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Timing the MBA Right

With the presidential elections heating up, the issue of age and experience has played a prominent role as seventy something year old McCain and forty something year old Obama duke it out to convince the American people that they are not too old or inexperienced to lead the country.

Apparently, politicians are not the only ones who need to grapple with the issue of age.

MBA applicants, too, have to time their application effectively, and need to be able to show that they have enough relevant experience to “deserve” a seat in the class.

The converse is also true. Being too old, or more politically correct, over qualified to justify the need for an MBA, can also pose a serious challenge to MBA aspirants.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a prospective client about his admission candidacy that made me take a closer look at the age issue.

He was almost 40, had worked in the same industry and was in a middle management role. He felt he needed an MBA to make a switch to something that was closely tied to his passion.

And he was seeking admission for top tier, fulltime, US MBA programs.

The reality for a candidate in this situation is that he/she will need to have a phenomenal experience or some X factor to make the admissions board take a second look.

I know, everytime this conversation comes up, a throng of people pipe up about the 42 year old teacher or artist in their class. The reality is that that 42 year old student is the exception, not the norm.

With average age of applicants to MBA programs between 26 and 28 years, candidates should do everything in their power to not delay applying if they are already in their late twenties.

The exception to this is applicants from nontraditional backgrounds (military, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, etc) who may have life situations that make it difficult to apply while they are in their twenties.

I’ll tackle applying too young and questions to think about to determine if you are ready to apply to business school in another entry.

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