SBC Scoop: An Older Applicant

A lot has been said in recent years about schools like Harvard and Stanford taking a greater interest in younger applicants and denying older applicants, with many top schools following suit.  In fact, I have seen posts in forums that basically tell people there is “no chance” past a certain age.  Whereas ten years ago there was buzz about getting as much work experience as possible, more recently, applicants have feared having too much experience, being too old.  This case study is meant to demonstrate that older applicants do get in, and can and should apply.  But I also want to provide a context and explain why older candidates do often have a tough time.  Since our client ended up at HBS, I will speak to HBS, but this really applies to all top schools.

Harvard values great leadership.  If you are applying to Harvard when you are 34 or like our client, 37, you better have already developed terrific leadership skills and have a lot to show for them.  The problem is that many people with great leadership skills have achieved so much by the time they are almost 40, that they are not interested in going back to school.    However, if one of these people is interested, and can demonstrate great achievement balanced with a legitimate need/desire to return to school, than they have a good chance.  You see, proving that you are a strong and accomplished 40 year old leader, and balancing that with the fact that you want to improve in order to get to the next step, is tough to pull off.  But it is pulled off and “old” people are admitted every year!

Our client, Max, was 37 and applied to a full range of schools.  Harvard was actually a re-application for him ”“ the others were all first time apps.  In a nutshell, his numbers were just average (3.5 GPA from mid tier school and 670 GMAT), and he had a nice, though not outrageous record of extra-curriculars.

Max’s work experience was stellar.  He had advanced quickly and impressively, and had significant P&L responsibility at Nestle.   He had rock solid evidence of strong leadership and communication skills, and he clearly had a lot to offer peers in classroom discussion.  Recommendations were also very good.  In drafting his application, he struggled with the balance between past experience and articulating ambitious, reasonable goals that supported his desire for an MBA.  Ultimately, he had a very big, high impact vision for his career.  But it was not a “pie in the sky” type of pipe dream.  His prior experience informed and inspired his future goals, and made them appear to be realistic: ambitious and realistic.  He was also able to tie unique personal experiences to his goals, showing how his career plan had personal meaning for him and was about more than just “making money”.

Even though he emerged from the process with admits from HBS and Tuck, it was not a smooth road.  His initial results were not so happy as he was waitlisted and then denied first from Wharton and later also denied from Columbia and Stanford.  At that point he seized upon the only aspect of the application that was still within his control and prepped like crazy for his Round 2 interviews.  Guess it helped tip him over the edge!  A very happy ending.

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How do you see an MBA degree helping you achieve your goals post-graduation?

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

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7 Responses to SBC Scoop: An Older Applicant

  1. Komal Saini says:

    After MBA, I see myself always as an entrepreneur – start working on my own non-profit social organisation (never had any second thought about this). Having an MBA degree will boost my leadership, client, management, relationship & communication skills, which I can use to build my own social organisation in perfect manner to help poor students in India.

    I feel that having an MBA degree will not only help me distinguish myself other people but will also provide me confidence in my abilities to be successful in whatever task I take on. I imagine myself after MBA, providing free education, starting schools, starting few orphanage houses.

  2. Stuart M says:

    My short-term post-MBA goal is to switch careers into management/strategic consulting.  Though my academic background and professional work experience has enabled me to develop knowledge of the operational, marketing and competitive issues confronting many business concerns, I believe that I have limited exposure to advanced strategic and management concepts and tools. In this, an MBA will provide me with the necessary skills and knowledge to switch careers. The ideal MBA education for me would include specialism and hands-on experience, such as Wharton’s Strategic Management major or the MAPS program offered by Michigan Ross.

    In the longer term, I would consider starting my own company, for which an MBA and experience gained in consulting will be invaluable. I believe an MBA will help me grow into a well-rounded business leader and enhance my ability to identify and execute business opportunities, not to mention expand my network and hopefully make some new friends.

  3. Jade says:

    My short term goal after completing MBA is to work with renewable energy company as I have work experience of working with Power Generation sector so working with renewable energy company will give me opportunity to learn more about the renewable energy sources and how these companies work.

    Though I am working at Power generation company but I believe working at renewable energy company will be my first step towards my long term goal of starting my own company on the renewable sources.

    MBA will provide me all the strategic and management knowledge and working with hundreds other like minded students, teachers will enhance my skills to such a level that I will be able to apply my learning at my best. I’ve plans to join Babson college or one of the “Top Business School for Eco-Entrepreneur” (the link I got from your website http://www.entrepreneur.com/greenbizdegrees#) So, I see myself learning from the best and developing business knowledge which will give me job satisfaction later on in life.

  4. I presently take care of my family business. We export and presently we are just doing a single segment of a big market of Home Textiles. I am joining MS in Leeds Univ, UK this fall, which would help me enhance my Knowledge on the advanced newer technologies and Textile Specific Market scenario at an International Level. 2-3 years of business after MSc would give me a great amount experiences and knowledge comprising both technical and management skills; Technical Skills from the implementation of the theoretical knowledge gained and management skills from the Industry.

    Technical Skills coupled with tons of management skills will not only help me give a strong point in the application process but also provide me with the fundamental knowledge about the business in my MBA. MBA would provide me with further knowledge to improve my leadership abilities, management skills, and others that would help me take my business forward; ultimate gain of improving people along with my business.

  5. Pardeep says:

    How MBA going to help me? I think doing MBA will give me a chance to network with the different people coming from different backgrounds, culture and work experiences. While working with them give me the taste of who things work in real world as till now I have just imgination or random thoughts about things. Doing MBA will enrich me with knowledge of business world waiting with tons of opportunities. After getting my MBA and with the help of social network I build during my MBA I will work on my own business and later on as a long term goal I have plans to make social change in people lives.

  6. Pingback: Choosing the Hard Climb: Why I Don’t Want a Part Time- or E-MBA | MBA Over 30

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