HBS Liking Slightly Older Applicants

Admits in Harvard Business School’s incoming fall class with six or more years of work experience increased by a whopping 69% over last year, reflecting a greater preference for slightly older MBA candidates, according to the school’s admission office today (June 21). The school’s admissions office reported that its incoming class includes 191 candidates who earned their undergraduate degrees six or more years ago, up from only 113 last year.

As reported earlier, the average age of Harvard’s incoming MBA candidates will jump by a full year to 27 from 26 a year ago. The change–occuring in a year in which HBS will receive its first cohort of 2+2 program admits whose admission had been deferred two years ago–suggests a conscious effort to open the doors to slightly older applicants.

The “sweet spot” for this year’s HBS admits shows that the vast majority earned their undergraduate degrees in 2006-2008, which translates into five to three years of full-time work experience (see table below). Harvard plans to enroll no one without work experience and only three of 918 admits have just one year of work experience under their belts.

The school’s intake of students with two years of experience increased to 113 from 85 last year, largely the result of Harvard’s first cohort of 2+2 program which granted deferred admission to undergraduate applicants after they gain two years of work experience. Some 60 2+2 are among the 113 in the entering class this fall.

The information was published by Deirdre Leopold, director of MBA admissions and financial aid, on her “Director’s Blog” in the form of a chart (see below) without commentary.

Admits who received their undergraduate degrees three and four years ago respectively fell to 172 from 242 a year earlier and 245 from 288 last year. The greater emphasis on slightly older applicants is apparent among the group of admits who earned their undergraduate degrees five or more years ago.

Admits who finished their undergraduate education five years earlier increased to 196 from 177 last year, while those with a six-year gap rose to 94 from just 66 last year. That trend continues out for several more years. Some 48 members of this fall’s incoming class got their undergraduate degrees seven years ago, up from 30; 26 left their undergraduate alma maters eight years ago, up from 11; nine left a full nine years earlier, up from one last year; eight admits had been out of undergraduate school for a full ten years, up from none a year earlier.

And here is how all the numbers compare to the previous year:


Count of Undergrad Year — Class of 2012



  • Moe A

    Is it the older age that makes HBS not prefer certain students or is it the tons of years in the workforce which makes HBS not prefer these students who will obviously be old after tons of years in the workforce?

    There is a huge difference between the two. For example,a medical doctor (MD) has to spend 12+ years in education (4 of those years will be working in residency, but residency is still considered education) and thus they will be 30 by the time they finish. Some of them would like a Harvard MBA. According to both charts above, 4 years of experience is the amount of work experience needed for acceptance for the majority of students. But this medical doctor will be older, but has the 4 years at the age of 30. So will this MD be at a disadvantage due to his age or will his age be unimportant in the admission chances due to the 4 years?

    Uhh..This is so confusing..Can someone explain this to me? 🙁

  • Uruguay79

    I graduated in 2005 and I applied this year (1st round) and got rejected. I REALLY want to try again to go to HBS but I fear that I will be too old when accepted (I would be 34).

    I have a very good background and excellent recomendations (or so I’ve
    been told by admision consultants) but my GMAT was pretty low (600) for HBS average, and I am planning on retaking it.

    from the diversity point of view I can tell you that I was born in Uruguay and lived around Europe for the past 25 years. I am NOT married but I have a partner and 2 kids (3 years old). do you think it is a plus or that it makes no difference?

    Do you believe it is worth trying again or that I do not stand a chance?

    many thanks

  • Should I Apply,
    You are definitely on the old side for Harvard and would be 34 if and when admitted. So the odds are against you but there are exceptions, and having gone through this once before, I would think the second time would be easier. I’d be inclined to do it, but my expectations of an acceptance would be low. As for other options, why not try Yale which is very strong in the social sector. Take a look at the story in our programs category on the best programs in social entrepreneurship. I think you should apply to at least three of those schools, including Yale. Good luck!

  • Should I Apply?

    Should I consider HBS if I applied last year at 32 and not even consider to an interview? I have six years of experience in this WILD sector called social enterprise. Not too many job promotions BUT tons of accomplishments? Like getting the first CDM Sectorial project approved by the United Nations under our belt. What do you’all think?? Is sustainability big in Harvard or should I look to Europe, Stanford or Emory? I am being drawn to Atlanta, and I do not know why!

  • Kaz

    Good question Josh. I guess you can compare with the 2nd years, since you guys are both still there. Are there more of you military guys among 2nd years than 1st years?

  • great post thanks !

  • Josh

    To clarify ’03 means, undergrad graduation year in 2003.

  • Josh

    Just a note… I’m in the military and about six military guys I know who were admitted were all graduates of ’03 and later. HBS has a tendency to attract a decent number of military members (see the other PQ article about military and MBAs) and I’d say around 80-90% of them all have at least 5+ years of experience due to their initial military commitments. I’m curious to know if the added increase in older applicants coincides with the added increase in the number of military members into HBS.

    If the numbers do correlate, does that mean HBS is still doing “business as usual” and admitting young guns while the military members mask the true average age of the civilian pool? Or are the numbers still too low to represent the entire 191 applicants with over 6+ years of experience?

  • Srikar

    Amazing Stat! Love it…i fall into the 7+ years w exp bracket.