Over 30? No, you probably aren’t too old for a full-time MBA.

There’s a very persistent myth that MBA admissions committees “don’t like” older applicants, especially the over-30 types. Statistically, that seems like a reasonable assumption: the average age for students at most full-time U.S. MBA programs is in the mid-20s, and only a small percentage of students are over 30.

That means that MBA programs are committing age discrimination, right? And it means that if you’re over 30, you’re probably hosed in the full-time MBA admissions game… right?

Um, no. MBA admissions committees care deeply about “fit”: they want to admit candidates who will be successful members of the MBA community, and they want to admit candidates who will be easily “recruitable” when they graduate. But for the most part, MBA admissions committees don’t really care about your age, exactly.

Odds are good that if you’re an older MBA applicant, your career has probably evolved in a very specific direction, and a general management degree such as an MBA might not be the best option at this point in your life. But if that isn’t the case for you—and if your career trajectory reeks of post-MBA success—then your chances of admission might be better than you think, even if you’re getting a little bit grey around the temples.

Don’t believe me? Then I strongly suggest that you venture over to one of my all-time favorite MBA applicant blogs, the aptly named MBAover30.com. The blogger is actually in his mid-30s, and he was admitted to Booth, MIT, and Wharton for the class of 2015. He’s a great writer, and he knows what he’s talking about.

A few posts that I particularly appreciate:

MBA Admissions Age Discrimination and Rookie Hype. My favorite line: “…the over 30 demographic… has wholesale self-selected out of the full-time MBA admissions process.” No, really: the adcom doesn’t hate you just for being old.  Older folks just don’t bother to apply to full-time programs very often.
Why I’ve chosen the Wharton School of Business. Yes, your friendly blogger appears to know absolutely everything there is to know about Wharton. And yes, his unbelievably thorough research definitely helped him get in.
The Truth vs. Playing the Game in MBA Admissions Essays. Stop lying about your experiences, people. It usually doesn’t help.
Getting in to a Top Business School. My favorite line: “Most people who’ve tried to cut corners on the GMAT have ended up marching to their own funeral on test day.” I couldn’t agree more.

And if you need more perspectives from a successful MBA applicant, check out the archives of the always-wonderful Money 9111, who certainly faced some hurdles during the application process, much like the fine fellow at MBAover30.  Both bloggers would probably agree that the MBA admissions process is much more nuanced and complicated than we sometimes think; you won’t necessarily get completely blackballed just for a single weakness in your profile.  And you probably won’t get blackballed at all just for being over 30.


5 responses to “Over 30? No, you probably aren’t too old for a full-time MBA.

  1. Hello Charles – A great post with spot-on insights here! You did a great job debunking an ubiquitous myth in MBA Admissions. As a former MBA Admissions Director, I can confirm that the admissions committee is not eliminating applicants just because they are 30+.

    As you correctly point out, candidate “fit” and the post-MBA “recruitability” is important to all MBA Admissions Committees. Applicants over 30 are certainly admissible if they can demonstrate that they will add value in the classroom, and that they will be employable post-MBA.

    I enjoy what you write! Wendy Flynn

  2. I am 29,not yet reached 30.I am from India, and I’ve taken all sorts of MBA entrance exams to get into a business school. And I’ve been trying for 3 years now. All I’ve ever wanted was to get into a full time education and get an opportunity to head back to school and learn something, but they just won’t take me in.I’d make it to the personal interview and things would look hopeful, but they’ll ask my age and then I’d never get a call. I have 4.5 years of work experience and its not that bad and yet they just wouldn’t take me in. My grades aren’t too bad either, though they are not on teh higher side, I’ve been just a lil better than an average student.I’m kind of feeling hopeless now, my life seems futile.The education system in my country is way too biased. Just coz I’m past 25 doesen’t mean that I am not suitable to study.It is so disheartening, I don’t know what it’s like in US, am sure there too I wouldn’t stand a chance coz of my age.I wish I was a lil young,maybe I would’ve stood a chance of getting in.

    • Charles Bibilos

      Thank you for the comment, Sahil. Sorry to hear that things haven’t gone well for you in admissions. The key thing to remember is that top MBA programs are ludicrously competitive in both India and the U.S., and while I can’t comment on the issue of age discrimination in India, your age would certainly not automatically disqualify you from top programs in this part of the world. You simply aren’t all that old by our standards, and even if you were a few years older, it wouldn’t be the end of the world — and our friend at MBAover30.com has pretty much shown that, since he’s very comfortably over 30.

      There are tons of reasons why solid applicants can get rejected — heck, you could be a pretty much flawless applicant, and Stanford and Harvard very well might reject you for no reason whatsoever. That’s just the reality of the elite MBA admissions world: minor flaws in your experience or academics can very easily keep you out of top MBA programs. But being in your late 20s is almost never a reason to give up, at least not in the context of U.S. and European MBA programs.

      Good luck with everything, Sahil!

  3. Thank you Charles for those words of encouragement.

  4. The problem with programs such as mba are that they’ve become more about running as a business than the education. Why should it matter how employable a student is afterwards or if they are even seeking a job? With costs upward of over 120k it’s almost not even become worth thit time and cost. Studying in Europe has become a lot more price effective. the top 20 schools don’t even provide that much earning power over the next 20.

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