Our consultants receive a lot of questions from clients about applying to MBA programs through The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. I’ve heard myths that suggest that applying to one (or more) of the 22 Consortium schools through The Consortium’s application is disadvantageous. But as the former director at two Consortium schools, I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth — provided you meet The Consortium’s minimum qualifications.
Though the requirements, participating schools, and corporate partners have changed over The Consortium’s 57-year history, not only is the organization the best deal in town but it also gives its members an alumni network that extends throughout the 22 member schools.
The Consortium history and mission
Initially, The Consortium provided opportunities for young African-American men to have a fair chance at rising up the corporate ladder via the MBA. Later, The Consortium added Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and women to its mix. Membership came along with the fellowship.
However, after the Supreme Court decided the Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger cases, The Consortium opened its doors to offer membership to selected applicants that further The Consortium’s mission to promote the “inclusion in global business education and leadership . . . of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.” Members do not need to belong to one of these groups but must demonstrate the mission through community and professional action and impact. Thus, membership is no longer race based but rather mission driven. Applicants must also demonstrate the ability to succeed in a Consortium member school’s MBA program.
Consortium member benefits
Like the undergraduate Common App, candidates can apply to up to six schools with only one application for a fraction of the cost that the candidate would incur by applying to each school separately. The Consortium membership grants the candidate access to the orientation and corporate partners. Many members receive internship offers before the start of school.
To summarize the benefits:
- Applicants can use a single application for up to six schools at one low cost.
- Members gain access to a vast alumni network of 22 schools, including mentorship from among the approximately 9,000 Consortium alumni (formal or informal).
- Students gain access to corporate sponsors at orientation if selected as a member.
- If selected as a fellow, students receive full tuition and a stipend.
Consortium member schools
* School’s class profile presents a score/GPA range rather than an average.
To learn more about applying through The Consortium, please contact me for a consultation.
By Natalie Grinblatt, the former admissions dean/director at three top business schools. Natalie has reviewed more than 70,000 applications, interviewed more than 2,500 candidates, and trained nearly 700 admissions directors and alumni volunteers to select outstanding candidates for admission. Her clients gain admission to top programs, including those at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Cornell, Columbia, Berkeley, Chicago, Northwestern, and NYU. Natalie holds an MBA from Michigan Ross. Want Natalie to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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Can the Consortium Help You Get Accepted and Fund Your MBA? [Episode 532]
In this episode, the Director of Recruiting at CGSM details the benefits – and opportunities! – available to Consortium members, what it takes to become a member, and why applying in Round One may not always be an applicant’s best strategy. [SHOW SUMMARY]
There’s an organization that can help U.S. citizens and permanent residents get accepted to top MBA programs, fund their MBA, and even provide career support post-MBA – provided the applicants support the organization’s mission. Let’s learn all about it from the Consortium for the Graduate Study of Management’s (CGSM) Director of Recruiting.
An interview with Bianca Keys, director of recruiting at the Consortium for the Graduate Study of Management. [Show Notes]
Welcome to the 532nd episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for joining me.
Sometimes I’m asked, is the MBA worth it? And my answer is, it depends on your individual circumstances. But I’ve got good news. We’ve developed a tool that will help you evaluate whether an MBA is worth it for you and your individual circumstances and by how much. Just go to accepted.com/mbaroi and check how much you’re likely to benefit, or not, from earning an MBA. And using it won’t set you back even one cent, it’s free.
I’m delighted for the first time on Admissions Straight Talk to talk with Bianca Keys, Director of Recruiting at the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. Bianca earned her bachelor’s degree from Lindenwood University and her master’s in Business Management and Leadership from Webster University. She has worked in enrollment management, DEI training, and admissions in different capacities since 2008. She became CGSM’s Director of Recruiting in September 2022.
Bianca, welcome to Admissions Straight Talk. [1:53]
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
I’m delighted to do so. Now let’s start with something really, really basic. What is the Consortium? [1:59]
All right. So, the Consortium, we are pretty much an alliance of top graduate business programs and also top corporate partners, and we’re supported by alumni and students. We were founded in 1966 by Washington University’s professor, Sterling Schoen. And his one driven mission was actually inspired by him noticing a lack of African American men in leadership in American corporations.
