The M.B.A. Tool Box for Minority Applicants

This post originally appeared on the U.S. News–Strictly Business blog.

Diversity is more than just a b-school buzz word. It is an essential ingredient for robust discourse in the classroom and beyond. To obtain the richest mix of perspectives and world views, business schools strive to compose a class with diversity in all possible forms: racial, ethnic, religious, cultural, socio-economic, and sexual orientation.

My last post assessed the landscape for LGBT students pursuing their M.B.A.s. This week, we take a look at some of the resources available to minority applicants both before and after they gain a seat at the school of their dreams.

For many potential applicants of color, the decision to go to business school isn’t an obvious one. They may not have many family members or friends who have pursued graduate management education, or perhaps the astronomical expense of elite M.B.A. programs is too off-putting. To these talented but unsure individuals, I say, take the plunge. There’s an extensive support network waiting to guide you through the rabbit warren that is the b-school application process.

While African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans make up nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise only 3 percent of senior leaders in corporations, nonprofits, and entrepreneurial ventures. Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) confronts that crisis by providing the key ingredients””skills, coaching, and door-opening relationships””that unlock the potential in the next generation of minority leaders.

“MLT is an invaluable resource for minority applicants,” says Jennie Morrel, who worked as a senior advertising manager at the Random House Publishing Group before starting her M.B.A. at New York University’s Stern School of Business this fall. “MLT provides amazing training and coaching along with early access to admissions officers which made all the difference in my application process.”

The M.B.A. Prep program offered by MLT guides fellows through the application and interview process and shows them what it takes to be successful in business school and beyond. Through one-on-one coaching, early exposure to representatives from top schools, a skill development curriculum and lifelong alumni network, M.B.A. Prep provides the tools for high potential applicants to become high-impact business and community leaders.

Another can’t-miss resource is the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM), which awards merit-based, full-tuition fellowships to the best and brightest candidates through an annual competition. Minority candidates can also apply to up to six Consortium schools with one application and thereby significantly reduce their application fee costs. As a CGSM fellow, Morrel points out a major perk of attending the Consortium’s Orientation Program in June: early access to recruiters before the semester had officially begun.

In addition to the resources and support provided by groups such as the National Black M.B.A. Association and the National Society of Hispanic M.B.A.s, future applicants should also make a point of learning about the Riordan Programs. The Riordan M.B.A. Fellows Program targets recent college graduates who are considering graduate education in business management. Its core purpose is to educate, prepare, and motivate these individuals to competitively apply and succeed in a top M.B.A. program and a career in management.

A Bloomberg Businessweek story on the slow gains in diversity at top M.B.A. programs reveals that Cornell University’s Johnson School reported the most dramatic increase in minority enrollment, having boosted the number of underrepresented minorities from 5 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2010.

Richard Battle-Baxter, who worked as a search engine marketing analyst and is just beginning his first term at the Johnson School, says campus diversity was of the utmost importance to him.

“Upon entering the application process I soon realized that each school had a different atmosphere just as each applicant has a different personality. I knew that I wanted to go to a school that was not only diverse in terms of ethnic backgrounds but also in terms of thought processes,” he says. “More importantly, I knew that in attending a school that strives to cover all of the diversity bases, the whole class would most likely consist of those who also wanted to be in on a diverse campus.”

Such diversity also influenced Morrel’s school selection process, and she says the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS) at NYU Stern was present in every stage of her application. From reviewing her essays to calming her nerves on interview day, Morrel says the AHBBS is a strong community whose students were invested in her success, whether her interest lay in Stern or at another school.

As business becomes ever more global and interconnected, M.B.A. programs have to prepare future leaders who can successfully jump into any culture or environment, whether that means Wall Street, consulting, or a BRIC country (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) start-up. Diversity in the b-school classroom is the best preparation for the challenges and rewards of the multicultural marketplace.

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