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Diversity in MBA Admissions: Strategies for Success

March 10 2024 By The MBA Exchange
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Diversity has never been more relevant for MBA applicants. Business schools worldwide strive to create diverse cohorts that reflect various cultures, values, and backgrounds. This intentional mosaic enriches the learning experience, broadening perspectives, challenging beliefs, and expanding networks. Here’s how you can leverage diversity to enhance your MBA candidacy and increase your chances of admission.

Why Diversity Matters in MBA Programs

MBA admissions committees proactively seek to build diverse classes. They value students from different nationalities, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and professional backgrounds. This diversity is not only celebrated but also essential for a comprehensive business education. Top programs often compete on the percentages of female, international, and LGBTQ+ students they admit, as these metrics contribute to the school’s reputation and appeal.

Embracing Your Unique Background

Given this reality, a serious MBA applicant must consider and answer important questions, and make key decisions, during his or her admissions campaign, such as: How do I add diversity? When have I interacted with others who are different in background or perspective? Why does my unique background and experience make me a stronger applicant? How can my unique aspects benefit others? How will the diversity of others enrich my education, network and life? What is the significance of diversity in my past, present and future? Which components of the application offer the most effective and appropriate platform for this topic?

Reflect on your background and experiences. How do they contribute to diversity? Consider the following aspects:

  • Nationality and Ethnicity: How have your cultural experiences shaped your worldview?
  • Professional Experience: What unique industry insights do you bring?
  • Personal Journey: How have your personal challenges and triumphs influenced your goals?

Admissions committees appreciate applicants who can articulate how their unique perspectives will benefit the MBA program and their peers.

Crafting a Compelling Application

Your application should highlight your unique background and demonstrate your commitment to diversity. Here’s how to do it:

Application Essays

Use your essays to tell your story. Explain how your experiences have shaped your understanding of diversity and how you plan to contribute to the MBA community. Be authentic, respectful, and enthusiastic about the value of different perspectives.


Choose recommenders who can speak to your unique contributions and interactions with diverse groups. Their testimonials should reinforce your commitment to embracing and advancing diversity.


Prepare to discuss your experiences with diversity in interviews. Share specific examples of how you’ve worked with individuals from different backgrounds and the impact of these interactions on your personal and professional growth.

Navigating the MBA Application Process

Here are some strategies to enhance your MBA application:

Engage with Diversity Initiatives

Participate in diversity-related events and organizations. Many business schools host forums, campus weekends, and strategic alliances aimed at underrepresented minority applicants. Engaging with these initiatives demonstrates your commitment to diversity and can provide valuable networking opportunities.

Seek Professional Guidance

Consider working with an admissions consultant who understands the importance of diversity in MBA admissions. A consultant can help you navigate the application process, highlight your strengths, and address any weaknesses. The MBA Exchange, for instance, has a team of consultants with diverse backgrounds, mirroring the communities at top business schools.

Real-World Example: A Diversity Candidate’s Journey

“Here’s a confession for you: On my third day of Capital Markets class, during Tuck’s notoriously soul-crushing fall term, I had just one question on my mind as the rest of the lecture sailed directly over my head: “What exactly is a capital market?!”

They say that those of us who arrive clueless relative to the scores of econ and finance majors, consultants, bankers, and CPAs who make up the bulk of our class, learn more in business school than anyone else does, because we have the most to learn. And it’s true — we get more bang for our buck. I’m here to tell you, though, it’s no picnic. I’ll save my war stories and some tips for business school survival for another blog post, but for now I want to tell you what people like me need to do to gain admission to a top-10 business school.

The thing is, top-10s love “diversity” candidates like me (and probably like you, if you’ve read this far). I was a philosophy major undergrad and never took a single econ or business course — don’t judge, I wanted to be a playwright! I spent most of my pre-Tuck years working in the newsroom of The New York Times, and by the time of my application I knew a hell of a lot more about Hurricane Katrina, the Iowa caucuses and musical theater than I did about cost accounting (actually, that’s still true).

But here’s why they love us: Can you imagine being locked in a room with 60 bankers and consultants for two years? Trust me, it would make your head explode. Those of us with varied backgrounds, who march to a different drummer, add color to the class. We think different, we learn different, and we often look different, too. As a result, in the classes that we tend to excel in (I owned Prof. Argenti’s “Analysis for General Managers”) we also make the discussions way, way more interesting. We provide a valuable service to all the quant jocks we’re surrounded by, all of whom already know… what a capital market is.

So it’s good to be wanted, right? But here’s the rub: They only want a few of us. And they expect the few of us they do let in to be able to run with the bulls, as it were. You’ve got to be able to hold your own in business school, even while surrounded by people with far more relevant training and experience than you have. You don’t have to be at the top of the class, but you can’t fall too far behind it either.

So how do business schools determine whether they think you’ll be able to keep up? Well, your GPA and GMAT score, of course, but I can’t help you with those. What I can help you with, though, is equally important, especially for someone in your shoes — your application essays. It is in these essays that you must demonstrate a) your ability to speak the language of business, and b) your commitment to the fundamental concepts that business schools value the most highly as they evaluate applicants.

Now, I’m a pretty good writer. Working in a newsroom with 25 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists where everyone literally is a critic, tends to improve your writing. But while I could certainly string a few sentences together, it took working with my fantastic, extremely patient admissions consultant to learn how I could tell my story in a way that business schools would understand and truly appreciate. Today, as an admissions consultant myself, I always tell my clients that their first real business school experience is working with me. I will help you figure out how to fit your square peg into the b-school application’s round hole.”

  • Seth Gilmore, Tuck MBA and Senior Admissions Consultant at The MBA Exchange


Diversity is a critical factor in MBA admissions. It enriches the learning environment and prepares students for a global business landscape. By highlighting your unique background and experiences, you can enhance your application and increase your chances of admission. Engage with diversity initiatives, seek professional guidance, and articulate your commitment to diversity in your application. With these strategies, you can turn your unique experiences into a compelling narrative that stands out in the competitive MBA admissions process.

Are you ready to start your journey? Begin today with a free, expert analysis of your diverse candidacy and take the first step towards securing your spot at a top business school.