Senior and or older MBA Candidates – Can you and Should You Apply to Top MBA Programs When You Are Over 30?

Many people believe that once they hit 30, a Top MBA is an unrealistic or impractical goal. While some top business schools may be a bit more selective when it comes to age, or have definite age bias and try to encourage 30+ candidates to pursue a part-time or executive option, this concern tends to be blown out of proportion. In fact, with a solid application, candidates between 30 and 35 years of age may even have a better chance of getting accepted to the MBA programs of their choice. Sure, there are fewer admits at age 30 than say 27, but part of the reason is probably that fewer 30+ year-olds apply in the first place.

It’s true that you are never too old for more education, but there are several things to consider when preparing an MBA application for senior candidates. While schools peruse thousands of individual applications, they also have their statistics to consider. Older applicants don’t always contribute to positive outcomes, which are based on factors such as job placement and salary increases. Review your profile to determine how YOU can help boost these statistics, and be sure to highlight these points.

Consider how much work experience you have had thus far. Have there been any noteworthy achievements that will serve as a foundation for your future career? Schools like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton or Booth look for applicants who stand out in their fields and have proven track records of excellence. As an applicant over 30 years old, you likely have an impressive background that will support you as a candidate. Use this experience to show the admissions board that you are committed and motivated, and that you have much to contribute to a “younger” class. References are also an important part of the process, providing the school with additional context and credible, unbiased third-party feedback. Another important part of the admission process you should take more seriously as an older candidate is the interview. You should use your interview to demonstrate you are absolutely committed to your studies.

Next, be sure to fully understand your motives. Generally speaking, people get an MBA to either change fields, enhance their current career or to get into the business side of their field. The biggest thing you need to ask yourself at this point in your career is: “Do I need an MBA?” If you’re satisfied with your career trajectory and can promote without it, an MBA may be unnecessary. In order to convince the admissions board that you are a prime candidate for an MBA, you must be able to present a convincing argument. What are your professional goals? How will an MBA help you achieve them? Why are you pursuing one after the age of 30? These are all questions that every applicant must consider, but a more mature candidate must be ready with solid, well thought-out responses to prove that he is grounded, experienced and self-aware.

If you feel that top-10 full-time MBA programs are not right for you at this point, there are several other options to consider. Part time and Full time EMBA programs and Global EMBA programs are more suitable for older and more experienced professionals. Programs like Stanford MSx, London Business School Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy and MIT Sloan Fellows are designed programs and good options for older and more senior candidates. European MBA programs, especially LBS and IMD, tend to be more tolerant towards older candidates. Whenever you are considering whether a program is right for you, you should look at the profile of the students that they admit and the sort of recruiters that they typically work with – but also the type of teaching that they use. So an experienced 35 year old will not gain as much from a teaching style that doesn’t give them a chance to relate their own experiences to their new learning. A program aimed at younger, less experienced candidates for example, may not include as much group work as another.

If financial aid is one of your concerns, usually scholarships and funding are hardly based on age, but on factors such as GPA, GMAT, work experience, leadership, nationality, ethnicity, career goals, etc. Many of ARINGO’s 30+ candidates received merit scholarships at top programs.

To sum up – Going back to school full-time is a huge investment to make at any stage of your career, but especially as you get older. If this is really what you want to do and can articulate your dedication to your studies through your essays and interview, then nothing should hold you back. Just do your homework as to which schools are most receptive and which ones are least receptive and choose accordingly. With careful preparation and a deep understanding of your own application, you too can be on your way to an MBA over 30!

Average AgeAverage GMATYears of Professional Experience
US Top 10 MBA 287153-5
European Top 10 MBA 29680 4-6
Top 10 EMBA 34-38700 10-14
Top 10 GEMBA 39-40 N/A 15-16
MIT Fellows / Stanford MSx / LBS Sloan 36-40 N/A 12-18

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Here is a suggested list of full time programs that are specifically designed for senior, executives and older candidates:

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ProgramCountryAverage AgeGMAT / GRE required?
HULT MBAUSA, UK, UAE29The MBA requirement for GMAT will be waived if the applicant has proven to have more than 5 years of managerial work experience. Alternatively you can take the Hult Business Assessment Test.
Cornell one year MBAUSA29Required
Kellogg one year MBAUSA28Required
Stanford MsxUSA34Required
MIT Sloan FellowsUSA34GMAT or GRE or EA is required.
USC IBEARUSA33Required (EA is also accepted)
Foster GEMBAUSA37If a candidate is nominated and sponsored by their organization, GMAT will be waived as a requirement. If a candidate is self-sponsored and is not supported by an organization, the candidate must take the GMAT and submit the score as part of the application process.
Emory one year MBAUSANARequired
University of St Gallen MBA-FSICanada36Not Required
University of St Gallen EMBASwitzerland37Not Required
LBS Sloan programUK37GMAT/GRE required but instead you can take the Executive Assessment test.