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A Young Applicant's Advice

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A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 19:25
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A Young Applicant’s Advice



Introduction


So, you’ve just graduated from college – or perhaps you’re still in college – and business school has caught your eye. You’ve heard all the rumors:

  • Wait until you’re older
  • Gain more experience first
  • It won’t be worth it if you go now

… But for whatever reason, business experience or lack thereof, you’re determined to make it in as soon as you can. I’m here to tell you that it IS possible.



My Story


Stats-wise, my profile is here. The important thing to know is that I did not apply with an 800/4.0 profile. Would I have loved to have that? Of course! But what I have is what I have, and I gave the bschool application process my best shot.

My application story started early on. I was that person who knew in college that an MBA would be a degree I wanted at some point in time, and I figured why not start as soon as I could?

I applied with a little work experience, lots of naivety (including lots and lots of luck) and was admitted to 2 elite schools (US News Top 15 for those of you counting on rankings). Yet while I was elated with that outcome, my school visits and interviews showed me something I couldn’t have foreseen when I first applied – was I actually not ready for bschool? Much uncertainty later and with the realization that those people above who thought younger applicants should wait before applying were actually right about me, I put bschool on hold.

Fast forward another year and I started again. This time around I was certain I would find a school to attend -- but more than that, I knew waiting a bit made me overall a better applicant. I gained work and life experiences during that time that helped shape what kind of a school I was looking for. With that, I researched every ranking I could find, I spoke with as many people as I could, and I read lots and lots of GC threads and bschool guides. Now as my bschool application process is wrapping up, I am left with 5 amazing admits and I’ll be matriculating this fall (more on my bschool selection process here). It’s been quite a journey – one that’s made me think a lot about myself, where I’m headed, and where I’ve come from. Good luck to you all and don’t give up.


And now for the part of this post you've all been waiting for...



What’s Your Advice For Younger Applicants?



    1. Take Your GMAT, GRE, Or Both Early.
    While you’re still in college or right after graduation, you’re still focused in academics. Preparing for and taking another exam is just another part of your daily grind. Take advantage of that and don’t get stuck 1, 2, or 3+ years out having to cram in study sessions after work and on the weekends. It’s not a fun way to spend your early twenties.


    2. Know Your Story.
    Yes, you’re young, but if you’re committed to business school, you have to know what you’ve accomplished so far and where you plan on heading. Turn that into a story and make sure it’s convincing.


    3. Research Your Schools.
    Research, research, research. Visit, visit, visit.
    Attending information sessions alone will not do too much good in narrowing down your school picks. After awhile, a la undergraduate applications, every school will start sounding the same to a certain extent. Take the time to visit campuses, sit in on classes, etc – you’ll see if younger applicants are welcomed into the community and given a chance to show what they can do, or if another school is a better fit for you.

    • Don’t apply to schools just because someone ranked them #1, 2, and 3.
      Applying to business school is not like applying to college, where you can throw spaghetti at a wall and hope it sticks. Make sure you end up at a school where you can challenge yourself and grow – don’t end up at a “ranked” school and regret it because it’s not the right fit for you. Choose wisely.

    • Don’t apply to too many schools.
      Applying to business school is a LOT of money and takes up a LOT of time. Find 6 or 7 (or fewer!) schools where you know you WILL attend if admitted and apply to those.


    4. Have A Back Up Plan.
    Figure out your career direction and have a couple of paths in mind (too many will make you seem direction-less). Adcoms know you’re young and that you’ll likely change your career direction once you’re in bschool. However, to get into business school, you first have to have a concrete (sounding) career plan – and an achievable back-up career plan, too.


    5. Commit To The Application Process.
    Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go through the application process just because you think it’s the “next thing to do” after college. You’ll only show the immaturity of younger applicants if you do so.

    Instead, if you’ve decided to apply to a traditional full-time MBA program (or a program like 2+2, Silver Scholars, etc), know what you’re getting into and make a 110% effort to show the adcom why you need an MBA to achieve your goals.

    • Rock Your Interviews.
      Wear a suit. Act maturely. Convey to the adcom, your interviewer, and the other interviewees at your interview day (some of whom may be 10+ years older than you) that you can hold your own.


