Applying for an MBA as an Early Career Candidate
Is there such a thing as a right time to apply for an MBA? Here at SBC, clients frequently ask if they’re too young to apply to some of the world’s top business schools. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, many b-school hopefuls consider pursuing an MBA straight out of undergrad or with scant work experience a no-brainer, as they avoid putting their lives on hold for two years—and forgoing a potentially significant salary to do so.
But what kind of early career candidate has a shot of admission into a top MBA program? Basically, those who are talented, motivated, and exhibit a track record of leadership and initiative. Though they may not have the years of formal work experience under their belts, these younger applicants have gained skills through internships, community service, entrepreneurial ventures or extra-curricular activities.
In a recent piece published on the Booth Insider blog at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Megan Stiphany, Senior Associate Director of Admissions and Program Director of Summer Business Scholars, offers advice to early career candidates on finding those growth opportunities that will set you up for future success.
Professional or academic internships are a great place to begin, since they allow you to try a new career on for size and help lay the foundation for a strong professional network. This can be especially helpful for applicants with a lighter quant background in college. You’ll build new skills, crystallize your career goals, and become more sure about whether an MBA is the next logical step. As an added bonus, Stiphany says future employers and graduate programs alike appreciate the value of internship experiences.
Programs such as Booth’s Summer Business Scholars Program (SBSP) allow those thinking about pursuing an MBA to test out the b-school experience. “No matter your background, spending three weeks this summer at Booth will give you tangible business skills that you can use right away, and give you a great taste of the business school experience,” she says.
“Recruiters and graduate programs are attracted to candidates who have explored diverse areas of study, and who can join their organization with strong leadership, business, and communication skills in place,” Stiphany adds.
Schools are becoming increasingly open to all ages, and realize that candidates have a lot to contribute in different ways at various life stages. If you can demonstrate maturity, highly focused career goals, leadership skills, and enough life experience to contribute to an incoming class, your age or thin amount of work experience become far less important.
Your job as an MBA applicant therefore is to search internally for what you have to offer.
“There are many roads you can take as part of your career journey,” says Stiphany. “Take the time to explore each option in order to truly evaluate which is right for you – and when!”