So, with the partnerships of some corporate partners and some founding schools, they were able to pretty much create this alliance to give African American men the business skills to be able to secure positions in American corporations. So, now we’ve grown.
And I assume it’s no longer limited to African American men. It’s now African American men and women, right? [2:59]
Yes, men and women. And our target pops are African American men, Native American and Hispanic American, but our applications are open to all.
How does one become a CGSM member? [3:16]
In order to become a member, you would have to, of course, apply. And three of our requirements are that you must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident of any race or ethnicity, you must demonstrate a commitment to our Consortium’s mission, and hold a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in the U.S. or equivalent. So, to be approved for Consortium membership, an applicant must demonstrate the commitment through their resume, our essay, and their letter of recommendation.
I have in front of me your mission, so I’m just going to read it off. “The mission of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, an alliance of leading American business schools and some of our country’s top corporations, is to enhance diversity in business education and leadership by helping to reduce the serious underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in both the member schools’ enrollments and the ranks of management.”
So, again, there’s no racial requirement in terms of membership as long as you support and identify with and support and have supported that mission in the past. [3:59]
All right. So, one of CGSM’S benefits is the ability to apply through CGSM and pay one application fee, and I think it goes to a maximum of six schools, correct? [4:33]
There’s no max anymore.
There’s no max anymore, ooh! [4:44]
So, two things, two updates. We’ve removed rankings. So, there are no rankings, and you can apply to as many member schools as you would like. So, from one to two schools is $150, up to six schools which is $300, but each additional program is $25. Yeah, so they can apply…
And so, in the past with our ranking system, the top ranking school, they were the only school that was able to offer a fellowship opportunity. And now if you applied to all six schools or more, they have the opportunity to offer you… they each have an opportunity to offer you a fellowship. And we empower the student to be able to make the better choice of what school best fits them.
Wow, that’s a big change. When did this change take place, like last year? [5:38]
This last application.
Last cycle. Should’ve interviewed you then. No, I’m teasing. That’s great news. I somehow missed that announcement. Okay, good to know. Good to know. So, there’s no more ranking and there’s no more maximum, and multiple schools could offer a fellowship. [5:43]
Now you apply for membership at the same time that you submit your application, correct? [6:00]
Yes. It’s a one stop shop,
It’s a one-stop deal, one application. So, it is possible to use the CGSM application process and ultimately not be approved for CGSM membership, is that correct? [6:09]
Yes, that is possible. But the application is still considered an application, so you won’t get rejected from the member school just because you didn’t get membership. They still go through their standard process of admissions. And a lot of times they’ll offer you other fellowship opportunities or scholarship opportunities that they may have available at the schools.
And the schools don’t even see your decision in terms of CGSM membership. They don’t see the membership essay, correct, the membership application essay? [6:46]
They don’t see any of the membership application essays or letters of recommendation. All they see is the decision once we’ve made it.
Now I saw on your website that Stanford partnered with CGSM last year and became the 22nd school to become a partner school. Have any other schools partnered since then? [7:02]
Yes, I’m excited to say that…
Well, you got lots of news today. [7:17]
Yeah, I do. I do. Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, they are our newest, our 23rd school, which we are so excited to have them. They will begin July 1st, actually, and they will be on our application this upcoming cycle. And this upcoming cycle is for students fall 2024, that will begin fall 2024.
What is the benefit of applying through CGSM as opposed to just using the school’s portal? Portals, I should say. [7:45]
We, one, save you money. An average application for any grad program can be up to about $300 for one application, where six applications is $300 applying through us. So, it’s definitely a win for the students. Whether they get membership or not, it’s saving them money and they are allowed to go by our application deadlines as well. So, if maybe Columbia or one of the schools, maybe their application deadline may be September 15th, they still would recognize the application on our deadline, which our Round One is October 15th.
