Ten years ago, the question on everyone’s mind was, “Am I too young?”. Back then, the more experience the better…the older the better…
More recently, top schools such as Stanford and Harvard have stated that they are taking a closer look at younger candidates, and are even willing to admit candidates with no work experience. The initial thinking behind this was that some candidates may be so successful 2-3 years out of school that they would not consider going back at that point. Thus, the schools would be missing an opportunity to admit some exceptional talent. Yes, some of these schools are opening their eyes more to less experienced candidates, but this does not mean that younger candidates have a better chance of success.
Younger candidates will have their fair share of challenges. They will need to work harder to prove that they possess the focus, confidence and maturity necessary to excel in an MBA program. They will also need to prove that they have enough insights and exeriences to be a contrbuting member of the student population. Finally, a younger applicant will need to convince the admissions committee that they have focused career goals and solid reasons for going back to school so soon after their undergraduate degree.
Similarly, older candidates will face challenges. Older candidates will have to prove that it makes sense to return to school at this late stage of their career, and that they are not merely encountering a mid-career crisis. They will also have to demonstrate that all of their time in the work world has been well spent. They should demonstrate progression, tangible contributions and a high level of self awareness, confidence and maturity. A 37 year old applicant who has spent 15 years in the same position will have a hard time getting admitted to a top school. But this is not because they are 37 or because of the 15 years of experience. Rather, it is because they have not demonstrated growth during that time.
Young or old, if you can achieve all of the above, you will have a good shot at getting in, and should not be worried that you have hit some imaginary cut-off age.