Tips for LGBTQ Candidates Applying for MBA Programs

Historically, the LGBTQ community has been under-represented in MBA programs, but that has begun to change as members have made their presence felt on campuses across the country. An average of 3.43% of MBA students are considered to be openly LGBTQ at the 28 schools whose clubs self-reported data for their school in 2014-15, an increase over the previous two years. Many of these campuses’ actual LGBTQ populations may be higher, as many may not self-identify to their peers. At the very least these results suggest it may be getting easier for LGBTs to be out to their peers on business school campuses.

They Want You.

The increase in LGBTQ MBA students has been mirrored in the larger business world – from internships to corporate boardrooms – as LGBTQ individuals have taken a wide variety of roles and leadership positions across companies and industries. Top MBA programs and companies now are actively recruiting LGBTQ students. Many schools are expanding their outreach efforts so they can broaden the mix of students in each class, which fosters richer discussions and experiences throughout the MBA experience. Even if programs you’re interested in do not have active outreach, schools will see you as a desirable candidate when you apply.

Do Your Homework.

Just as for any MBA applicant, LGBTQ candidates should thoroughly investigate what resources are available at different MBA programs. It may be important to understand in addition if and how the LGBT community interacts with the larger school community and how inclusive and diverse the university and business school community is more generally. One MBA student at UCLA Anderson said, “We decorate the entire campus for our annual LGBTQ Awareness Week that coincides with A-days (our admit preview weekend). Knowing as a prospective student that the students and faculty were supportive enough to cover the school in rainbows provided a real sense of security that I would find the community I needed.”

Many business schools have LGBTQ weekends focused on building relationships and helping candidates get to know a program and its resources. Taking part in these weekends sends admissions committees a signal that you’re interested in the program and they will likely follow up with you throughout the process.

You can also reach out to leaders of LGBTQ student clubs at the MBA programs to connect. Most schools list the club leaders’ names and email addresses on their websites so you can connect with current students by email or in person when visiting the school.

Part of your research should include other organizations that support the LGBTQ community, such as ROMBA (Reaching Out MBA). ROMBA holds an annual conference that gives LGBTQ young professionals worldwide the chance to network and build skills for success in business. The conference, which will be held October 4-6, 2018 in Minneapolis, is open to current, alumni and prospective LGBTQ MBAs and business graduates and their active allies. ROMBA also offers an MBA fellowship.

You’re More than LGBTQ.

You can write about any struggles or adversity you’ve encountered being LGBTQ but you don’t have to if it’s not your strongest theme. As you think about what to write about in your essays, remember that you have a whole set of experiences. For example, if you have no leadership or participation in any LGBTQ groups or causes, you may want to go in another direction for the essays. Admissions committees want to learn about you as a whole person, and you will have lots of stories to tell besides the LGBTQ story.

Be Authentic.

You want to weave in being LGBTQ in an authentic way. Usually, showing leadership around the issue is the most successful way to do that. For example, have you led a Pride Employee Resource Group at work? Have you shown involvement in Out 4 Undergrad? Were you part of your undergrad’s LGBTQ club, group or association? If you simply mention that you are LGBTQ but do not tie it to a meaningful leadership or teamwork experience, it won’t help you tell your story.

Play Up Your Strengths.

Think about how you can stand out on your application. How are you stronger than other strategy consultants? Engineers? Investment bankers? How will your perspective enable you to contribute more than other Indian candidates? Maybe you come from an untraditional industry, an under-represented part of the world, or have exceptional experience beyond what other candidates have. LGBTQ candidates from an under-represented part of the world may have overcome more significant life challenges than non-LGBTQ applicants from the area. Or perhaps you’ve been promoted more quickly than your peers, or you have substantial global experience. Make sure to highlight these strengths throughout your application.

If you decide to be out as LBGTQ in your application, consider the areas where you can make an impact on others in your MBA program. Perhaps you can be instrumental in raising awareness among the general population of the school, or you can expand the LGBTQ club presence and connect with undergrads to highlight opportunities for LGBTQ individuals in business? Or maybe you can work with Career Services to identify and attract recruiters who value LGBTQ contributions?

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