The Truth: The Consortium
The following posts were co-authored by The Senator and Cheetarah1980, author of an MBA Blog called “The Brain Dump”.
Let it be known that I 100% support the mission of the Consortium for Graduate School Management. Minorities are woefully underrepresented in senior level and executive management positions across all industries. Blacks, Latinos, SE Asians, and Native Americans are also scarce at top business schools. Identifying and recruiting talented candidates from these groups is critical. However, while I support the Consortium’s mission I am wary of its methods.
By lowering the cost barrier to entry at top business schools (reduced tiered application fees, full-tuition fellowships), the Consortium does make earning a Top 25 MBA attainable for many people who it would otherwise not be. However, from my observations the benefits that the Consortium offers seem to create a sense of entitlement (sometimes unearned) amongst minority applicants. It troubles me to hear candidates talk about a Consortium fellowship as though it is something that is owed to them, but this is often what I hear. What is even more troubling is that I often hear these comments from candidates who prior to getting the coveted admit call were not even sure they could get into the school due to their stats (i.e. GPA, GMAT, Work Experience) being significantly below the school’s averages? While stats are not the total picture of an applicant, they are significant pieces of the puzzle that cannot totally be ignored to focus on an applicant’s “story.” Yet too often I feel as though minority candidates feel that simply because they are minorities that these factors can and should be overlooked. I am not saying that minorities are the only applicants with weaknesses in our profiles. The perfect applicant is kind of like a unicorn. However, I have noticed that there seems to be an attitude that our weaknesses shouldn’t touch us. The thing is the Consortium has often given people evidence to back that up. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “Well I know a girl who got into Ross/Johnson/Tuck/pick a school with a 630 GMAT and she got a full ride, so I think I’m fine with a 620.” My issue is that the Consortium has set up a proposition where minorities expect to be rewarded for mediocrity. I have seen URM applicants turn their noses up at a $20K fellowship that their white and Asian counterparts (who happen to have a higher GMAT and GPA) would kill for simply because their friend got a full ride with a 620 and 3.1 and they feel that they should too.
The Consortium could be doing more to encourage URMs to bring more to the table than their story and leadership experience. Instead it seems to bring many borderline candidates to top schools and then asks those schools to give out hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am by no means saying that all Consortium applicants, admits, fellowship awardees are borderline candidates, but let’s not pretend that many are not. The numbers don’t lie. The average GPA and GMAT score for Consortium members are significantly lower than the member schools’. While the Consortium is providing means for talented people to attend business school, it’s also adding fuel to the fire of opposition to diversity initiatives. Just like MLT requires a minimum GMAT score (practice test or real) to be eligible, maybe the Consortium could institute cut-offs to be eligible for the fellowship. Yes, people are more than their GMAT score, GPA, work experience, background, or goals alone. All of these things together make each applicant unique. Just like schools don’t have minimum admissions criteria I don’t think the Consortium should either. Anyone who wants to apply can. But a free ride to a top MBA program should require going that extra mile. I believe it’s a copout to downplay the significance of the stats, especially GPA/GMAT. Minorities are just as capable of doing well in these measures and we shouldn’t want nor expect for it not to matter for us. I mean just because someone got into HBS with a 490 last year doesn’t mean that any of us should strive to be that person.
I want to preface this post with a few statements:
- This is in no way meant to slight the Consortium any Consortium students, member schools or prospective candidates.
- I believe in and support the mission of the Consortium 110%. I also believe in affirmative action on the whole.
- I am considering joining the Consortium myself, so what you are about to read is not only a reflection of what I believe, in many respects it’s a reflection of my own shortcomings.
- I encourage comments both positive and negative, and I won’t filter comments as long as they are not personal attacks ( I may even allow some of those to slide).
So let’s begin, the past weeks I’ve really struggled with a truth I felt deep inside, and after a conversation with a soon to be MBA colleague I felt like it was almost a duty of mine to pen this post. I want to be clear and say, that I, The Senator, am a beneficiary of affirmative action. I graduated with a less than stellar GPA from High School, scored extremely well on my standardized tests and found myself walking the grounds of a public ivy University the following fall. When I arrived there I was shocked to see that there were so few people who looked like me – a problem that remains to this day.
