Stanford GSB | Mr. Singing Banking Lawyer
GMAT 720, GPA 110-point scale. Got 110/110 with honors
MIT Sloan | Mr. Low GPA Over Achiever
GMAT 700, GPA 2.5
N U Singapore | Ms. Biomanager
GMAT 520, GPA 2.8
MIT Sloan | Mr. Refinery Engineer
GMAT 700- will retake, GPA 3.87
Yale | Mr. Army Infantry Officer
GMAT 730, GPA 2.83
Berkeley Haas | Ms. 10 Years Experience
GMAT To be taken, GPA 3.1
Yale | Ms. Social Impact AKS
GRE 315, GPA 7.56
Harvard | Mr. Political Consultant
GRE 337, GPA 3.85
Kellogg | Mr. Chief Product Officer
GMAT 740, GPA 77.53% (First Class with Distinction, Dean's List Candidate)
Said Business School | Mr. Across The Pond
GMAT 680, GPA 2.8
Wharton | Mr. Army & Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 360 Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Mr. Corp Finance
GMAT 740, GPA 3.75
Harvard | Mr. Improve Healthcare
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Wake Up & Grind
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Fintech Nerd
GMAT 740, GPA 7.7/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Minority Champ
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Darden | Mr. Senior Energy Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 2.5
Harvard | Mr. Merchant Of Debt
GMAT 760, GPA 3.5 / 4.0 in Master 1 / 4.0 in Master 2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Indian Telecom ENG
GRE 340, GPA 3.56
Stanford GSB | Ms. East Africa Specialist
GMAT 690, GPA 3.34
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Nonprofit Social Entrepreneur
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Ms. Start-Up Entrepreneur
GRE 318 current; 324 intended, GPA 3.4
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Health Care Executive
GMAT 690, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Professional Boy Scout
GMAT 660, GPA 3.83
IU Kelley | Mr. Construction Manager
GRE 680, GPA 3.02

Getting Into B-School When You’re 30+

In this exclusive column for Poets&Quants, Fortuna admission consultants look at some of the myths that surround the MBA admissions process – and how schools evaluate candidates. So if you have ever asked yourself "Is it true that ...", you'll find all the myth busting answers right here.

In this exclusive column for Poets&Quants, Fortuna admission consultants look at some of the myths that surround the MBA admissions process – and how schools evaluate candidates. So if you have ever asked yourself “Is it true that …”, you’ll find all the myth busting answers right here.

Why are the world’s leading full-time MBA programs so focused on 20-somethings? After all, you’re never too old to learn, and for every youthful founder of Facebook, Instagram or Spotify there are thousands of others whose business success has arrived much later in their career.

A scan of the class profiles at the world’s top full-time MBA programs paints the picture. The average age of this year’s incoming students at Harvard is 27, while at Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, Kellogg, Columbia, Tuck, Haas, Michigan and UT Austin the average is 28. While Wharton, NYU Stern and Cornell do not release an official figure, the average years of pre-MBA work experience at these schools ranges from 4.6 years (NYU) to 5.5 years (Wharton).

And though the average years of work experience for Stanford’s Class of 2014 was at a decade-long high, the figure fell slightly for the Class of 2015, to 4 years.


In Europe the picture is only slightly different, with an average age of 28.6 at London Business School, and close to six years of work experience on average at INSEAD. France’s HEC Paris and Switzerland’s IMD are the only top 20 schools with an average age of 30 or more.

Pretty much every school can point to more mature students in the MBA classroom. While the age range at MIT Sloan and Tuck includes 37 year olds, and UCLA Anderson and Oxford Saïd both have students in their 40s, the bell curve of distribution clearly centers around students in their mid to late 20s: 80% of the class at Columbia for example are in a range from 25 to 30.

But talent is talent, and older MBA applicants who can make a great case for why they need the MBA, have well-defined and realistic career goals, with competitive grades and test scores, a track record of achievement and a clear sense of fit with the institution are still in with a chance of admission.


So why so few 30 –somethings in the full-time MBA classroom? Part of the reason lies in self-selection, opportunity cost, and the need for change. If you are doing well in your career and already reaching upper levels of management with a commensurate salary and a settled family life, the opportunity cost of a full-time MBA can look very different, if not downright disruptive. In reality, full time MBA programs see relatively fewer applications from older applicants because this population is either opting out, or choosing part-time EMBA type programs. With the exception of HBS, Stanford, and Tuck, all the top schools have an Executive MBA, and will often point more “seasoned” (MBA parlance for older) candidates applying to the full-time program in the direction of the school’s EMBA option.

But when we agreed with John to write these mythbusters for Poets&Quants the idea was to share the Fortuna team’s inside experience of life in the admissions office at Wharton, INSEAD, Booth, LBS, Haas, Kellogg, NYU Stern and other top schools. So what is really going through the minds of admissions officers for full-time MBA programs when considering the age and experience of applicants?

Applicants in their 30’s with an impressive list of achievements to their name, and who make a difference to their organization or community will always be considered. But we typically see that the best candidates often apply early in their career, and there is hot competition between top schools to woo them. Top US schools in particular are looking for young and bright candidates who can still be molded, and may steer away from older candidates whose careers may have stalled and who want an MBA to get them on a stronger track. Career switchers are also tricky; the career management offices need to be certain that they can help the thirty-something change their path; and with 10 plus years in one field, this is not always easy to achieve.