cannot access The Consortium mission essay and mission LOR portion. The supplemental is a trimmed-down version of the regular application (it is usually not the same as the full application).

Supplemental includes school-specific essays and may be lengthy, especially for a program like Stanford. The schools will include all school-specific essays, such as optional ones, in their supplement. Some schools may reach out to applicants with additional requests. For example, Yale typically reaches out to their submitted applicants with a behavioral assessment test. The Consortium has access to review any of the supplemental aspects.

The MBA program makes independent decisions on admission and whether to offer The Consortium fellowship (fellowship consideration only if the applicant is a Consortium member). The Consortium doesn’t give schools a deadline to submit fellowship decisions.

You can see a screenshot of The Consortium application interface below. The first three quadrants (Personal Information, Academic History, and Supporting Information) are the core application. All schools will be able to see this information (minus the mission essays and mission recommendation).

The Program Materials quadrant is where students will see the supplements of the schools they add to their application.

Consortium MBA Essays & Deadlines

Applications are reviewed both by The Consortium (for admission into The Consortium) and each school. You may hear the results either from the school, The Consortium, or both. 

There was an application cap in the past, and members had to rank school preferences. As of the 2022-2023 admissions season, applicants can apply to more than six schools as the cap and ranking were removed. No additional changes are planned for the coming season, according to representatives of The Consortium.

The Consortium MBA application essays year after year have remained the same and are as follows:

Core Essay 1: Please describe your short- and long-term goals post-MBA. How has your professional experience shaped these goals and influenced your decision to pursue an MBA degree? (2,000 characters)

Optional Essay 2: Is there any other information you would like to share with us that is not presented elsewhere in your application? (1,000 characters)

Mission Essay: Please address the three questions noted below. Please use specific examples pertaining to our target populations and clearly articulate your involvement, actions, and results.

  1. What will you do while enrolled in your MBA program to demonstrate your commitment to the mission? (1,000 characters)
  2. What will you do post-MBA with respect to community service and leadership involvement to demonstrate your continued commitment to The Consortium’s missions of diversity and inclusion? (1,000 characters)
  3. What have you done pre-MBA in your business, personal or academic life to demonstrate commitment to this mission? (2,000 characters)

The early and traditional Consortium deadlines correspond to the Round 1 and Round 2 MBA deadlines, respectively. Here are the key dates from last season:

  • Application Opens: Aug. 15, 2022 (expected same for 2023)
  • Early Application Deadline: Oct. 15, 2022 (expected same for 2023)
  • Traditional Application Deadline: Jan. 5, 2023 (expected same for 2024)
  • Admission Decision: Varies by school
  • Fellowship Notification: March 2023

Test Score Submission

The test score is released directly to The Consortium by the applicant. The Consortium has a team that manages the data delivery, which varies by test type, online vs in-person, and test waiver for the program; that is carefully coordinated between the program and The Consortium team. In-person test scores feed directly into The Consortium system. The member school informs The Consortium if there is a test waiver for a given applicant.

GREs and in-person GMAT scores feed into The Consortium application once they receive the official scores from the applicant. They’ll be included in the application sent to schools. For Executive Assessment and online GMAT scores, The Consortium manually downloads the scores that applicants have released and sends them directly to the schools after the deadline. As a result, applicants would only need to release test scores to The Consortium unless specifically requested by the school.

Applicants can release their test scores using the following information:

  • GMAT: 9X4-6J-59
  • Online GMAT: our program name (The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management)
  • GRE: 0483
  • EA: our program name (The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management)

Is there a possible downside to applying through The Consortium for a non-URM?

We asked this question directly to The Consortium representatives, and their answer was clear: No. “While member schools do have the ability to look to see if it’s a Consortium applicant, a lot of schools don’t want to see if the candidate is Consortium or not. MBA programs often prefer not to know. Consortium often integrates into the regular application data, so schools can’t easily see if the applicant is Consortium. Almost blind, so that reduces bias. They are not reviewing for Consortium membership;  the schools are reviewing for their own program standards.

If The Consortium denies a candidate, they can still be admitted. This is a “pass through” step in that The Consortium just forwards the supplemental portion to each school without comment. The Consortium review and the school-specific review take place on two separate paths. The Consortium review makes no merit-based decisions on the applicant for MBA programs.

“When The Consortium reviews an application, the readers are not looking at ethnicity. Consortium reviewers are looking at the mission essay, mission LOR and resume to look for consistency to support the mission. They won’t know if the applicant is ‘nonURM,’ unless it’s stated,” explained The Consortium representative to our SBC team.

Is The Consortium the only avenue for minority MBA applicants?

Not at all! Many applicants are admitted and receive scholarships even if they didn’t apply via The Consortium. Applying through The Consortium is optional for any member schools. Plus, the list of Consortium member schools excludes many of the top 10 MBA programs. Currently, only three such MBA programs are members of The Consortium. 

Within the top 10 range of MBA programs, Wharton (not a Consortium member school) has the highest minority student population at 34.1%. Meanwhile, seven of the top 10 schools are under 30%, and the average is 27.9%.  

Highly-ranked Consortium member business schools include NYU Stern School of Business, Yale School of Management, UVA Darden School of Business, Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management, and Tuck School of Business. Stanford GSB and Kellogg became Consortium member schools in 2022.

Nevertheless, all MBA administrators have made their commitment to diversity clear in recent years through increased scholarships and by boosting the percentages of admitted minority students in their MBA programs.

For guidance on whether The Consortium is the right path for you, request a free MBA advising session here. SBC is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers, several of which specialize in diverse candidates and The Consortium application.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Wharton, Booth and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Kim, who was an Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


(323) 934-3936

Latest Blog Post

B-Schooled Podcast Episode #214: The Inside Scoop on HBS Essay Question One

Harvard Business School has updated its application essay questions for the first time in over a decade. In this much-anticipated B-Schooled podcast series, we sit down with HBS alum and longtime SBC consultant Yvette ...