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Applying for an MBA as a Black or Latinx Candidate

Matt Hazenbush

Matt Hazenbush - mba.com

Matt Hazenbush is the former editor of mba.com and Director, Research Analysis and Communications for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

The business school application process can seem daunting. What are business schools looking for? How should you prepare for the process, and when should you start? Is it different for Black and Latinx candidates?

Earlier this year, The MBA Tour hosted an informative panel with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)—a nonprofit organization that provides the training, coaching, and networks that traditionally have been unavailable to minorities. The panel included current URM MBA students and recent graduates who spoke knowledgably from experience on how they navigated the admissions process and what they did to position themselves for success, including best practices and how to effectively tell a story that goes beyond your application “numbers.” 

Continue below to watch highlights from the discussion and gain the perspectives of students who have successfully walked the path you’re interested in.

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3 do’s and don’ts for the application process

Joshua Rodriguez, a recent MBA graduate of Harvard Business School, shared his 3 application do’s and 3 application don’ts.

3 MBA application do’s:

  • Start early – “Give yourself time to demystify what the process is.”
  • Seek help – “MLT, and other programs too like Forte and Reaching Out, are there to help bridge the gap: the knowledge gap and the confidence gap.” 
  • Reflect – “As long and grueling as the application process is, it’s the only chance you get to reflect… ‘why business school at this particular point in time?’”

3 MBA application don’ts:

  • Stress standardized tests – “Do your best, but you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Don’t self-select out, don’t let the test be a barrier to applying.”
  • Be mindful in interactions with admissions officers – “What I was seeing when people were applying is trying to be best friends with all the admissions officers… some AOs want that, others don’t.”
  • Be careful with the advice you’re given – “Everyone and their mother is going to give you advice… that advice might work for one person, but not for you.”

Resources for Black and Latinx candidates in the application process

Carmisha Louis, a recent graduate of Kogod School of Business – American University, shared what resources she leveraged in her journey to business school:

  • Professional network – “I tapped into my own network at work. Someone I trusted, which was my manager, who is a Latinx identifying person… she told me exactly her experience and certain things I needed to look out for and things I needed to work on myself.”
  • Admissions – “I talked to a couple admissions officers… being able to ask what that diversity pool looks like and what resources are available.
  • Career engagement – “At the end of the day, you want to get a job… I wanted to understand what resources that they had available and what organizations were going to support me through my process.”
  • National Black MBA – “Seeing what kind of opportunities they had available as well.”

How is applying for an MBA different as a Black or Latinx candidate?

“How is applying to business school different as a Black or Latinx candidate?” prompted panel moderator Dr. Lara Babarinsa of MLT MBA Program Recruitment and Admissions.

“There are a few points that may be different for a candidate of the Black or Latinx communities,” started Monica Loza, a student at the W.P. Carey Graduate School of Business – Arizona State University and MBA Intern in Digital Strategy for Verizon Communications.

  • Network – “For me, when it came to graduate studies I didn’t have any close connections to someone who had earned an MBA, so a lot of the process was relying on the network I had made in my professional and academic journey… In that way, I think applying to business school may be different for someone from either of the [Black or Latinx] communities.”
  • Criteria in evaluating business schools – “You may want to understand if there are certain resources available to you as a Black or Latinx person.”

Choosing programs to apply to as a diverse applicant

“For me, I tried to take a look at the disciplines and how strong they were in them,” said Jordan Williams, a current MBA student at the Fisher College of Business – Ohio State University. “I knew I wanted to pursue supply chain, so the first thing I did was Google ‘MBA programs with great supply chain functions’… that’s how I put together a list of top 5, top 3 schools.”

“Then I went to information sessions… trying to see what’s genuine, talking to actual students, and then what really kind of did it for me—why I picked Ohio State—I met with the person who’s head of the office of diversity and inclusion. We hit it off, we found out we were fraternity brothers, and just had a good connection there. And lastly, financial package was also important, because if you’re going full-time, you’re making substantially less than you were before.” 

How do you know when is the right time to apply for an MBA?

Moderator Dr. Lata Babarinsa shared a question from the panel audience: “I just graduated from college and I know I want to earn an MBA. I have a full time offer with Deloitte starting August which I’m very excited for, however, how do I know when it’s the best time to go out for my MBA, and how did you know?”

Carmisha Louis of the Kogod School of Business- American University, shared her personal story:

“When I graduated from undergrad I worked for about a year before I decided I wanted to get my MBA,” she began. “I knew within the position I was in… I didn’t want to stay in that forever and I wanted to get into brand management, and I knew there were certain skillsets that I did not have that I knew that I wanted to work on…So that’s what led me to go on to get my MBA, however I did that maybe about three years later. The reason for that is because I spoke with my network, my manager at the time, and she shared how important it was for me…to get that work experience because of how you can really leverage that work experience and bring it to the classroom.”  

What do you wish you knew as a candidate of color when navigating he b-school application process?

“Applying doesn’t have to be an individual endeavor. It doesn’t mean you’re on your computer by yourself, doing the application in isolation,” said Joshua Rodriguez, graduate of HBS. “Reaching out to student clubs, that’s actually a big piece of advice… usually at a Black or Latinx student club they have a recruitment or admissions specific individual.

“And talking to recent students or alumni will help demystify [the process]… they were in your shoes once too, and being able to get their help and perspective on how they got into X school will really help along the way.” 

Financial aid and scholarships

“Did any of you seek financial aid or scholarships and if so, how difficult was it to get? Any advice to share for that process?” asked moderator Dr. Lara Babarinsa of MLT.

“I received a scholarship, and I actually applied pretty late, Round 3 or 4, and it was actually pretty easy,” said Carmisha Louis. “At American University specifically, if you apply you’re eligible for a merit scholarship. So from my experience personally it was pretty simple.”

“Take a look at the different schools, and see what deadlines that they have and whatever requirements you would need to meet. It varies per school, but sometimes its just as simple as applying, so don’t be shy to apply even if you think that you may not be looked at for the scholarship, just do it anyway because you never know. It’s better to take the shot than to not to.”

Your guide to applying for your MBA

In the mba.com Full-Time MBA Application Guide, we provide you with the information and guidance you need to craft MBA applications that elevate your story and help you stand out from the pool of other qualified applicants.

Get exclusive, insider advice on how to:

  • Define your personal brand and tell a compelling story with your application
  • Be strategic about when you submit your applications
  • Put together an MBA resume (and how it differs from a professional resume)
  • Write unique and authentic admissions essays
  • Choose who will write your letters of recommendation and tips for managing the process


Matt Hazenbush

Matt Hazenbush - mba.com

Matt Hazenbush is the former editor of mba.com and Director, Research Analysis and Communications for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).