What Should You Do If You Belong To An Over-Represented MBA Applicant Group?

stand-out-in-over-represented b-school-applicant group

I recently received a question — more of a complaint — from a client who was concerned with his status as an Indian IT male. This individual was considering changing his location on his application; he was born, raised, and still lived in India, but his family had lived in Zurich for four years, starting when he was six, and he wanted to focus on that. He also wanted to highlight his job as a restaurant manager, rather than his extensive experience and education in IT.

I get questions like this all the time, so I thought it would be appropriate to post the answer that I gave this particular young man:

B-schools have been known to “group” applicants in ethnic, gender, and professional categories for administrative purposes, but that certainly does not mean that they are accepting and rejecting candidates based solely on those labels and groupings.

Moving beyond labels — if you can do it, so can the adcom

The purpose of the admissions process is to allow the admissions committee an opportunity to get to know you as an individual — beyond labels. It’s your job to show the adcom that you are not simply another face in the crowd of Indian (or American, for that matter) IT males, but that you are a unique, category-less group of ONE. You are not Indian, not American, not American Indian, not Indian American, not IT, and not male; you are YOU.

Don’t get hung up on the group or the label. Instead, focus on ways you can draw out your individuality. It is true that you will need to work on this harder than, say, an entrepreneurial woman from a village in the Himalayas, but that’s not to say it can’t be done.

Come to life with a strong, passionate essay

By constructing killer essays that come alive with your personality, your diverse interests and talents, and your not-to-be-overlooked strengths and passions, you’ll prove that your candidacy is equal in competitiveness to our Himalayan applicant.

That was my response to our Indian IT male friend, but it can be applied to anyone who is getting bogged down in the labels and losing focus on the process of individuating. Think about what sets you apart from your group.

Highlight your uniqueness

Highlight your uniqueness in your essays, and the adcoms will get a clear look at how you — not your group — will contribute to your chosen MBA program or profession.

Here are some suggestions of how you can achieve this:

  • Talk about some of your non-work hobbies/volunteer work/passions and how the experience you’ve gained from that involvement has led to your interest in a graduate business degree. For example, in addition to your IT day job, you volunteer in an inner-city public school, and your passion in that work has led you to explore the field of management and edtech.
  • Discuss some of the less-obvious skills that you may have acquired from your field. For example, you may be in IT, but in designing an online trading platform, you’ve learned a whole lot about finance.
  • Focus on the stability of your “typical” background, and how your mastery of the industry has inspired you to test yourself and push yourself to new heights. For example, you’ve been working in your family business since you were a teenager, and are ready to make real waves and disrupt the status quo with the skill that you’re seeking in business school.

Last but not least, don’t stress. Just because you are an Indian IT guy (or a member of some other common subgroup in the applicant pool), doesn’t mean that you don’t possess other unique qualities that will make you an attractive candidate at top B-schools.

You are unique, whether you realize it or not, and Accepted’s expert admissions consultants can help you identify your individuality and highlight it in your applications. Check out Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting Services to learn how we can help you stand out from the crowd and get accepted to business school!

Accepted Admissions ConsultingLinda Abraham is the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News, and Poets & Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise


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