SBC Scoop: Digging for Diversity

Many clients we work with at Stacy Blackman Consulting believe that they do not have any diversity in their background to share with the admissions committee. The truth is that even the most typical MBA candidate can find an aspect of his or her background that brings a new element to the school and fellow classmates.

Jim was a second generation Chinese-American applicant with a stellar academic background and several years of graduate school in Engineering. When we met to discuss Jim’s application strategy for Kellogg, Michigan and MIT he was convinced that he was a boring, typical candidate who was competing against every other academically oriented Chinese-American male. He was highly focused on improving his GMAT score (already a respectable 710) to make his candidacy more competitive.

Instead I suggested we think more about how Jim was different from his fellow applicants who looked the same on paper. We discussed Jim’s upbringing in Texas and the summers he spent working in the family food manufacturing business. As we discussed Jim’s summer jobs, he mentioned that he went to Hong Kong every summer during college and worked for his grandfather’s exporting business. While working he became fluent in Cantonese and built friendships with locals and expats in the city. At work he took on greater responsibility, including designing a more efficient packing system that saved the family business several thousand dollars per shipment.

Jim was surprised that I was interested in these college experiences because he dismissed them as “just helping the family business out.” I pointed out that most applicants would neither be fluent in Cantonese and English nor would have spent summers in college optimizing an international exporting business. Seen in that light, Jim agreed his experiences were worth writing about in an essay.

After exploring his own unique background along with communicating his additional post-college achievements, Jim gained admission to MIT.

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

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4 Responses to SBC Scoop: Digging for Diversity

  1. The school provides quality international education, with an international exposure to all students; it will accommodate all children for whom the school can provide an appropriate education program, provided the child fulfils all the requirements and there is vacancy.

  2. Nitin says:

    Hi Stacy,

    My predicament is somewhat similar to that of Jim. I am a regular MBA aspirant from India with IIT education. My work is into analytics for one of the biggest companies in US. However to the uninitiated MBA adcom member the work that I do might get clubbed with that of a typical IT aspirant from India which is a really large cohort and puts me at a disadvantage. At the same time with hectic work schedule I do not have a lot to put for my extracurrics / community work although I am part of the companies CSR initiative.
    My extracurrics go back to college which I left 5-6 years back. In such a situation I believe that if I need to mention any extracurrics it will have to go back to my college time. However I have been told by friends that putting up really old extracurrics goes on to show a lack of it in the recent past and hence is not advisable. I just wanted to get your take on that. Please suggest me on how can I differentiate myself for the rest of the applicant pool.


  3. Stacy Blackman Consulting says:

    Hi Nitin,

    You’ll definitely want to cite your college activities on the actual application. For an essay to differentiate yourself you may have to delve deeper!

    Your work may be a different angle than the typical candidate. If you are not working in the IT industry you can emphasize the difference. Also, think about the parts of your work that require you to demonstrate teamwork and leadership and focus there.

    Otherwise you may have a hobby or interest that is unique. If you are working with an admissions consultant certainly that person can help brainstorm with you. If not, think about talking to friends and family to see what they think is truly unique about you!

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