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Helpful Advice for Older MBA Applicants

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“Am I too old for MBA Programs?” This is one of the most frequently asked questions by the prospective MBA aspirants who are in their early thirties. Sometimes, I get this question from those who are in their late twenties and have not even hit 30. However,  I do feel that the ‘right age for MBA programs’ is blown out of proportion, so even the 29  years old applicants  fear  that if for some reason (Low GMAT score, lack of time, medical issues, pressure at work, or family circumstances) they are not able to apply this year, it is end of the road for them, and they will be ‘too old’ to apply next year.

It is true that the average age for MBA admits is in the range of mid to late twenties, and top 10 MBA programs are not very welcoming to older students. However, it is also true that few people apply for MBA programs when they are in their thirties primarily because they have families and they are happy with their career growth. There are some people for whom the right time for MBA comes when they reach 30 or 30+. The truth is -there is no right chronological age for an MBA. No school will reject you simply because you have 2-3 years of additional experience than the average candidates.  In the AIGAC conferences that I have attended in the past few years, whenever we asked the admission committee members as to how welcoming they are to the older candidates, they confirmed that that 30+ candidates bring maturity to the classroom, and they do accept older candidates if their story makes sense . However, the admission committee will certainly consider many factors when evaluating applications of older candidates.

A word of advice to older candidates- stop fretting about your age and make sure you meet the following criteria to make your story convincing and impactful for your target programs:

1.     Articulate Your Goals:

Just like younger candidates, you need to have a clear idea about your goals. In fact, the admission committee expects you to have more maturity, confidence, and self-awareness about your goals and your need for an MBA than the younger candidates. You need to have a fair understanding of and why you think NOW is the right time for you to take this critical step in your career, and why the XYZ program is the right fit for you. Research the programs thoroughly and determine which programs are best suited to your career objectives. Your career goals should be in alignment with the way your career has progressed.

If the limited space in the required essays does not allow you to explain why you have waited this long to get a management education, you may write an optional essay to explain reasons for your delayed MBA.  MER clients have crafted optional essays to explain to the Ad Com reasons behind a delayed MBA. While sometimes 2-3 years’ delay is because of serious health reasons, sometimes it is also because of family commitments or other personal or professional reasons.

2.     Identify your accomplishments:

Since you are more experienced than younger candidates, you are expected to bring to the table more value in terms of accomplishments and leadership experiences. Identify your greatest hits and showcase them well.  Let the admission committee know what you will contribute to the class- room through the wealth of your rich professional and personal experiences, your specific expertise in your field, and your wide network. You should also highlight what you will contribute to the community through your participation in clubs and other student-led organizations, leaving the school a better place.

3.     Show Your dedication to education:

Through your strong GPA, Stellar GMAT, and convincing essays, show that you are a committed and dedicated candidate and are fully prepared to handle the rigors of the program. Make sure to choose your recommenders who can vouch for your abilities and competence and put in good word for you. Please note that the references are also an important part of the application as they provide third person feedback on your candidacy.

4.     Demonstrate your Confidence in the Interview:

Interview is a critical component of the selection process that showcases your communication skills, your confidence and your ability to show the person behind the written word. If a strong application will get you an interview offer, a great interview will get your coveted admit offer. So, prepare well for the interview. Don’t be complacent after getting interview calls from multiple schools. Not all interview offers will convert into admit offers. Think of interview as an opportunity to make your impression to the Ad Com by displaying your confidence, maturity, and preparedness that you have highlighted in your essays.

5.     Attend Admission Events, Talk to Current Students /Alumni:

Attending admission events and webinars and seeking insights from school representatives will always be helpful to gain valuable insights into the programs. When attending info sessions, you may ask the admission committee members your concerns of being more experienced than the average candidates and follow their advice.  Also, visit forums and interact with successful older applicants as their insights will be a valuable resource, too.

6.     Consider Other Options:

You may also consider other options such as part- time MBA, EMBA programs, and global EMBA programs. Some full- time MBA programs are designed for senior applicants such as Cornell one-year MBA program and Kellogg, One-year MBA program, Stanford MSX and MIT Sloan Fellows. Some European programs, especially LBS and IMD, may also be good fit for older candidates.

To sum up, you are never ‘too old’ for an education. No school will reject you only because of your biological age. If you have set your mind to gain a management education in your early thirties, and if you are ready and confident that you have reached that point in your career when an MBA from an XYZ school is the next logical step to fulfill your career aspirations, get started and showcase your story to convince the Ad Com.

Since 2011, MER has assisted many senior applicants .  Last year, we supported two older candidates with their application for full- time MBA programs. One of them (38 years old) was accepted into UNC Kennan Flagler, and the other one (30 years old) was accepted into both ISB and Oxford.

You may click here to read /watch the interview of Oxford and ISB admit. Towards the end of the interview, he shares his insights about the 'right age for full time MBA’. (You may read the underlined portion).

Good luck with your application.

For questions, email Poonam at

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