For Hispanics researching business programs, he has three suggestions: network with current MBA students through a local NSHMBA chapter (the group has more than 20 nationwide); seek assistance through admissions offices before submitting an application, since many have volunteers who can explain the dos and don'ts of application preparation; and take a GMAT prep course.
"Our enrollment numbers are lower than they have to be because of lack of preparation," says Mr. Honaman.
He also advises students to define their career interests – an important consideration when deciding where to study toward an MBA. Some programs emphasize finance, for instance, while others are weighted toward marketing and other subject areas.
"The question is which program is going to meet your needs," says Mr. Honaman.
Alice Velazquez, president of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) and chief operating officer of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corp., says the same concept applies to prospective law students.
"Any person entering law school should give consideration to long-term goals," she says.
Generally speaking, those fortunate enough to be accepted by a traditionally prestigious law program such as Harvard's or Yale's should probably make a point of completing their studies there, according to Ms. Velazquez. The fact is, the best professional opportunities are reserved for graduates of such programs, she says.
"The more prestigious the law school, the better – and when I say prestigious I mean the traditional top-tier schools, not ones that I feel are necessarily the best. To say otherwise would be a disservice to young people about to enter the profession."
HNBA president Alexander Sanchez agrees. "Go to the best school you can get into, period. Worry about the rest later," he says, referring to concerns about Hispanic representation among students and faculty. "Get your education in the bank, get in with a good firm, and then you can worry about improving opportunities for Hispanics."
There are exceptions, however. Aspiring lawyers intent on a career in public service, for instance, probably wouldn't be well served in shelling out a small fortune for a J.D. from an Ivy League school, according to Ms. Velazquez.
"In that case, a top-tier law school will only put you in the red for 15 years," she says, highlighting the fact that government attorneys usually are paid much less than their counterparts at prominent law firms.
"If you're not sure which direction you want to go in and you want the option of a prestigious federal clerkship or working at a top-tier law firm, go to a top school and make that investment," she says. "Many white-shoe law firms pay starting salaries in six figures, and that will go a long way toward allaying worry over school loans."
Ms. Velazquez admits that traditionally prestigious law schools often have a very limited Hispanic presence, which, she says, can be difficult on Hispanic students. In the future she would like to see minority representation given more consideration when mainstream law school rankings are compiled.
Ultimately, professional achievement, as opposed to law school pedigree, is a lawyer's greatest professional asset, says Ms. Velazquez. And the tools to become a successful attorney are widely available.
"Law school tends to be generalist by nature. It's about developing a way of thinking, not the acquisition of a specific knowledge set. The best ones teach you to become a lifelong student, and you don't have to go to Harvard for that," she says.
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