Advice on Early Career MBA Programs

Do you have what it takes to jump into a top MBA program without any work experience?

While most MBA applicants approach the admissions process after several years of post-undergrad work experience, there has been a rise in “early career admissions” programs at top schools to capitalize on those who are targeting MBA programs not only before they log work experience, but also on those who have no work experience at all.  These early career MBA programs in some cases admit applicants on a deferred basis, and in other cases, simply let MBA hopefuls go ahead and start the program. In the case of the former, schools like HBS and Yale have the 2+2 program and the Silver Scholars Program, respectively. 

These programs actually solicit applications not from young professionals, but from students who are still completing their undergrad programs. 

In fact, you are no longer eligible to apply once you graduate college.  If you are interested in these programs and have not applied, you should jump on it right away, particularly if you are a senior in college.  If this is the boat you are in, you should contact quickly so we can help.  Again, you won’t be eligible to apply for these highly selective programs once you walk across that graduation stage.

If you pass muster with the HBS 2+2 Program, they essentially pre-accept you for regular admission to their flagship, full-time program, then let you go off and work for two years before you matriculate. 

There are no requirements on where you work or what you do, which gives candidates the freedom to enrich their preparation for HBS in the way they feel is best. The Yale School of Management’s Silver Scholars Program runs things a little differently, because you go ahead and begin your first year of b-school in the fall after you graduate from undergrad, then you take on a fulltime, one-year internship before completing your final year of MBA studies.  It takes three years from start to finish, but it’s still a year faster than HBS’s 2+2, which takes four years.  With both programs, however, you are hitting the real world with a top MBA under your belt before most people even consider applying in the first place. 

Not a bad deal for the right person, but what makes you the right person?

For starters, successful early career MBA hopefuls demonstrate a ton of something that is highly desirable in any good MBA program: maturity.  We’re not talking about the kind of maturity everyone gains from college, but rather an extra measure of vision and sense of self—who you are and where you are headed, which would be unusually advanced for someone just finishing college.  If you have a clear idea of the impact you want to make and how to get there, it’s a good start.  Beyond maturity, you will need a killer GMAT score (think 750+ and that’s not even a guarantee).  Good grades are a must too, as well as having had a deep impact on your community and school in some impressive ways.  Remember, the best and brightest from top schools around the country are applying to these programs, so be prepared to speak to what you will bring to the table despite your lack of post undergrad work experience.

The early career MBA trend is catching on with top programs (lesser ranked programs have been recruiting younger candidates for some time now, but many of those programs may not pay off like you hope). 

For example, Wharton’s EMBA program has an early career MBA option through its Fellows program, but full corporate sponsorship is required, so you will need to be working full time in a post-UG role to apply.  Chicago also has several early career MBA options, including some just for Booth undergrads.  They also have the Chicago Business Fellows Program, however, for applicants with zero to three years’ work experience. 

Bucking to go back early, but not sure you have the chops for Harvard or Wharton?  Check out Duke’s Masters in Management Studies program. 

It’s not an MBA, but it’s a great primer for one down the road and can be great resume fodder for either a good job or a good MBA program later.

We can help you weigh your background against program qualifications for these or any other options for younger candidates---just reach out and ask.

To find out more about your options and how we can help you with your business school application, email us at or contact us via