    6. Have A Back Up Plan.
    Yes, another back up plan. Once results come out, hopefully you’ve made it in somewhere you love. However, if this application cycle didn’t work out for you, it is not the end of the world. You still have time. Pick yourself back up and re-evaluate your application and steps #2 through #5. Figure out your strengths. Figure out where you can improve. Then, make steps to improve those areas of weakness:

    • Weak Undergraduate GPA?
      Applying with a weak undergraduate GPA and little work experience is an uphill battle, but not impossible. Take an additional quantitative class and do well in it. Take on more responsibilities at work. Show the adcom you can handle bschool academics.

    • Weak Exam Scores?
      Retake your exam. Do better than you did before.

    • Weak Essays?
      Re-evaluate your story. Make sure your essays complement your application. Get advice from an admissions consultant if you need it.

    • Weak Interviews?
      Practice, practice, practice. Most interview questions can be found online somewhere. Take the time to think about your answers and practice saying them out loud.

    • Weak Extracurricular Activities?
      Join something. If you’re ambitious enough to apply to business school as a younger applicant, you were likely pretty involved in undergrad. Get involved again. Find activities in your city you can join. Do something that you like to do, something that is meaningful to you.

    • Weak Work Experience?
      This is probably the biggest problem area for younger bschool applicants. You have to show the adcom that you've had enough experience to hack it in bschool. Re-evaluate your story and your career direction. Maybe it IS worth it to wait another year or two and apply again – if your current job isn’t putting you on the right path to achieve your goals, change jobs or get more responsibilities. These will only enhance your next try at the bschool process.



I'm In College And Want An MBA!


Can I Apply To Harvard 2+2 or Yale Silver Scholars? Can I Just Apply Directly To A 2 Year MBA Program Without Any Work Experience?

MBA programs, yes, are skewing a bit younger than they were before, BUT that does not mean everyone entering full-time programs is 22. Based on my own experience through this process as well as what I’ve heard from others, I would highly discourage anyone from applying directly into a full-time, two year program from college, unless you are a very particular case (e.g., you created a successful start-up(s) a la the next Facebook, Google, Twitter OR you have extensive history with a family business and you are expected to run the company as soon as you’re finished with school).

Now, 2+2 and Silver Scholars… both are great programs IF they are the right fit for you.

  • HBS 2+2
    If you are a motivated undergraduate who has their ducks in a row with your GMAT, a high GPA (if you don’t have a 3.5+ regardless of what school you’re coming from, it’s going to be a tough road), and a strong story, I see no reason not to apply. I love that this program is a guaranteed 2 year deferral. You’ll still get the work experience necessary to contribute a bit to the case study method and ultimately, you’ll get a lot more out of the program after working full-time. The only disadvantage I see is that you’ll be applying to 2+2 because it’s HBS. You won’t consider if HBS is the right place for YOU.

  • Yale Silver Scholars
    This program is innovation at its best, based on the current program offerings for students applying directly from college. It started out as a 3 year program, where you attended bschool for 1 year with everyone else, took a year off to get full-time work experience, and then returned to Yale for your second year of courses. Now, as I understand it, that 1 year full-time work experience in the middle is not a mandatory 1 year – you can extend it to 2 or 3 years and gain more experience before returning for your second year of courses. Add in the required international experience, and you'll come out with some amazing experience and a solid direction for your career. My concern with the program is that I’m not sure how much you can contribute to the classroom in your first year if you don’t have an extraordinary background to draw upon.

Ultimately, if you’re motivated enough to apply to these programs, go ahead and try. You won’t look back and wonder “what if” – and if you don’t get in, you can always re-apply later. For some fun self-reflection, during your re-application process, look back and see what you wrote in your first application. You’ll see how much you’ve grown and you might even wonder “what was I thinking applying back in college?!”



I wish you all the best, and I hope this helps some of you! Happy to answer any questions from other applicants embarking on this journey.
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 19:29
I'll be the first to let the kudos fly (I'm sure there will be many).

