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  • Malvika Patil

5 Tips for LGBTQ+ MBA Applicants



Happy Pride Month!


When it comes to MBA applications, we always advise applicants to be authentic. Business schools may have different admission requirements, but they all say the same thing: that they “want to get to know the real you” through your application. That’s why they evaluate your application holistically. It’s not just about your GPA, test scores, and the brands you’ve worked with; it’s also about your past experiences, how they have shaped you to be an empathetic, responsible, and well-rounded leader. 


That’s also why diversity, equality, and inclusion is a key focus for business schools. Diversity in the workplace is proven to lead to dynamic, multicultural work environments and healthier and inclusive teams. Given that 1 in 10 MBA applicants in the US belonged to underrepresented populations in 2023, schools are keen to attract diverse talent.


So if you’re an LGBTQ+ applicant, you may be wondering if you should “come out” in your MBA application. Our advice: often, your unique identity provides a lot of context for your life experiences, values, and what’s important to you. If you feel like your identity will help paint a more complete and authentic picture for the AdCom, embrace it. Plus, as business schools look to enroll more applicants with diverse perspectives, your unique experiences may be an advantage for your application.


Here are our top 5 tips for LGBTQ+ applicants to keep in mind when applying for business school:


1. Research your target schools


When choosing an MBA program, you may want to consider a school that walks the DEI talk. That means having robust DEI policies in place and a history of advocating for diverse students. You should also speak to current LGBTQ+ students and alumni from the school to understand how proactive the school’s faculty and staff are when it comes to inclusion. 


It’s important that you feel safe and comfortable to be yourself on campus, so we also recommend checking the school’s policy for discriminatory behaviors, and what resources they provide for grievance redressal. If you can, visit the school to better understand if they go beyond lip service for DEI issues, like cultural centers, positive on-campus messaging, or even gender neutral bathrooms.


2. Consider resources available


Most MBA programs provide information on their DEI policies and available resources for LGBTQ+ students on their school website. Check out their student clubs, classes, external leadership programs, information sessions, and any community centers that are specifically designed to support LGBTQ+ candidates.


For example, Stanford GSB offers the unique LGBTQ Executive Leadership Program to help mid to senior level LGBTQ+ executives build their leadership and networking skills and learn how their identity can positively influence their leadership style and workplace policies. 


Schools also offer campus support in the form of student clubs and campus affinity groups. Reach out to club leaders of your target school’s LGTBQ+ student organization to understand how they can support you and what role you can play in their organization. Some examples are Wharton’s Out4Business, INSEAD’s OUTSEAD, NYU Stern’s OutClass, Oxford’s Pride@SBS, and more. In our experience, most business schools have a dedicated club for LGBTQ+ students. 


It’s also likely that these clubs are connected with professional LGBTQ+ associations. Companies that have a strong DEI focus have active recruitment channels at MBA programs and seek to hire LGBTQ+ talent. One of our clients at McKinsey spoke about “Equal” at McKinsey, which actively recruits from LGBTQ+ student associations at top b-schools, even offering benefits for domestic partners.


Also check out community centers created for diverse students, like Vanderbilt’s K.C Potter cultural center, which is “a place of affirmation for individuals of all identities”. This is a safe space for students to study, network, and organize and attend group meetings and events. 



3. Share your story with the AdCom


Disclosing your LGBTQ+ identity in your MBA application is a deeply personal choice, but as we’ve seen, may offer an advantage from an admissions standpoint. 


So if you do choose to “come out” in your application, you will need to introspect and reflect on what unique perspectives you hold that have been influenced by your LGBTQ+ identity. Schools look for vulnerability and self-reflection in their essays, so don’t be afraid to be open about how your LGBTQ+ identity has impacted your life, career, and decisions. 


Remember, your LGBTQ+ identity alone will not guarantee you admission into your target school! Your application is strongest when you can give context to how it makes you unique, your accomplishments, and how you will use it to make a difference and contribute to your target school’s community. 


For example, many business schools ask about your challenges, your background, and leadership. Here are some examples: 


Columbia: The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a co-curricular program designed to provide students with the skills and strategies needed to develop as inclusive leaders. Through various resources and programming, students explore and reflect on the following five inclusive leadership skills: Mitigating Bias and Prejudice; Managing Intercultural Dialogue; Addressing Systemic Inequity; Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking; and Creating an Inclusive Environment.


