I really do not think that your age is going to be a big deal. I think one of the over emphasized characteristics or trends in MBA programs is the trend towards younger applicants. If you look at a lot of the top business schools, the average age is still in the late 20s. What is the deviation? Of course it will be a few kids that are 23/24, but for every one of those kids that is that young, there is going to be an old man, such as yourself. I mean that in a lighthearted way, but my point is that your age is not that big of a negative factor. If you were 32 or 33, then it would be a different story and I would tell you to apply to part time programs.
I do think that your age will require some explanation as you have correctly provided justification for. Having to leave school for financial reasons makes for a good story. You just have to frame it correctly, you will not only have justification for your slightly older age, but also justification for why you may have performed at a slightly lower level than what you would have liked. Specifically, I believe that this can be used to address your 3.1 GPA which will be lower than the average at most business schools.
Your minority status will help. And I suggest you take advantage of it by applying to the consortium. Remember, that the consortium will require you to fill out an essay where you have to lay out your commitment to promoting the causes of underrepresented minorities. If you do not have this type of leadership experience, your minority status will not help you as much. What will help you is that you are the first generation in your family to attend school. Is this the case? This will also serve to buttress any stories around navigating your own when college and perhaps having to do the necessary by dropping out and then re-enrolling. What I am alluding to his feet self-made man type story.
I think that your work experience is actually fine. At a small firm, you actually can make the case that you have a lot of informal management experience. So maybe there is no direct reporting line to you. But, we all know that in a small firm you have to wear many hats. Talk about how you had to work with outside lawyers or consultants or municipalities or property managers, etc. in order to get the job done. It was not up to your leadership efforts, then project X. or Y. would have failed. Of course, this needs to be backed up by your recommenders. So I suggest you work with them very collaboratively.
Of course, all of the above depends on a good GMAT score I would shoot for something in the high 600s. If you can get a score close to 700, I do recommend that you apply to a finance oriented school such as Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, Chicago, MIT or Stanford.
I hope this helps you out and I hope that it encourages you to study hard for the GMAT and apply through the consortium into a top 10 school.
I plan on applying this fall. I'm 29 yrs old, turning 30 in October. Here's the deal though, I only have 4.5 years work experience because I had to interrupt my undergrad for financial reasons, work for 2 years, then finish up my credits. So on my resume I actually graduated December 2006. Began working on my career track in earnest since beginning of 07'.
I'm worried that my age will ding me pretty badly. My work experience is so-so, I worked as an Analyst at a REIT (real estate investment trust) underwriting deals for a couple of years (got great experience managing projects because it was a small firm), then I worked within real estate finance/asset management for one of the largest banks in the world for another 2, I just recently moved once again to a position again in the real estate finance realm, with another known institution.
I should also mention that I'm a URM (black),....I don't know how much of an impact that has on applications. My GPA is 3.1 so I'm sure that will hurt pretty badly.
I'm also interested in opening my own shop providing integrated asset management support applications for certain niche property managers. This stems from my experience in 2 different jobs on systems enhancements and conversions. I'd love to go to a top10 school, might be a long shot but i'll try.
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