Sanity Check: Just How Big is the URM Advantage at Top B-Schools?

EliteBanana's picture
Rank: Chimp | 5

Hey guys, hoping for a quick sanity check here.

So I'm a couple years out of UG, am a URM, and doing some research on MBA programs to potentially apply to within the next couple years. Main goals are OCR (either into top tech or MBB) and the network/pedigree a top program can provide.

The biggest problem is that I have an undergrad GPA of 2.86 (I know) from a state school. There is no extreme sob story to lean on here, but definitely a few contributing factors I could discuss/spin if needed. Despite lackluster academic performance I scrapped my way into a decent (albeit "lower tier" to a lot of you) tech consulting shop and have been a high performer so far, gaining a lot of responsibility and on track for advancement. I'm considering taking the GMAT soon and am aiming for a 720+ to be as competitive as possible and to compensate for the GPA. I probably won't apply anywhere if I get below 700 after a few tries, so let's use this hypothetical score for the sake of the question. I'd also take HBX core for an alternative transcript.

Anyways, my question: Here's where I wonder just how much the URM factor could help make up for obvious weak point in my profile... I can't tell if it's all hype or actually a distinct advantage. Anyone have any personal experience with this situation? How much would applying through The Consortium help here? Aiming for at least Top 15, and my targets are Tuck, Duke Fuqua, Yale, Cornell Johnson... Is this reasonable? Do I bother plunging into GMAT prep for the next few months to make this happen? Bonus question - if this all works out, will the UG GPA screw me in the end when it comes to OCR?

TL;DR - URM with low gpa, how real is the advantage? Surmountable with consortium/high GMAT?

Comments (5)

Aug 14, 2019

I wouldn't worry about your UG GPA when it comes to OCR. Not saying they won't look at it but there will be many other factors more important to them, including GMAT which is used in OCR for MBB.

The #1 way to make up for a low UG GPA is GMAT. Yes you could be such an extreme baller at your job but normally the GMAT is what saves those with low UG GPA's. If your GMAT is 20-30 points above a schools average the school will be much more inclined to look past your GPA and even give you scholarships. Cornell has the lowest GMAT average of the schools you listed at 699, Yale is the highest at 728. 20-30 points over the average at a places like Yale and Tuck will be very hard as a 750+ is 98th percentile.

Most competitive MBA programs place applicants into "buckets." The white male finance bucket typically will have higher GPA's and GMAT's than the the URM consulting bucket. So looking at profiles on a forum like this one may or may not give you an accurate representation of what "stats" you need to be competitive. Overall the URM advantage is real as long as you aren't a male Indian engineer. The programs are aiming at specific URM and gender class %'s. Growth in these areas can significantly improve US News Rankings (see schools like USC). The data over the last decade indicates that the female URM bucket typically has the lowest stats and Indian/White male bucket usually has the most competitive stats.

Good luck, and only worry about things you can control, at the end of the day a 2.86 is within the "80%" range of most of your target schools list on their MBA class profiles.

Aug 14, 2019

Sorry to hijack the thread but for white/Asian males, do you have any advice for how to stand out and get into HSW?

Most Helpful
Aug 16, 2019

As an earlier poster wrote, yes, applying as a URM is an advantage because schools value diversity and they want to increase the percentage of URMs in their classes.

So the question becomes how to convince them to overlook a GPA. Even if there was no "extreme sob story," was there any trend? Was there a period where you excelled?

If you have done well as a tech consultant -- progressed at an above average rate, led projects that people at higher levels usually lead, and excelled in other ways that will help you both in admission and when it comes to recruiting.

Yes, the Consortium is a great idea. It reduces the cost of applying, offers fellowships, provides a supportive network, and also makes applying easier. For more info, please go to "The Consortium Can Help You Get Your MBA" . It's a little old, but still valuable.

A 720+ GMAT will help as will HBxCore providing you get High Honors. Another option is your local community college and A's in courses like Accounting 1, Stats for Business, Economics, etc.

Bottom line, Yes, the URM factor can help you overcome the low GPA, especially if the later is further mitigated by the steps you are thinking about as well as the other steps outlined in 5 A's for Your Low GPA .

In terms of OCR, your progression at work and MBA will be much more important that your grades from 8-10 years ago.


Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

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Aug 16, 2019

The advantage is real. Yes, you can overcome it with a high (at or above school average) GMAT. I think Consortium is less of a 'help' for you. You didn't note that the work you have done to date is in support of under-represented minorities or that your post MBA goals (MBB consulting) tie in any way to promoting URMs in business. Just identifying as a URM isn't enough to get a Consortium fellowship.

I echo the idea of an alternative transcript but advise against taking an entire slew of courses that are essentially the core curriculum of any top MBA program. Having read applications for ~10 years, I often wondered why someone needed to get an MBA after having taken accounting, stats, econ, and a few other courses. Find one course that will give you a real transcript and demonstrate that you can be an A student today.

A few articles that might be worth taking a look at:
2.7 GPA - Show Stopper for an MBA? No Way.
Top 5 Reasons to Apply Through Consortium

Your GPA is just one piece of the holistic evaluation. Make sure to round out your leadership skills, engage within communities you are part of and nurture relationships with folks who you might ask to write your recommendations.

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