So your career has been good but you think it could be better. You have seen co-workers in your company with an MBA get promoted and reach meteoric heights, so you are considering going back for your own degree, but wonder if it’s too late. Is there an age beyond which you can’t get an MBA? Would you be better off staying put and leveraging your experience? Read on…
When considering how old is “too old” to get an MBA, we should dispel some myths. From the student’s perspective, it’s never too late to go back to school for an MBA if it makes sense to you personally and you have reasons for doing it. The more complicated questions arise around whether or not good schools will let you in. Is it common for schools to accept 60 year old applicants? No. Is it possible? Yes.
As we have admitted, we have seen students who are over 60 get accepted and matriculate into top 5 programs (yes in full time programs).
Business schools love a diverse student body and an older MBA candidate can sometimes provide an alternative perspective which appeals to the admissions committee.
But being 50 or 60 is far and away old enough to be novel in the application process, and being novel can help you stand out. But what if you are just slightly older than average? Can you find a slot if you are 30? 35? 40?
There is admittedly a bit of a “no-man’s land” when you are barely past the average age at b-schools...
...let’s say this age it around 29 years old up until around age 32, an age bracket which sometimes raises eyebrows with the adcoms who will scrutinize what you have done in your career perhaps more than they would a 26 year-old. It’s less common to apply to b-school when you are over 30 simply because most often, people who are that age are generally off to the proverbial races in their careers and either don’t need the MBA, or already have it. For this reason, you must provide compelling evidence for why you want or need the MBA which goes beyond what an average applicant might have to do. If you fall in this age range, you should spend more time on this area of the application.
If you are creeping up on the age scale, go deeper into the why and why now, providing personal, thoughtful insight into who you are and how your career arc has brought you to the table a little later than some.
The upshot? You will automatically get more maturity points, and maturity is a critical profile characteristic which adcoms value greatly. Also, one important thing to consider if you are older than average, especially if you are over 35, is what you really need from the MBA. Are you looking for knowledge only, or are you hoping to change employers or start a new career? If it’s the former, you may not need to get into a top program, and the chances of your admission rise considerably the lower down the rankings tables you go.
The dirty little secret of MBA programs is, just about any accredited program can provide you with the knowledge of finance, accounting and management theory you likely seek, so there is little need to rope in a seat at a top 10 program if you aren’t concerned as much about landing an interview at a top 10 company on the backend. You can also likely achieve the learning you desire from a part time program or an executive program (especially if your experience tops 10 years or more, which is the sweet spot for executive programs).
Is your goal to work for Amazon or Wal-Mart?
If so, you will discover in your research that the schools where they do their recruiting are pretty selective, as is the case with most big-name employers. Those applicants need to build a narrative around their career journey which will resonate with the adcoms to the point their age either becomes a non-issue, or becomes a strength because it has provided them with a unique set of deep experiences which will not only benefit their classmates, but will also make them more attractive to potential employers.