Admissions Myths Destroyed: I Am Too Old!

mbaMission hosts a weekly blog series, “Admissions Myths Destroyed,” for our friends at Beat the GMAT. Check out the BTG site for fresh material and ours for “reprints.” The following piece was penned by mbaMission Founder, Jeremy Shinewald:

These days, it is common for us to receive panicked phone calls from applicants who are twenty-six years of age, asking if they are too old to get into business school. Why is that?

Well, for much of the last decade, several top schools have declared their openness to younger candidates and have even been courting them. Harvard Business School has welcomed “direct-admits” those entering immediately after completing their undergraduate degrees — and started the 2+2 program — to encourage undergraduates to consider deferred acceptance. (Today, 439 members of HBS’s Class of 2011, or about 46% of the class, matriculated at HBS with four years of work experience or less.) Chicago Booth followed suit, launching the Chicago-Booth Scholars Program, granting deferred admission to University of Chicago seniors, and the Early Career Candidate program to attract students with one to three years of experience. While the Stanford GSB does not publish an average age, it does state that its median work experience is four years. So, if you are an “older” candidate at 27, 28, 29, or — dare we even write — 30, should you even bother applying?

First of all, it is worth noting that not all schools are on the bandwagon. Tuck, for example, states that “in general” it does not accept students with less than two years of work experience. Darden’s range is 1-10 years, meaning that it currently has no direct-admits. Michigan Ross requires that students complete their degree before applying, meaning that seniors are ineligible.

However, if you are focused on a school that is open to younger candidates, you should still think logically about this situation: you can’t get any younger, so, you can either self-select out of the application process or you can let the admissions committees read your applications and make their own decisions. Further, applicants should not mistake an openness to younger candidates as some sort of aversion to older candidates. (After all, 54% of HBS’s class has more than four years of work experience.) If you have something special to offer, you are still in the running – there is no secret cutoff that immediately eliminates you from the pool.

As we have written before, the schools are governed by self-interest. They want the best candidates out there and if you are among the best, your age will not be an obstacle.

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