I have always defined diversity weekends as “mechanisms to trick prospectives/admits that an institution has more black people than it actually does.” Others have defined it as opportunities to “experience underrepresented communities at particular institutions.” Regardless, we attend to complete our touch points with respected institutions in addition to see if they pass our black test. You know the black test? It’s where you go and see “is this school black enough?”
But what you may not realize is that these business schools are excellent students and have been preparing for your black test for months. I remember dialogue being initiated in June (three months prior) on the content of programming, lodging arrangements, and the structure of the two days. When test day comes, most schools do a decent job of keeping the pervasive conservatism in the closet. How so? Well for one, internally (students/residents of the MBA program), the diversity weekend isn’t marketed that well and a lot of the times, its just something Blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, and other underrepresented constituents have on their radar. It’s hosted towards the end of the week mainly to accommodate prospectives schedule to the best of their ability. But this also confers a significant advantage to the school during the diversity visits: keeping transparent white privilege contained because the affinity groups disperse their students most charming and persuasive students while a lot of the “other” students are off campus.
So you’re probably wondering if the b-school is just putting on a show, why not go during a regular visit to see what the b-school operates like on a normal day? Well, you may see one or two black folk during those regular visits and its likely you may not get to speak with them. So if you’re looking for your perspective to be represented or to be spoken about, its best you show up to the diversity weekend. I previously alluded to the notion that no school has drafted a successful strategy on diversity. I do however believe most schools’ diversity weekend provide a platform to uncover diverse perspectives or disseminate widespread opinions of students of color during these weekends.
It’s important for you to know what the value in those weekends are for you. So, in my opinion, I’m going to quickly share some tips and what you should leave that weekend with.
- Don’t waste time trying to impress current students. We are not in admissions offices reviewing your candidacy and making recommendations to admit/deny. Most MBAs also like to feel like the most accomplished in the room. Instead, be genuine and they will become pseudo-invested in you. If they feel invested, they may feel compelled to review your materials and at minimum, you’ll leave with an extra set of eyes to review your materials before you submit.
- Don’t try to predict the success of your application. No one wants to hear your “I have a 3.6 GPA and 580 GMAT Score. As a Black woman, is that enough to get me in?” -___-. I’ll reiterate, students, who usually drive the programming for diversity weekends, are not admissions officers. And while they can make their estimations of your candidacy based on their experience, they also are not experts.
- Know when and when not to! This is an opportunity for you to ask questions you need to get answered. But know your audience and know who’s around before your questions enter the realm of risque and you embarrass yourself. Even if admissions officers are absent from the room, get a pulse for the vibe of the students before asking questions that are “too real”. Current students, even our very own Black ones, can be very conservative and think “why did they think it’s ok for them to be that ratchet?”. And while current students for the most part can’t help our candidacy, they can probably hurt it!
- Ask the right questions! In my first blog post, I alluded to what the right questions to ask were. I characterize those as questions you should be asking institutionally. You want questions that are tailored to your one-on-one engagements with current students. Maybe do you feel your perspective is marginalized in the classroom? Do you feel the curriculum ever touches on issues that relate diversity to management or challenges underrepresented parties face in the workplace? How frequently do you hear ignorance perpetuated in the classroom? These are questions that any minority student you engage with will be willing to answer.
- Don’t forget your professional etiquette. I still think it goes a long way to send a thank you email to everyone you engaged with. I think it helps people remember who you are too.