Tuesday Q&A: MBA Programs for Older Candidates?

Question:

Based on your experience, would you please suggest some schools which are open to “older” candidates? i.e., 31+ now, starting in Fall 2014 (at 32), graduating at 34?

Answer:

In general, European and Asian programs are more open to older candidates, although to be honest, at 31, you should still have a shot at US programs. In the US, some programs are more accepting (Booth), while some skew younger (HBS). The best way to find out is to check out the school’s class profile and look at age range and/or average age. (Here’s the HBS Class of 2014 profile, as an example.) But as we said before, at 31/32 you still have a shot anywhere.

Age is a trend, not a rule. [The reason some schools are skewing younger is because younger people are applying.] So being over 30 is definitely not a dealbreaker. It just means you need to have a smart approach. You can’t just go in like any other dude out there. You need to strategize, my friend.

Truth is, when you’re older, the adcom reads your app, scratches his head and wonders why you waited so long to apply. Why not at 26? Or 27? Why 31?? So your job is to make a clear case for the guy as to why you waited, and why you need an MBA now. And to be extra clear here,  those are two different cases to make. First, why did you wait? And second, why now? What happened in your career at THIS MOMENT that makes an MBA necessary to reach your goals?

The adcom’s biggest concern is that you’re at a dead end in your career and have nowhere to go (no good), or that you’re too old/experienced to really roll up your sleeves and get dirty (bad news).

So if you can play offense and prove them wrong on both those fronts, age should not hold you back.

And how do you do that? Write some KILLER essays that weave those ideas right in. Slip that in nice and smooooth, and you’ll be the guy on the “wrong side of 30” in that class of twenty-somethings.

Good luck out there,
Jon Frank

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