For decades, women and under-represented minorities were rarely found taking part in MBA programs. Once the world figured out the value of a diverse marketplace and boardroom, however, the tables began to turn. There is now no better time to apply if you fall in one of these categories.
There was a time when a typical MBA classroom was 90% male and 85% Caucasian. Today, it’s not uncommon for schools to enroll 40% or more of women and up to 30% or more of under-represented minorities. With a goal to get to 50% female, however, the competition amongst top schools vying for female candidates is fierce. The result of this intensive recruiting has been a much more dynamic and insightful classroom and subsequently, a better business world.
The story is much the same for racially diverse candidates.
African American applicants are in demand most of all because there are simply fewer applicants than there are seats for them at top schools--it’s classic supply and demand, which creates a near fervor, particularly over those applicants with an impressive profile. For this reason, some of the best time and money you will spend as a diversity candidate will be on your GMAT prep. If you are a URM applicant with a seven handle on your GMAT and good work experience, for example, you can pretty much write your own ticket. Even if your GMAT score is lacking, the perspective you bring to the table in terms of diversity is so valuable to b-schools, that they will often accommodate here and there for profile shortcomings.
Schools want their classrooms to be filled with voices from every walk of life, so the fewer voices like yours that are represented, the more unique your profile offering can be.
Does this mean that unqualified applicants can get into b-school?—not at all. A school may overlook a few points on the GMAT, but they still want to see a good score, or at least good grades in quant courses in college, which also demonstrates aptitude. Work history is also critical for all applicants, whether you offer a diverse perspective or not, so no amount of cultural insight will make up for solid leadership and work experience.
In short, applying to business school requires the same rigorous list of accomplishments and skill that it always has, but if you also offer (in addition to that) a unique perspective which often comes naturally from being a woman or an under-represented minority, then you will have not only a shot at a better school, you will also have a shot at meaningful financial support in the way of scholarships and fellowships. All I can say is, it’s about damn time. Now get out there and take the advantage that has for too long been withheld.