Each year, business schools strive to admit groups of students who are diverse among multiple dimensions: demographic backgrounds, work experiences, countries of origin, and even future career plans. Schools want to create a welcoming environment for all, and that has increasingly included their LGBTQ candidates and students.
Some top business schools have even developed specialized LGBTQ class content or programs—Stanford GSB’s LGBTQ Executive Leadership Program is one example. Others have created LGBTQ-focused fellowships, such as Wharton’s Prism Fellowship, which provides full two-year tuition each year to one student who is a member of and demonstrates leadership in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. And Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) has partnered with 60 top business schools to offer the ROMBA LGBT+ Fellowship “to develop the out LGBT+ and active ally business leaders of tomorrow.” Clearly, business schools want LGBTQ students!
But if you are a member of the LGBTQ community, should you “come out” on your application? That is, of course, a very personal decision. If you do decide to disclose this information, what is the most effective way to do so? Business schools want to get to know the authentic “you” via your application. They want to understand what makes you unique, what you have accomplished, and how you would participate in and contribute to your class and the school. I personally found that coming out on my business school applications helped me better explain all of these things and helped me paint a more complete picture of myself.
Rather than simply mentioning that you are part of the LGBTQ community, the most effective applications will weave that information into one or more of these areas in a relevant way:
What Makes You Unique?
Many schools ask you via their application essays to dive deeper into who you are, what matters most to you, and/or what you want to accomplish. Have any of those things been influenced by your LGBTQ identity? Some schools explicitly suggest being vulnerable in your essays. You want to be authentic in these essays, and your LGBTQ identity may not come into play at all for you here. But if it has played a role, consider saying so. For example, have you overcome adversity at work or in your country or in your family as a result of your LGBTQ identity? How has that impacted you? Or does your identity influence what’s important to you or the impact you hope to have in the world?
What Have You Accomplished?
Business schools want to see examples of your leadership and accomplishments in your application. If any of your examples involve the LGBTQ community, this may be a great way to disclose your identity in a very relevant context. For example, have you led an LGBTQ group as an undergraduate or in your workplace? Do you mentor LGBTQ kids? Are you involved with any LGBTQ nonprofit organizations? These all are great ways to demonstrate your leadership and/or accomplishments.
How Will You Participate and Contribute?
As you prepare to write your MBA applications, it’s important to research each school in order to understand what classes, clubs, and other resources you hope to take advantage of and also how you plan to contribute to your classmates and the school. In your research, you may uncover LGBTQ-related resources that you could mention in your applications. Be sure to take part in any LGBTQ recruiting events held by schools of interest to you. Reach out to leaders of each school’s LGBTQ student club to learn more—not only about the club, but also about the school’s offerings overall. You may find opportunities to create additional LGBTQ resources at the school or to lead or strengthen existing ones, which you could include in your application to highlight ways you would participate and contribute. These are all great approaches for mentioning your LGBTQ identity in a context that further strengthens your applications.
Your LGBTQ identity is only one aspect of who you are and what makes you special. It alone will not grant you admission to your favorite business school. Schools will want to learn as much as they can about all of the other aspects of you and your experiences as well. But when explained authentically and in the right context—as part of what makes you unique, relevant to what you have accomplished, and/or related to how you want to participate and contribute at a given school—your LGBTQ identity will help further differentiate you from the pack and make you an even more attractive candidate.