And I believe it’s also easier to apply. Aren’t there fewer essays required or is it pretty much the same at this point? [8:50]
Right, so it is the core essay which asks the applicants to discuss their MBA goals, and then there’s a second core essay that the applicants are able to detail any additional information that they may want to add that they weren’t able to explain in the application.
Right. And is there typically a supplemental per school essay, or do the schools ask for their own essays in addition to the Consortium essay? [9:20]
Sometimes they ask for their own supplementals that are added in addition. We are going through that process of application updates as we speak.
But it’s not all schools that do that? [9:38]
No, no. No, no.
Usually the student has the mission essay and then the two GMAC format essays.
Are you worried about CGSM’s applicants using ChatGPT and preparing their essays? [9:51]
Oh, the ChatGPT.
You got it. I’m asking everybody this question. [10:03]
And that’s a good question. So, with it being such a newer phenomenon right now, I just want applicants and students to be mindful that there are advantages and disadvantages to using ChatGPT, because what we’re looking for is consistency in their demonstrated commitment to the mission. And I doubt it if they’ll be able to convey that in an interview based off of a ChatGPT essay.
So, a lot of the admissions advisors and committees, they’re looking for authenticity. They’re looking for unique perspectives and their applicant’s ability to be able to express themselves. So, I don’t know if they can… It probably is a good tool to help guide them in forming their essay, but I don’t think it should be something that can express exactly your commitment.
I’ve played with it a little bit, and sometimes there are outright errors in it. It’s wrong. [11:09]
And other times it’s just very generic, and it has to be generic. You’re not going to get a lot of authenticity. But it does sometimes help. [11:17]
But to rely on it blindly I think is a big mistake. [11:28]
Yeah. Yeah. Especially if you don’t check.
Absolutely. Absolutely. [11:35]
Attention to detail.
Are there other elements to the CGSM application? We discussed you pay a fee. You have the core essays. You might have supplemental essays. Are there short answer essays or anything like that or is it pretty straightforward? [11:40]
Yeah, it’s pretty straightforward. If the school has any changes or supplements to each essay, that may be the different shift or change. But pretty much transcripts, resume. We always advise students to make sure that your experience, if you’re a part of organizations like Forte or MLT, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Teach for America, making sure that that’s actually on your resume. That definitely helps. Your test scores, GRE, GMAT or Executive assessment, letters of recommendation. One for the mission, and then there are two for the schools. Yes. And making sure you get the right recommender.
What makes a right recommender? [12:41]
Someone who can explicitly… Especially for the Consortium mission letter of recommendation, somebody who can explicitly pretty much show your demonstrated commitment to our mission and they know about that.
They’ve observed it. [13:01]
Yeah, they’ve observed it, and they can actually speak to it. And they’re not saying, “Well, I don’t know about their demonstrated commitment, but Jane is a great person and we love her personality. She’s very professional.” It’s like, what?
That’s not the question. [13:17]
So, definitely communicate with your recommender about expectations. And with us, it doesn’t have to be your supervisor with the Consortium mission letter of recommendation. It can be as long as it’s not a family member. It could be anyone who can speak to it.
That you’ve somehow supported that mission. Makes sense [13:40.
What are the non-admissions benefits of being a CGSM member or fellow, and what is the difference between being a CGSM member and fellow? So, there’s really two questions there. Why don’t we start with the non-admissions benefits of membership, and then we’ll get to the difference between being a member and a fellow. [13:46]
So, the non-admission benefits are pretty much the early access to corporate partners. A lot of our students, we just had OP, our orientation program this past June, and it was amazing. It was amazing.
I know you’re working very hard on it. [14:20]
Yeah. Oh man, it was definitely a job, but it’s worth it. And just to see all of the students that we worked with from the beginning up until that point, from all their stress points, their pain points, to see them, they made it, and they’re at the orientation program. So, them having early access to our corporate partners.
They also have access to our system that is… We have a platform that is called Hello Fellow that allows them to join different groups that are industry groups. And our corporate partners have access to them as well, and they’re able to apply to positions that are open to those corporate partners.
