A decade ago, it seemed that the commonly held belief among MBA admissions team was the more experience a candidate had, the better. Every applicant questioned whether they had enough work experience.
Recently, however, these thoughts have changed. Top MBA programs such as Stanford and Harvard Business School have said that they are considering younger candidates more and are even willing to accept candidates with no work experience.
There are a few reasons for this. One reason is that some applicants may be so successful a few years after graduating from their undergraduate universities that they would not consider going back to business school at that point. Therefore, MBA programs would be missing an opportunity to admit some very talented candidates.
Additionally, some applicants are just ready right after graduation. A few may have started businesses in the past or may have gained applicable experiences in other areas. They have focused goals, are personally mature, and are truly ready to pursue a graduate degree. Remember though, although some of these schools are more open to accept less experienced candidates, this does not mean that younger candidates overall have a better chance of being admitted.
Younger candidates will face challenges in their applications. They will need to work harder to show that they have the confidence and maturity needed to excel in an MBA program. They will also need to prove that they have enough insights and experiences to be a contributing member to the student body. Personal experiences are very valuable to other students’ classroom experiences. Lastly, younger candidates will need to convince the admissions committee that they have focused career goals and solid reasons for going back to school so soon after having graduated.
At the same time, older candidates will also face adversity. Older candidates will need to show that it makes sense to pursue an MBA at this stage of their career, and that they are not just encountering a mid-career crisis. They will also have to demonstrate that all of their time in the work world has been well spent. It is important that they demonstrate progression in their career.
A 39-year-old candidate who has spent 17 years in the same position without showing significant progression will have a hard time being accepted to a top MBA program. However, this is not because of their age. Rather, it is because they may have not demonstrated growth during that period.
Young or old, if you can achieve the above, you will have a good shot at getting in to a program that is right for you, and should not be concerned that you have hit some imaginary cut-off age. When deciding if you want to apply and what programs to apply to, your age may be one factor you consider, but it should never be the only deciding factor.
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MBA blogger, US News and Author, The MBA Application Roadmap