What is the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM)?

Here at Menlo Coaching we’re fans of promoting the tools and organizations that can give you the edge when applying to a top MBA program. In this article, we’ll discuss The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM), a nonprofit that helps to increase the representation of underrepresented minorities in US business schools and business more broadly. 

Last year, we spoke to a Consortium member, and here is what she had to say about the organization and applying to business school with its support:

The Consortium for Pre-MBA Applicants

CGSM provides members with benefits before they have applied for an MBA and can help with the application process in a few key ways: 

Consortium Membership During* the MBA

*(During = post-acceptance of one’s offer of admission through graduation)

One of the biggest highlights of Consortium membership is participation in the annual Orientation Program, also known as OP. OP occurs in the spring before business school begins. What is it? In short, it’s five days of professional development and networking. Over 500+ incoming first year MBA students attend OP. In addition to giving newly minted students a chance to network with companies that are committed to diversity and inclusion, the Orientation Program also connects fellow Consortium MBA students with peers from their school who they will be studying alongside in the fall as well as peers from the other 19 member schools.

Professional Development & OP

In terms of professional development, there are tracks that attendees can opt into. If one is interested in Consulting, for example, they may attend sessions with Accenture, Bain & Company, and McKinsey & Company focused on understanding a day in the life of a consultant. In some instances, firms have walked Consortium members through multi-hour-long case exercises to illustrate best practices for problem solving with a structured approach – a competency needed later to land a coveted offer. At OP, certain firms allow students to interview early for a coveted round one interview slot, which can decrease pressure when they arrive on campus. Certain corporate sponsors (especially consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies) extend early internship offers based on interview performance at OP. Some members leave the conference with five or more internship offers at some of the world’s best companies. Imagine that – landing a dream role at a top firm before you’ve even started business school?

Networking & OP

For networking, there are programmatic and social events that allow you to get to know other members. An icebreaker that the Consortium has done in the past is gathering members in a large room with random facts about other members. A fixed amount of time is allotted for participants to attempt to locate as many of the individuals in the room who each fact belongs to.

While it can seem high-pressure and/or daunting for some, it ends up being a very fun exercise that provides the opportunity to connect with a stranger who you may/may not have engaged with otherwise. Though the pandemic caused OP to be a virtual event for two years (2020/2021), 2022 and 2023’s Orientation Programs took place in person:

In 2024, the Orientation Program will take place from June 1-5 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Prior to OP, attendees are asked to upload their resumes. Firms review them in advanced and invite select members to networking events at some of the finest establishments in the host city – those invited get to leave the hotel and explore a bit. Days are long and filled with packed agendas, but members socialize with peers during the evenings/nights when they are free.

In addition to the head start you will receive after attending CGSM’s Orientation Program, the Consortium offers current MBA students a chance to build a community within their MBA cohort that is committed to the common interests and values of its members with a focus on diversity and inclusion. The Consortium holds students accountable to those values and provides perspective on the equity efforts of various companies and organizations.

When you arrive on campus in the late summer/fall, it is nice to already know a subset of your classmates. Your Consortium colleagues will be your immediate network from day one. There are not many formal requirements for current MBA students aside from the expectation that you remain committed to the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Many Consortium MBAs go on to take leadership roles at affinity groups for underrepresented minorities. Alex (Berkeley Haas ‘19), the Consortium member in the video above, reports that her business school’s Race Inclusion Initiative was a prime spot for CGSM MBAs to help give back to their community and make the pathway to success easier for the next generation of underrepresented people in business.

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Consortium Membership After the MBA

In the years that follow the receipt of your degree, Consortium membership remains. There are opportunities to engage with the 80+ corporate partners, 1,000+ current students, and 10,000+ Consortium alumni for job opportunities and networking alike. The Consortium’s member-only job board, notably, can be helpful for those looking to transition to a different role.

How to Apply to Business Schools Through the Consortium

Here at Menlo Coaching, we have some tips for those preparing applications through the Consortium:

  1. Make sure your membership essay and recommendation explicitly address the mission of the organization.
    • Recall that the Consortium’s mission is to increase the representation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in American MBA programs and the ranks of American businesses. This is not meant to discredit any work you’ve done in regions outside of America, or work you’ve done in America for other minority groups – but if what is presented about your efforts is not aligned to the organization’s mission, you will not be granted membership.
  2. Avoid school-specific references in the core essay.
    • The prompt is “Please 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?” You should use this to speak about your goals at a high-level given your word allotment (300-word limit). Do not use this essay to speak about a specific MBA program, unless you’re only applying to one business school. For example, if you’re calling out Michigan Ross in this essay as the place to help you effectuate your goals, but you’re also applying to Berkeley Haas, that will likely not bode well for you in terms of admission at the latter business school.

With membership and potentially a full-tuition fellowship up for grabs, you should put your best foot forward when crafting your application(s) to business school through the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. We know exactly what it takes to produce a strong application and will help you do so—considering working with us today!