Are B-Schools Targeting Older Applicants?

Is there such thing as being too young or old for an MBA? In case you missed it, Bloomberg Businessweek ran an interesting article a few weeks ago called the Graying of Harvard Business School which pointed out some of the stats of the incoming class and noted that the percentage of students who received their undergrad degrees at least six years ago increased from 20.8 percent in 2011 to 22.9 percent in 2012, and to 23.3 percent this year.

The most notable increase, however, occurred within the age group who received their college degree ten or more years ago. The class of 2013 had a dozen students in that category; the class of 2015 has 23, Businessweek revealed.

Once upon a time, few would contemplate applying without first having the requisite five to seven years of work experience under their belts. The prevailing wisdom held that older candidates would have more to contribute to class discussions because of their substantial real-world experience. But now, more and more schools are specifically targeting younger applicants—some with programs tailored for those right out of college.

Deirdre Leopold, HBS’s admissions director, tells Businessweek there’s no special agenda to offer admission to more older applicants; it’s always a case of looking at candidates as individuals and what they can contribute to the class.  Stacey Kole, deputy dean for the full-time MBA program at the Chicago Booth School of Business, shares a similar sentiment: “If you have eight-plus years of experience and you think the MBA has passed you by, it hasn’t,” Kole says. “If you’re a good fit for the school, you can get in.”

When a client asks, “Am I too old (or too young) for an MBA?” I respond that it’s not about chronological age. It’s more about maturity, readiness, and where you are in your career. If you’re contemplating business school in your mid-30s, the key is to demonstrate confidence, how you’ve progressed professionally, and what you’ve contributed on the job. To find out how our client Max, age 37, crafted a successful application to Harvard Business School, read this SBC Scoop.

The important takeaway from this data is that older applicants do get in to the very top programs, so your age should never be the sole deciding factor of whether to apply to business school.


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