If there’s one overarching trend we’ve seen in our nearly two decades of admission consulting, it’s the move toward greater diversity at the top MBA programs. Not long ago, professionals from banking and consulting dominated business school classrooms. Most students were white males. Now, programs strive for diversity across several buckets: gender, ethnicity, industry, function or role, home country — even sexual orientation. What does that mean for candidates working in consulting or financial services? Or, for MBA applicants in overrepresented demographic buckets?
It means you must work hard to stand out and prove you have something valuable to bring to the table. In other words, 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.
For Applicants from an Overrepresented Demographic, Stats are Not 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. People pursuing b-school have done well in school, on tests, and in their careers so far.
The majority of applicants deserve to get in “on paper.” While your stats tell the admissions committee whether you can likely handle the rigor of their program, they don’t reveal anything about how you work with others. Nor do they convey what leadership roles you’ve taken, what motivates you, or what your future goals are.
Unlike undergraduate colleges, MBA programs heavily rely on students teaching each other. Business schools expect high levels of spirited and interactive discussion in class, with students sharing their past experiences for the benefit of others.
Everyone who applies to business school should try to communicate the unique aspects of their candidacies that their classmates will learn from. But it’s exponentially more critical that applicants from overrepresented demographic buckets do so.
Tap Into the Diversity of Experiences
You’re going to want to pull from your volunteer, extracurricular, and leadership experiences across all facets of your life. Talk about the places you’ve traveled to and what you did or learned there. Maybe you have a defining moment to share that led to your future career goals.
You will want to highlight anything you are involved with at work that might be related to recent news headlines, as admissions committees love it when students can share firsthand experience with buzzy topics.
In the end, MBA applicants from overrepresented demographic buckets still get into top business schools across the country every year. So, if you’re in that category, 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 it is that your classmates would learn from you, and then focus on incorporating those themes into your materials. You can do it!
Until next time,
The team at Stacy Blackman Consulting
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