The Consortium, or the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, is an association of a few of the top business schools and business organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, backed by a network of students and alumni.
The Consortium identifies top MBA candidates with a record of fostering inclusion in their organizations, schools, or personal lives for merit-based, full-tuition fellowships.
It promotes inclusion and diversity in the ranks of students in business schools and managements in global business organizations, including for-profit and non-profit corporations, government agencies, and entrepreneurial ventures, by reducing the under-representation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans.
The Consortium was founded by Washington University Professor Sterling Schoen to equip African Americans the skills they need to work for American corporations. Supported by a team of 60 community leaders, business managers, and educators, he initiated the creation of a cooperative network of universities.
In 1966, Washington University-St. Louis, Indiana University-Bloomington, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison joined the Consortium, and formed a class of 21 African American men with 27 corporate partners.
The next to join were the University of Rochester and the University of Southern California two years later. In 1970, the Consortium began admitting women, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans.
This expansion triggered an increase in the number of students and business partners, and in 2004, the Consortium opened its doors to all US citizens and permanent residents with proven commitment to its mission.
Between 1973 and 2018, the following universities joined the Consortium to take the tally to 20: the Universities of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Michigan (Ann Arbor), Texas (Austin), Virginia, California (Berkeley), California (Los Angeles), Washington, New York University, Yale, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Georgetown, Rice, and Dartmouth College.
Other than fellowships, the Consortium members benefit from access to a community of over 80 corporate partners at the annual orientation program and career forum. Many students are offered internship, which may lead to jobs. Other resources for applicants include webinars and chats.
Selection criteria for the Consortium MBA
Each year, the Consortium offers membership to 450 incoming students attending the 20 member universities, adding to 10,000 students it has already helped.
Selection is based on academic performance and commitment to the Consortium’s mission to build an inclusive corporate culture, and also “community activism, professional involvement, and life experience,” which should be reflected in both the application essay and one letter of recommendation. The candidate’s fit with the Consortium will be reviewed by its staff with no involvement of schools in the assessment.
The commitment to the mission ideals should have started much before the candidate started applying to b-schools. Involvement with organizations such as Leadership Education and Development (LEAD), Inroads, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), Urban League, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Besides, association with mission-related activities of fraternity/sorority organizations, Urban League, and local outreach organizations at school or college is taken into consideration.
Candidates’ involvement with professional organizations that work to increase the representation of the Consortium’s target groups in American business organizations is also recognized.
Volunteering or employment with core communities, such as Teach for America, is “an outstanding representation of your commitment to the cause,” says the Consortium. Personal efforts to improve perceptions of historically underrepresented groups and community work also add to qualifications.
In 2020, the application was set to open on August 15. The early application deadline was October 15, 2020, and the traditional application deadline January 15, 2021. The admission decision varies by school.
The fellowship decision was expected in March 2020 for 2019-2020. Applications should be received by 11.59 pm EST on the deadline; applications missing supporting materials will not be forwarded to schools, and they will be sent only after these materials are received.
US citizens, permanent residents with proven commitment to the Consortium’s mission to reduce the under-representation of communities in schools or management are eligible, provided they have a four-year bachelor’s degree from accredited institution in the US or an equivalent degree from an institution outside the US.
An applicant can apply to six of the 20 schools, and the choice of these schools should be made clear. Admission, membership, and fellowship will be decided based on the application. Membership does not guarantee admission or fellowship.
Admission depends on the applicant’s performance in GMAT/GRE, academic transcripts, professional potential (career, resume, recommendations, and interview), and personal traits. Admission decisions are made by member-school committees.
Membership decision is a process separate from admission decision. After an applicant gains admission, the commitment to the Consortium’s mission is evaluated.
Once admitted and membership is granted, the applicant should enroll for a member school program to enjoy the benefits.
Schools may grant scholarships not related to the Consortium membership or fellowship decisions. Membership cannot be transferred to a non-Consortium school.
The rank an applicant gives each school determines the order in which schools consider the applicant for fellowship.
If the first-choice school does not grant fellowship, the option passes on to the next-choice school that has admitted the applicant and granted fellowship, and so on.
Applicants need to rank six schools according to their preference. Rankings of schools is the order in which the applicant will be considered for the Consortium fellowship.
If School A is the first-ranked school, it gets first opportunity to offer a fellowship. If it offers a fellowship, the applicant joins that school. Other schools cannot offer you a fellowship.
But if School A cannot offer a fellowship, or if it cannot admit the applicant, the opportunity goes to the next school on the preference list—that is, School B—and so on. The fellowship is not transferable from one school to another.
If an applicant does not wish to join a school that has offered fellowship, the applicant can join another school, without fellowship, but can accept any school scholarship that is offered.
The applicant’s school rankings are released to the schools only after they make known their admission decisions to the Consortium.
All Consortium members are considered for two-year merit-based full-tuition scholarships, called fellowships that cover other fees, too (two years except at Emory, which has a one-year program).
Schools make fellowship decisions, not the Consortium. Fellowship decisions are typically made in mid-March, and the Consortium’s offer should be accepted or declined by April 15. Schools may consider deferred admission, but applications for fellowships have to be submitted again.
Many member schools conduct interviews of candidates, and information about the interviews are available from the websites of the schools. Interviews are scheduled and the information conveyed by the schools themselves.
The purpose of the interview with a school representative is to get an insight about the candidate that the application cannot always provide. It reveals candidates’ experiences, impact they have made, their objective in doing an MBA, and how articulate they are.
An expert advises that candidates should prepare as if for a job interview, by researching the school. They should be prepared to answer questions, importantly, with examples, related to their job responsibilities, give team experience examples, and the reason why they are interested in a particular school.