Describe a time or situation when you had the need to utilize one of these five skills, and tell us the actions you took and the outcome. (250 words)


Tuck: Tell us who you are. How have your values and experiences shaped your identity and character? How will your background contribute to the diverse Tuck culture and community? (300 words)


Stanford GSB: We know that each person is more than a list of facts or pre-defined categories. With this question we provide you with an optional opportunity to elaborate on how your background or life experiences have helped shape your recent actions or choices. (1,200 characters, optional)


Yale: Describe the community that has been most meaningful to you.

What is the most valuable thing you have gained from being a part of this community and what is the most important thing you have contributed to this community? (500 words)


If your LGBTQ+ identity has meaningfully shaped your personal and professional experiences, your MBA essays are a great way to build out those stories and provide concrete examples of your leadership, resilience, and engagement with your community. For example, did you play a key role in setting up an LGTBQ+ student group at college, or Employee Resource Group (ERG) at your workplace? Do you volunteer with LGBTQ+ organizations, or provide mentorship or organize educational events for LGBTQ+ kids and teens? Have you stood up for someone from your community, or influenced a policy or decision positively? 


Then, consider how you can use your experiences and learning to contribute to the school. Your school research should come in handy here; specify how you will participate or take on leadership roles in student clubs, recruiting events, student administration work, or even create additional resources for other LGTBQ+ students. 


4. Get involved with ROMBA


The Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Conference is “the world’s largest gathering of LGBTQ+ business students and alumni”.  They host competitions like Consulting Case competitions and Startup Pitch competitions, have breakout sessions and student panels on recruitment, contemporary issues in business, and industry-specific topics, 1-on-1 sessions with admissions consultants, case interview preparation support, coffee chats and informal interviews, mentor sessions, and networking mixers. 


ROMBA also celebrates leaders who have demonstrated commitment to their community through the Rich Chicotel LGBTQ+ Leadership Award, and offers fellowships for exceptional performers. 


The next ROMBA conference will be held in Los Angeles, CA from September 26-28, 2024. Find more information here.


You may also be interested in Out & Equal, a nonprofit organization “working exclusively on LGBTQ+ workplace equity, inclusion, and belonging”. They partner with Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and government agencies to offer leadership development programs, DEI training and consultation, and networking opportunities. 


5. Apply to LGBTQ+ focused scholarships and fellowships


There are several MBA scholarships and fellowships that are available specifically for LGTBQ+ individuals. 


  • ROMBA LGBTQ+ Fellowship: The ROMBA LGBTQ+ Fellowship partners with 60+ business school MBA programs, including INSEAD, Oxford SBS, Cambridge Judge, MIT Sloan, Duke Fuqua, Columbia, Cornell Johnson, Stanford GSB, Wharton, and more, to develop business leaders who identify as LGBTQ+. They offer a minimum scholarship amount of $20,000 in addition to a fellowship retreat and leadership development programs. 


  • The Point Foundation: The Point Foundation is the largest scholarship granting body in the US for LGBTQ+ students. They offer financial support, leadership development programs, mentorship, and access to a wide network of scholars and alumni. Scholarships are granted on the basis of merit, and are renewable for up to 4 years. 


  • School-specific scholarships: Some schools offer special scholarships for LGBTQ+ applicants, like Wharton’s Prism Fellowship, which covers full MBA tuition for 1 LGBTQ+ student who has demonstrated leadership in their community. The University of Edinburgh Business School’s Somewhere MBA scholarship offers a £10,000 award to 1 student who has demonstrated impact in the LGBTQ+ community. There’s also ESMT Berlin’s Rainbow scholarship, which offers 2 self-identified LGBTQ applicants a scholarship award of €4,500 each. Check the school website to see which scholarships are available for you. 


The LGTBQ+ community occupies a key part of the student community at business schools. Do your research and find resources to support your MBA journey, and remember to pay it forward when you get to business school! “Coming out” in your MBA application and at business school can be a powerful way for you to speak up about your experiences, connect with others in your community, influence and support future business leaders, and contribute to a stronger culture of inclusion and diversity. 

 

If you’re an LGBTQ+ applicant applying to top MBA programs and want to learn how to best incorporate your story into your MBA essays, book a free chat with us today.

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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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