Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MBA Admissions Tips for Minority Applicants

Every year we receive countless inquiries from minority applicants who want to know if an MBA program is right for them, and what their minority background means for them in the MBA admissions process. The following are seven tips that we often share with our clients who come from these backgrounds:
  • You Do Fit In! ­– Many underrepresented minority applicants have a vision of business school that includes a sea of similar-looking people, all with very similar professional and cultural backgrounds. This is definitely not the case, and admissions officers at top MBA programs constantly work to dispel this myth. Don't fool yourself into thinking, "They'd never want me. I don't fit the mold of a Harvard MBA." The very things that make you different could be what get you into a top business school. Embrace these things, and resist the urge to bury them in your admissions essays.

  • But Don't Expect "Diversity" Alone to Get You In – Every year business schools are challenged to fill their classes with a diverse mix of students, and that diversity applies to so much more than your sex or ethnicity. What about your professional background makes you unique? What about your upbringing gives you a different perspective that you will bring to the classroom? What career ambitions do you have that might catch the admissions committee's attention? Make sure you know yourself and can articulate how you would enrich a business school classroom discussion.

  • Know What You'll Do With an MBA – It's okay if you still don't know exactly what you want to do when you graduate from business school, much less what you want to do twenty years from now. But business school admissions officers will expect that you understand what an MBA will do for you and – maybe more importantly – what it won't. Even if you're not sure whether you want to do investment banking or private equity, you'll need to show admissions officers that you have realistic career expectations and that you'll be marketable to prospective employers when you graduate.

  • Reach Out to Students and Alumni Like You – Many top business schools have clubs that serve the needs of minority students and alumni. These people can help you really get to know an MBA program before you apply, as well as help you with the job search once you're in school. It's pretty easy to find these clubs on a school's web site, and their members are usually very happy to help someone in your shoes. Don't hesitate to reach out and ask for their advice.

  • And Mentor Those Who Come After You – In business school and in the business world in general, many minorities benefit from strong networks of experienced mentors looking out for more junior people. Hopefully you have been (or will soon be) on the receiving end of some of this mentorship. If so, "pay it forward" and help a young professional or soon-to-be graduate who might benefit from your experience. While you may still feel young and inexperienced, you have a great deal to teach someone in college who is still deciding what they want to do when they grow up.

  • Get Involved With MBA-Related Organizations Now – The National Society of Hispanic MBAs, The National Black MBA Association, and The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management are just three of the organizations that exist to help minorities discover the value of an MBA and thrive in top business schools. While many minority MBA students only discover and take advantage of them after they get to business school, these groups have plenty to offer even if you're only casually considering an MBA. Sign up for their newsletters and attend their events to develop a deeper understanding of the value of a business education.

  • Take Enough Time to Ace the GMAT – While a strong GMAT score alone won't get you into a top business school, a low score can keep you out. But how do you get a high score? None other than the Graduate Management Admission Council (the organization that runs the GMAT) conducted a study in 2005 that showed a clear correlation between time spent preparing for the GMAT and an applicant's score – those who scored over 700 on the exam averaged well over 100 hours of preparation. So, get your hands on as many resources as you can digest, hire a tutor or enroll in a GMAT prep course if you need more help, and give yourself at least a couple of months to prepare for the exam properly.
If you are a minority applicant, keep these principles in mind as you begin to prepare your MBA applications. If you would like more help in the process, the MBA admissions experts at Veritas Prep can help you define your target business schools, clarify your career goals, and perfect your MBA admissions essays.