Also, at our orientation program, we had a corporate open house that’s not like your traditional job fair. All of our corporate partners actually already had our students’ resumes, they already had a student look book, they’ve already seen the students and they already know the students prior to them even coming to the expo.
So, they definitely have a great advantage by being a Consortium fellow. And then the camaraderie, the support that they have with each other, there’s nothing like it. I love how each campus had… they call themselves CFAM.
Campus family, yeah. [15:53]
Yes. Each campus, each Consortium cohort on each campus, they’re so close. A lot of our alumni mention that the connection, that’s like a trending thing with us here at the Consortium is connection. Being able to connect students with not only each other, but also with our corporate partners and with our top MBA programs.
So, they have lifelong connections with all three of those different entities, and they enjoy being able to talk with someone who understands them, someone who may be going through the same even issues at their jobs or anything like that, and that connection. And if there’s a job loss or anything like that, we do provide the support to help those students to be able to reconnect with corporate partners and find another opportunity.
So, just to clarify, the orientation program is open to all Consortium members, not just fellows, correct? [16:54]
So, Consortium fellows, you’re applying for membership, but the membership allows you to become a Consortium fellow. So, whether you received a fellowship or not, you are considered a Consortium fellow.
So, you’re a Consortium fellow whether you get a scholarship or not? [17:16]
Got it. And all the fellows/members can go to the orientation program. How long is the orientation program? [17:26]
So, it’s a four-day conference, and it consists of a lot of hands-on career development. We have diversity theater, which is amazing. A lot of our corporate partners, they have private interviews with a lot of the students. So, a big portion of our students leave with internships or career opportunities.
For next year, for next summer, or for this summer? For next summer? [17:56]
Yes. For this upcoming year –
For summer 2024, let’s say? [18:03]
And what is diversity theater? [18:06]
Oh my goodness, diversity theater. This was actually my first year to experience it. Hearing it from other coworkers and staff was not the same as experiencing and seeing those difficult conversations displayed on stage.
So, there’s actors that are on stage, and they may act out a scene where some coworkers that may deal with microaggressions or different challenges that you may face at work and how to address that, and just having those conversations amongst your peers. And it really was eye opening for not only the students, but for staff, for a lot of our corporate partners and admissions representatives as well. So, it was pretty amazing, and we have it annually as well.
And it seems like the orientation program is very much career oriented. Is there any prep for the actual study of the MBA, or is that assumed that the schools will handle that? [19:09]
So, the schools, the admissions representatives and career services representatives are present. So, they do have an advising session that they get to work with them and meet with them one-on-one for prep with the corporate partners, but also any questions that they have about the upcoming program that they’re about to start in the fall. They have all of that one-on-one time, a lot more one-on-one time than they would normally get during the school year.
Sounds like a very busy four days, very full. [19:54]
Yeah, it is very full.
Okay. How does CGSM help its fellows in career placement, both during and after the MBA? [20:00]
So, during the MBA, again, we have the Hello Fellow and our annual program, our annual orientation program and career forum. Like I mentioned before, they have the opportunity to interact with the corporate partners. The corporate partners get to review their resumes and their backgrounds early on before even meeting them face-to-face. Our alumni network, our Hello Fellow system, allows them to, again, engage with these corporate partners.
And then our student and alumni relations department, they are amazing with connecting with the students. They engage with student liaisons as well in providing that support that they may need throughout the year. And if there’s a student, like we just had tech layoffs recently. And our alumni development department, they were able to help and assist with reengaging with those students or those alumni to be able to help them to get placed in other career opportunities.
A few weeks ago you had the OP. It was mostly geared towards people starting the MBA in 2023, but it also had people who started the MBA in 2022. Is that correct? [21:18]
We had some second year. Like if something happened last year, I know dealing with the pandemic and other issues, some students were not able to attend last year, and so they were given the opportunity to attend this year.
But it’s usually just for the people about to start the MBA, the OP? [21:48]
Right, it’s usually first year students.
