Too old for an MBA?

MBA Too OldF1GMAT: Stacy, you have written about this topic in 2005 but to refresh our memory, what advice would you give an MBA candidate who is much older than the average class? What are some of the points that the candidate should keep in mind while writing an essay? Which age group has the least probability of getting into a premier Business School?
Stacy Blackman:  Bottom line, it can be challenging for an “older” applicant to be admitted into a top business school.  In the MBA world, older means over 30.  Is this some sort of arbitrary age discrimination?  Not really.  Business schools want to admit people who will legitimately benefit from the experience, who will do well in recruiting and who show potential to succeed.  It can be difficult to meet these criteria when you are older than the average student.

Let’s examine all of these issues more closely.

Benefiting from the experience:  If you are quite a bit older and more experienced than the rest of your class, there is a chance that you already know much of what is being taught.  There is a chance that you are not in a position to gain as much from the program.  They are learning about doing things for the first time that you have already done many times.  There is a bigger burden on you than on a very young applicant to prove how and why you can benefit from the MBA degree.

Doing well in recruiting: The truth is that many recruiters do want to hire younger applicants because they are still young enough to be groomed and molded.  They do not yet have families and are willing to sign on for endless hours.  And there are fewer age related politics when a younger person is led by older managers.  If you want to go to a top business school, you need to speak to this concern.  Perhaps you are going back to a family business or you will be an entrepreneur.  Regardless, ease the concern around getting you employed.

Potential to succeed: This is probably the biggest issue.  People who are going to succeed in the future have a track record of succeeding in the past.  Frequently, the people who are really successful, are successful by the time they are 30 – they are flying high and not looking to return to school.  This does not mean that it is impossible to gain acceptance to a top school.  It just means that you need to prove to them that you are someone who is going to succeed.  You need to help them understand why you want to go to business school, why it makes sense for your career, and to see how you have been successful in the past.  Clearly, a 30 year old has more to prove than a 22 year old when it comes to highlighting a successful track record.

It basically comes down to the way you tell your story – proving that you are a good fit, highlighting a strong track record, explaining why NOW is the time for you to return to school.

Depending on the school you are targeting, I might also encourage an older applicant to investigate EMBA offerings, which are generally a very good fit for an older applicant, and provide many of the benefits of a full time traditional program.

Stacy Blackman Consulting

Founded in 2001, Stacy Blackman Consulting has helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world.  The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy.

Stacy Blackman clients have a significantly increased probability of admission to top schools and are frequent recipients of merit scholarships.  The company is regularly featured in publications such as BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist. 

For a more thorough discussion of what the schools are looking for, an analysis of what is being asked and why, tips to help answer questions, and samples essays, check out our school specific Essay Guides:  http://www.stacyblackman.com/essay-guides/

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