Thank you so much!
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 19:57
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You are a gift to the community, my man. Keep up the great work! I'll also add something that Alex of MBA Apply says frequently: do not orchestrate your entire post-college life just to get into business school. Live life to its fullest and you will emerge in a few years not just with more interesting life experiences, but a story you can speak more passionately about in essays and interviews.
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 13 Feb 2013, 05:39
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Great post and a tremendous achievement...at any age! Wanted to mention Stanford GSB for the college kids. They take both direct and deferred enrollment.
http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/admission/college_seniors.html

Agree with you about the concerns with respect to the Yale program. My bigger issue would be starting with one class and finishing with another...I think it kind of robs you of the bonds you'll form with your classmates over two years.
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 13 Feb 2013, 11:22
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And the member of the month award goes to......
Awesome post bro!
I am one of the people who were craving for someone like you who made it when they were 24-25.
Heartiest congratulations and I hope to follow your footsteps!
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 13 Feb 2013, 12:09
Amazing post, aerien! I can relate to so much of what you're saying as a fellow 24 year old. I had a few friends applying to 2+2 and Silver Scholars during our senior year of college and, fearing the tough job market and lacking direction as a liberal arts student, I almost jumped on the MBA application bandwagon with them. My academic advisor was the one who set me in the right direction; she actually got her MBA right after school and really regretted not having a few years of work experience and advised me to work for a few years first.

2.5 years of work experience later, I'm very glad I took my academic advisor's advice. Even though I'm not in the position I want to be long-term, I've matured a lot and gained so many valuable professional skills and have a much better idea of what I want to do. Would I benefit from an MBA even more if I waited another year or two to apply? Maybe, my Tuck rejection letter actually seemed to imply as much (a select portion of rejected applicants are told to reapply with Tuck coaching and another year of experience). While I do think some professional work experience is probably helpful for the majority of applicants (if partly to help defray the hefty burden of student loans!), I really don't think the average 5-6 years at most schools is necessary for all.

I also agree with kingfalcon's advice. I think there can sometimes be a lot of pressure to take a more "traditional" career path in order to set yourself up well for business school. Beyond the sound wisdom that you shouldn't pick a path purely out of a sense of obligation, the irony is that you may make it harder to distinguish your application later on. You'll see so many posts on these forums saying that traditional candidates in consulting, finance, etc. often have to work that much harder to stand out. Working at a non-profit or start-up could be a valuable experience in its own right, with the perk of being a bit more unique on your application.
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 13 Feb 2013, 13:28
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One piece of advice I have for future young applicants: worry more about your quality (and, to some extent, quantity) of work experience than your age. While I will "only" be 25 at matriculation, I will have more than four years of work experience at that point. I had always worried that the disconnect between my age (admittedly young) and years of work experience (pretty typical) would negatively impact my admissions results, but thankfully it hasn't.
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 14 Feb 2013, 03:31
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Thanks, kingfalcon! Those are 2 pieces of great advice. If anyone else has anymore, keep them coming and I'll update my post with the compilation.

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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 14 Feb 2013, 06:26
kingfalcon wrote:
One piece of advice I have for future young applicants: worry more about your quality (and, to some extent, quantity) of work experience than your age. While I will "only" be 25 at matriculation, I will have more than four years of work experience at that point. I had always worried that the disconnect between my age (admittedly young) and years of work experience (pretty typical) would negatively impact my admissions results, but thankfully it hasn't.


This is exactly right. I'll have only 3 years of full-time work experience when I start school, but the quality was definitely there. It is INCUMBENT on you to explain (in a non-esoteric way) the value you bring to your business. In many cases, you might have job responsibilities typically reserved for people of a higher title or several years your senior. You need to explain this via your resume very clearly. Additionally, you need to work with your rec writers to help make this story cohesive.

Furthermore, you do NOT have to address your age in your essay. If you have high quality experience, that will speak enough for you. You need to show very concrete career goals and have an explicit conception of what you plan to do with your MBA and why NOW (without addressing age).

I'm happy to answer questions via PM. My profile is here: http://gmatclub.com/forum/2013-profiles-w-admit-dings-results-no-discussion-136339-40.html#p1180558.
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 14 Feb 2013, 09:45
Kudos ! Very informative post !
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 04 Dec 2013, 21:47
Great post, as a young applicant it's nice to see/hear about some success stories.

Thank you, and congratulations.
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Re: A Young Applicant's Advice [#permalink] New post 04 Jan 2014, 08:05
This is an awesome post..

It's a great read for anyone in a similar situation. 1-6 are all spot on!
Re: A Young Applicant's Advice   [#permalink] 04 Jan 2014, 08:05
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