What do you see coming down the pike for the Consortium? [21:54]
Oh my goodness. Continued growth, continued engagement with a lot of the students. We’re working on increasing our exposure and engaging. This year we shared a lot of our OP activities on our social media and got a lot of good feedback and engagement. So, definitely I think we have a good momentum right now to be able to get all of the good things that we do at the Consortium out to the public and to the world.
What advice would you give to someone applying to apply via the Consortium in this, the 2023-2024 application cycle? [22:34]
Definitely begin your MBA journey. And beginning your MBA journey does not start with the application. It starts with the preparation.
Yes, that’s right. [23:13]
Definitely starts with the preparation. So, researching a lot of the schools that you’re interested in, finding out if you’re interested in the Consortium, finding out what that Consortium culture looks like on each campus to see what best fits you. Also, looking into preparation for GRE, GMAT, or the Executive Assessment and finding out what the class profiles are for each school that you’re interested in so you can have a good idea of where you stand. And don’t rush your application. Don’t rush it.
I always have some overzealous students that want to, “I’m getting it in for Round One.” Wait a minute. Make sure that you’re submitting the strongest application and that this is the right time for you to start a program. There’s no rush. There’s no rush. There’s no rush. Make sure you have the strongest application. Utilize all resources that you need to support you through your application process.
We always advise students to attend our events. We have member school webinars that are… We actually have one coming up on July 10th, which will have Washington University, University of Rochester Simon, and UCLA Anderson. And they will be talking about their MBA programs, but also talking about their Consortium cohorts on their campus as well.
And we also have our MBA application preparation seminars, which is MAPS, which will be in person this year. So, we will be in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and DC.
Wow. You’re getting around. [25:16]
Not all Consortium schools require a test score. Does the Consortium require a test score even if the school does not? [25:21]
So, for membership we don’t require a test score. But if you are applying and they offer a test waiver, we would need to have that test waiver submitted, or you would need to submit that in the application. And then we just confirm it with the member school whether that test waiver was actually approved. Yeah. And then if it wasn’t approved, then they would have to submit a test score.
Are any of the programs or any of the partner schools entirely test optional? Do you know off the top of your head? I wasn’t sure as I was thinking about it. [26:03]
I don’t think so. Well, it depends on the school and what policies they have in place this upcoming school year.
I think most of them have a test waiver option, and I also would have to go through each one. [26:19]
Yeah. I always advise students to talk with them early about it, because last year I ran into the issue of students who just missed it. It was like they just missed the test waiver window. So, definitely talk with your school of interest to find out when that test waiver timeframe is and get that in if that’s an option for you.
Wonderful advice even if you’re not applying through CGSM, by the way. [26:51]
What would you have liked me to ask you? [26:56]
These were all great questions.
What would you like to share that I haven’t asked? [27:02]
I would like to share just my… In my position as Director of Recruiting, what my passion and desire and vision is for the Consortium moving forward is to be able to expand our exposure to those who definitely need the opportunity, to be able to expand our exposure to those areas, because sometimes we are in this collegiate bubble.
Yeah, absolutely. And to be able to… We do so many great things.
You do. [27:45]
And just being able to see just the energy that I get from the students, just being around them, and just the positive nature of it all, being able to give that to others who don’t know about the Consortium. So, that’s my mission and goal is to increase exposure and to really share about the great things we’re doing here at the Consortium.
Well, today in this podcast, you did it. [28:14]
Thank you. Thank you, Linda.
You’re very welcome. Bianca, I want to thank you so much for joining me today. Where can listeners and potential applicants learn more about CGSM? [28:21]
- The Consortium for the Graduate Study of Management
- Applying For Your MBA Through The Consortium: Best Deal In Town
- MBA ROI Calculator
- How to Get an MBA at Columbia Business School – a podcast Episode 528
- How to Get Accepted to NYU Stern – a podcast Episode 525
- How to Get into Dartmouth Tuck – a podcast Episode 514
- How to Get Into Georgetown McDonough’s MBA Program – a podcast Episode 512
- How to Get Accepted to UNC Kenan-Flagler Full-Time MBA Program – a podcast Episode 496