As a result of the ensuing identity crisis, I was motivated to prove to myself that I could represent my race (naively so) and perform on a level that was equal to or better than my white and Asian colleagues. In some classes I did, but in many I fell flat on my face. It became clear to me that the fire in my belly was misguided and I needed to refocus on what it was that I loved. Fast forward several years and a 3.65 UG GPA later, I found myself applying to some of the best business schools in the country. I did my research, figured I would have to get a certain score on my GMAT to pass through the filter and write some kick ass essays to boot. After settling for a 700 GMAT, which I was disappointed with, I prioritized and pressed on.
I had my bucket list of Top Tier Schools I wanted to go after, and then I came across the Consortium – what a great opportunity. In the following months after the find, I would spend plenty of time beating the tar out of my keyboard on essays and pressing the submit button for most of them in October and November. As things began to unwind I met a lot of people who had applied or were applying through Consortium either in person or through an online community. What became apparent was NOT the fact that from a side-by-side comparison I was a strong candidate, rather the sense of entitlement a lot of us who are minorities exuded about getting into a Top Tier school just because we were persons of color. Imagine the irony…
In many cases, being a black man is a disadvantage (ehem, Trayvon Martin), let’s just be honest about that. But in the school application game it’s perceived as an advantage, and one that many under represented minorities have no beans about exploiting. Applying through the Consortium is not just about nesting yourself in a Top MBA Program it’s also about money. Yes folks, let’s call a spade a spade – a vast majority of Consortium applicants are motivated by prestige and money. Now, before you go sayin’ this guy is an ass for writing this I want to be clear. I don’t think prestige and money are inherently bad or evil motivations, however, I DO believe if your profile is ‘up to snuff’ meaning is at the median or exceeds the median, regardless of your race you have every right to think (not expect) you have a shot at admission and hopefully a deal sweetener at the end.
Plenty of you are going to say, “well you’re not considering work experience or leadership”, so I’ll address that now. As a person of color who is well-educated and well-rounded I do feel a sense of obligation to my community and I make every effort to actively address the plight of those who are not in the same position as I am in. I do it honestly, artistically and earnestly not expecting anything in return for service – and I firmly believe that many Consortium candidates give back in the same vein. What I don’t agree with though is using the former statement as an escape ladder for poor performance in other aspects of your application. There are A LOT of well qualified candidates that got rejected from the same schools I did that have lots of leadership experience and better stats. I don’t believe I got into the schools I did because I’m multi-ethnic but it definitely helps my case.
I guess my point is this, I think the Consortium (to me at least) is every bit about getting access to the Top MBA Schools in America as it is allowing ourselves to expect because we are minorities we may not have to achieve on the level of our peers who and in the majority. Sadly, it’s validated right on the Consortium website where they publish overall statistics of the incoming Consortium class in their annual report. We fall into this trap of believing that inherent our strength lies in leadership and life experience and not academic merit and performance. As a group of people who will soon become the majority in this country we need to flush that mindset – because someday it won’t pass through the filter. Consortium Member schools are 100% right in supporting the mission of the Consortium and offering financial incentive in some instances. I’m not going to sit here and allege I know one candidate from the next solely based on numbers that I see, because that’s not the complete picture. However, from observation and interaction I’d be a liar if I wasn’t disappointed in the prevailing unspoken truth that surrounds the Consortium (myself included).
I want the Consortium to continue for the sake of my kids, but I don’t want it to merely be a reward for comparative mediocrity. We must challenge ourselves to do better and I like MLT’s approach as opposed to the Consortium which in many respects is akin to dangling something shiny in front of an infant. I’ll acknowledge this post has ruffled a few feathers and I’m ok with that. I’m also not going to just be critical of the Consortium, wait for comments and leave it at that – I do have specific suggestions that I believe will improve the process, the organization and the achievement of students who are applying through the Consortium. Why? Because you can’t cast stones without catching them at the other end.
As a final note, everyone should be extremely proud of their accomplishments, no one can take that away from you. You’ve done well and as my admissions packet from Tuck states, you’re “not just admitted, you’re Wanted”. We’ve all worked very hard to get this point, and I know for the future we will all challenge ourselves to do even better.