Candidates can ask a couple of specific questions, not many, and not where the answers are readily available. They should not ask how they did at the interview.
Consortium candidates can either attend a school interview or consortium interview. However, some schools do require an interview with them in addition to a Consortium interview.
GMAT / GRE
The Consortium advises candidates to take GMAT (Pearson VUE) or GRE (ETS) at least 20-25 days before the application deadline. The test companies directly forward the scores to the Consortium, and applicants need not forward their scores to the schools.
Candidates need to upload official copies of the hard copy of their transcripts. Screenshots will not do. Admission offers are binding only if official transcripts are made available.
Transcripts from universities outside the US need to be in the original language as the case may be with an official English translation from the university. A copy of the diploma showing the conferral of degree should also be submitted.
Resumes in Word or PDF format, showing post-secondary education, non-academic interests and activities, employment history, job titles, names and details of organizations, have to be uploaded.
Two professional recommendations and one recommendation showing mission support activities are required. Professional recommendations, preferably one for a current supervisor, should come from individuals who know the candidate’s work and can comment objectively, preferably about the candidate’s current position. Mission support recommendation should also come from an objective third party.
The candidate can send the request letters to the recommenders online, who can follow the steps to submit their recommendations.
- (Required essay) Describe your short- and long-term goals post-MBA. How has your professional experience shaped these goals and influenced your decision to pursue an MBA degree (300 words)?;
- (Optional) Is there any information that you would like to share with us that is not presented elsewhere in your application?
In the mission essay (required), three questions have to be addressed:
- What will you do during your MBA program to demonstrate your commitment to the mission (1,000 characters)?
- What will do you post-MBA to show this commitment (1,000 characters)?
- What have you done pre-MBA to demonstrate this commitment (2,000 characters)?
Specific examples of efforts and results have to be given. The first essay is an opportunity to the candidate to express strengths, attributes, and other traits and abilities relevant to the candidate’s goals.
The optional essay can be used to explain gaps in employment, shortcomings, questions in the Personal Certification and Signature section that the candidate has answered “yes,” and if required, your circumstances.
The last of the mission essay questions evaluates the candidate’s fit for membership.
In addition, candidates will need to write school-specific essays—schools read only their individual essays. Each school wants the applicants to respond to essay prompts and submit qualifications specific to it.
The essays allow the applicants to make a case for their admission, and they would do well to consider what they want to write and whether they are addressing the essay questions.
After preparing a draft, the applicant should revise and edit, and repeat, till the material truly expresses the ideas in mind. He/she should take care not to adopt a policy of one-size-fits-all while writing the different school essays.
As for the Consortium essay, the applicant should make out a strong connection with the mission, and focus on pre-MBA activities completed to take it forward in the interest of the three communities. Specific examples to demonstrate the focus through quantitative and qualitative passages are required.
The essay should also provide an action plan for how to take the mission forward. The applicant should say what he/she has done at the individual level and not just on what a club or group has achieved. Speaking to Consortium alumni could be useful.
“Sample essays” populating the Internet may not be useful. No one knows whether they helped the candidates who had written it (assuming no ghost-writers were involved).
The essays, as we know, gives the applicant an opportunity to express MBA goals and interest in the Consortium’s mission. The applicant’s ideas need to be expressed, not the sample-essay writer’s, who may have a different thinking about the MBA and the mission.
Drawing inspiration from sample essays misleads the applicant, making him/her second guess how a successful candidate’s essay would look like. The admissions committee will see through an essay that speaks in a voice different from that of the applicant.
The Consortium does not publicly reveal the acceptance rate. But since the volume of diversity applicants is not as high as the regular (over-represented) applicant pool), it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that the acceptance rate for the consortium MBA applicants will be relatively more favorable than the published selectivity rates on the participating business schools.
Commitment to mission
The Consortium assesses the candidate’s commitment to its mission in two ways: through the membership essay and through the membership recommendation letter preferably from former supervisors or professional associates.
Verification and signature
In the final section of the application, the candidate needs to answer questions such as whether the candidate has at any time been convicted, whether the candidate has faced academic sanction, and whether there are any criminal charges pending.
A “yes” does not disqualify a candidate, but action may be taken later if the answers are not truthful.
The Consortium application fee is $150 for two schools, $200 for three, $240 for four, $275 for five, and $300 for six schools.
The Consortium has lend a helping hand to hundreds of students, and they are giving back through their own efforts, campaigns, and personal contributions. The efforts range from volunteers guiding schoolchildren on financial principles, to serving on the board of a community non-profit, to fundraising efforts. Here are just three sample stories.
Consortium alum Al Dea, a graduate of the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is now a senior manager at Salesforce. In a blog called MBASchooled, he shares advice from MBAs on how to get the best out of their programs. His book, MBA Insider, contains interviews with Consortium MBAs and other b-school graduates on how to get the best value from the MBA experience. Dea says that most MBA students go to b-school not just to gain knowledge and skills but to learn how to make an impact.
Dekonti “Dek” Sayeh, a consultant at Slalom Consulting, which focuses on IT and data/analytics, graduated from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. Through his employer’s Gender Equality Masters employee research group, he tries to improve the work environment for colleagues and clients. He was drawn toward the Consortium for its concepts of diversity and the common application system. Sayeh, who is associated with the Gender Equality Group, also strives to inspire younger people of color to become business leaders.
Patricia “Teesha” Emerson, Consortium alumna of the University of Wisconsin School of Business and Emerson veteran, gives credit to the Consortium for helping her start her life and career on a strong foundation without debts but for also providing her with lifelong relationships. She now supports the Consortium by serving on its Corporate Advisory Board and her company by identifying individuals on campuses for leadership roles and mentoring them and also guiding colleagues to achieve their career goals.
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References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16