Advice for Applicants from Over-Represented Buckets


If there’s one overarching trend we’ve seen in our two-plus decades of admission consulting, it’s the move toward greater diversity in the top MBA programs. For example, applicants from consulting and banking used to dominate at business schools in the past. Plus, most students were white males. However, programs strive for diversity across several buckets: gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, industry, function or role, and home country.

What does that mean for applicants from consulting or financial services? Or white males or Indian male engineers (two of the most over-represented demographic buckets)? It means that you must work hard to stand out. You’ll need to prove you have something valuable to bring to the table.

In other words, you’re going to have to clearly demonstrate that what your classmates will learn from your personal and professional experiences outweighs the fact that you aren’t contributing to a more diverse environment in the traditional ways.

We often meet with applicants who are shocked to hear that their “stats” won’t be enough. A high GPA and a high GMAT score are never bad things, of course. But they don’t guarantee admission, either. The MBA application process is a self-selecting one in many ways. Meaning, that the people pursuing b-school are the ones who’ve done well in school, on tests, and in their careers so far.

Stats don’t tell the whole story.

The majority of applicants deserve to get in “on paper.”

Your stats only indicate that you can likely handle the rigor of their program. They don’t reveal anything about how you work with others. Nor do they speak to any leadership roles you’ve taken. More importantly, they reveal nothing of what motivates you or what your future goals are.

Unlike undergraduate colleges, MBA programs heavily rely on students teaching each other. As a result, schools expect high levels of spirited and interactive discussion in class, with students sharing their past experiences to benefit others.

So while everyone who applies to business school should try to communicate the unique aspects of their candidacies that their classmates will learn from, it’s exponentially more critical that those from over-represented buckets do so. You’re going to want to pull from your volunteer, extracurricular, and leadership experiences across all facets of your life.

You might want to talk about places you’ve traveled and what you did or learned there. You might have a defining moment to share that led to your future career goals. You’ll want to highlight anything you are involved with at work that might relate to recent news headlines. The admissions committees love it when students can share first-hand experiences with buzzy topics.

Applicants from the “traditional” buckets still gain admission to top MBA programs across the country every year. So if you’re in one of those buckets, there’s no reason to lose hope. But you should look objectively and realistically at your candidacy and perhaps widen the net of schools you’re considering.

Try to figure out what your classmates would learn from you. Then, focus on incorporating those themes into your materials. You can do it! And if you need help crafting your story, sign up for a free profile analysis from SBC.

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