EssaySnark is honored for the opportunity to share thoughts on MBA admissions with Bell Curve’s GMAT students today! We’re going to tackle a subject head-on to debunk some myths about race and ethnicity and how it can impact your chances for getting in.
We get questions sometimes from people who are thinking about applying to business school. They hear that there’s an advantage if you’re a minority candidate, and they wonder if that’s them. The color of their skin is non-white, so you might think that they automatically fall into that “minority” category. If you ask the U.S. government, then anybody who’s not Caucasian is a minority – you can see the CDC’s definition here. If you’re not a white dude (or chick) then doesn’t that mean you’ll have an easier time getting into bschool?
Maybe. It depends. Here’s how it breaks down:
- When business schools talk about minorities, they’re actually focusing on a subset of only underrepresented minorities. These are people from populations that don’t apply to business school very often – specifically, Black and African Americans, Hispanic and Latinos, and most especially Hawaiians, Alaskans, and American Indians (Native Americans). Relatively fewer people from these groups apply to business school. By contrast, there are a whole lot of Asian-Americans who want to get their MBAs. The schools have plenty of Asians to choose from. Not so with these other minority groups. The schools are always on the lookout for a good Black or Hispanic candidate. In fact, you may find yourself with multiple offers, if you do a good job on your apps.
- So Asians are not underrepresented minorities, and we just ruled out any advantage for them in the adcom’s eyes. In fact, not only is it not an advantage, but it can potentially be a disadvantage. The schools get a lot of applications from Indians and Chinese candidates. If that’s you, then you’ll have to work harder to stand out from the crowd. Your profile needs to be stronger than the others applying. It may seem unfair, but it’s simply due to the popularity of the American education among people in your country.
- If you’re an American citizen who happens to be of Asian descent, then it’s not quite so bad. The majority of students at U.S. schools are American. It’ll still be competitive for you, because it’s competitive for everyone, but your odds are probably not quite so long as if you’re applying from an Asian country.
The other issue of course is that the term “Asian” is unhelpfully broad. If you’re Persian, for example, do you fall under rule #2 above, along with Indians and Chinese? Persian people are from Central Asia. Does this mean you’re also at a disadvantage based on what we just said about “Asians”?
In this case, no. There’s a second way to look at this, and that is in terms of diversity, which goes past ethnic heritage or color of skin, and which often has more to do with social group, specific geography, and culture. Our hypothetical Persian applicant could be coming from a variety of regions. There are fewer people from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa applying to business school, so anyone who hails from those parts of the world will have a chance to stand out if only because the schools don’t see as many candidates like them.
That’s really what it comes down to. The schools want to have a diverse class of students, with not too many people who are too similar in terms of background – whether that be in the categories of race and country of origin, as we’re discussing here, or in terms of previous industry and nature of pre-MBA work experience. Just like they don’t want to have a class comprised only of consultants and finance dudes, they also don’t want it to be too homogenous – whether that homogeneity be Caucasian, or various flavors of brown, tan, olive, and other beautiful skin tones.
The top schools don’t have quota systems – they don’t have a maximum on the number of students they’ll accept from certain countries. You have complete control over your fate in this process. Everyone needs to put in the work to present a strong profile, in order to have the best chances. And, the best way to stand out, regardless of your race or ethnic profile, is to tell compelling stories of your leadership experience and achievements within the application (essays, resume, recommendations). That’s how you become a real person to the admissions person reading your app. That’s how you move beyond the limited classifications of skin color and country of origin, and move into the domain of how you’re a leader who’s going to go out and do great things in the future. That’s how you get into business school.
Good luck to you on your GMAT studies and on your MBA application strategies!
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