Used to be, certain schools would hardly even consider an applicant without at least three-ish years of post-college work experience. Those particular schools still have a relatively high average number of years of experience for their entering classes but we’re seeing signs of cracks in the walls, where they’re now being more open to considering candidates much younger*.
We’re mostly talking today about places like Columbia and Wharton, though Kellogg and Tuck and Duke could be in this category too.
For the first two: In the past, we’ve frequently seen both Columbia and Wharton do a pre-emptive reject on a candidate with only two years of experience out of college. By “pre-emptive reject” we mean that the applicant is rejected due solely to the lack of work experience, and in certain cases he or she was specifically advised of this, where the adcom gave an open invitation to try again the next season. And, lo and behold, that person focused on career stuff for a few months and building out one or two more examples of leadership, and reapplied in the following season’s Round 1, and sailed straight in. Having advised them all the way through, we know that their essays the first time were well written and that the sole issue from the adcom’s perspective was gaining one more year of substantive work experience for seasoning.
But that was quite some time back. More recently, the work experience seems to be less of a sticking point for many of these schools. As the pool of candidates has changed and society has changed and – gasp! – the schools have changed, both Columbia and Wharton seem more willing to accept a highly qualified candidate who’s younger. By “younger” we mean like maybe 23 at time of application (or, if you went straight from college to a different, non-MBA, graduate school program, like 26).
What’s driving this shift in adcom flexibility?
Certainly some of this is a reflection of the changing admissions environment, this year especially. We know that schools are seeing a downward trend in applications to their programs when they start loosening requirements and offering more ways for candidates to apply — which almost all of them have been doing in various ways over the past year. This includes the introduction of new tracks whereby a college senior can apply for a future-year admit to a top MBA program (we’ll be discussing this further on the blahg this week) as well as other changes to make applying more accessible to more candidates.
But even more so, this change in standards and practices at top business schools where they’re more likely to be willing to admit a younger applicant is because of you.
The current generation of MBA applicants tends to be driven and focused. There are many more examples of gung-ho go-getters applying to business school these days, and more and more candidates have been preparing for the MBA even before they graduated from college. It’s becoming common for applicants to have taken the GMAT while they were still undergrads (though per that linked post, that doesn’t always turn out to be such a great thing).
If you’ve got a history of stepping up and getting involved, if you are showing potential as a future leader based on evidence of past experiences of leadership, community involvement, being proactive, putting your hand up for opportunities, and choosing to excel in whatever environment you find yourself in, then yes, the schools will want to meet you. Doesn’t matter if you don’t fit some predefined mold of what an MBA student should look like. There is less and less a definition of a “typical” student anymore anyway. If you have less than three years of work experience, it may not be a cakewalk to convince an adcom to admit you, but it’s certainly possible to do so these days. If you feel now is the year for you to try for a top MBA program then more power to you. Put a plan in place and go for it! The schools look at each application holistically and if you impress them with how you’ve attacked life to this point, and you’re demonstrating maturity, and a rationale for why the MBA is right at this particular phase for you even with only a year or two under your belt, then you can totally make it in to a top school.
So if so, then which round?
Well, round 1 is often recommended for most advantage, and that may also be true in your situation. However, perhaps, you might consider Round 1 at a few places and potentially Round 2 at some others, if it means having a a project you’re working on fully ripen and be able to show its fruit by way of stronger recommendations and more compelling examples with results in your essays.
And pardon the blatant upsell but: It’s impossible for us to say sight-unseen if you might be a candidate who’s showcasing sufficient qualities of preparedness and motivation and evidence of leadership that a specific school might deviate from their preferences of X years of experience to let you in. That (among other things) is what our Comprehensive Profile Review is designed to do. If you’re sitting here reading our posts wondering, “What about me? Do I have a shot?” then that’s a great way for us to dig into the details and help you discover more about how the schools might respond and where you could be aiming this season.
If you’ve decided to try for an MBA this year, you could begin straightaway with our Foundations package, which is designed specifically for getting started early even before the schools have released details on their Class of 2022 applications.
If you have questions we can help with as you weigh your options and consider opportunities, feel free to post in the comments and we’re happy to pipe in with some two cents as an input.
If you’re going for an MBA this year then you’re setting yourself up for success by thinking about it this early. That’s one of the best correlations to admits that we know of, so kudos to you for the long-range planning and prep! We’re around if we can offer assistance at any stage.
*And older too; there’s never been a cut-off where a candidate is “too old” for the MBA but different schools have treated the more-experienced cohort differently. As with trends in flexibility on less-experienced candidates, more-experienced candidates — who are properly qualified with a good pitch — are getting more love from many schools these days too.
You may also be interested in:
- Where can you apply for an MBA straight out of college?
- What does an early-career candidate need to present to the MBA admissions committee for an admit?
Tell us what you think.