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. 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. Although the Stanford Graduate School of Business does not publish the average age of its students, it does state that its students’ 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 fewer than two years of work experience. Darden’s range is one to ten 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 cannot get any younger, so you can either self-select out of the application process or 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. If you have something special to offer, you are still in the running—there is no secret cutoff that immediately eliminates you from the applicant pool.
As we have written before, the schools are governed by self-interest. They want the best candidates out there! If you are among the best, your age will not be an obstacle.