This time of year is replete with many young candidates who want to apply to business school directly out of undergrad. Is this possible? In some cases, it is. But it depends on a few factors.
First, you must recognize that business schools are unique compared to other graduate schools mostly in that they generally require real world experience prior to matriculation. If you think about Law School, Medical school or just about any other occupational education, it is most common to simply take on the degree as a continuation of your current academic career. As a potential applicant to business school, however, you likely have noticed most schools have an average work experience figure approaching 5 years.
The business school experience relies heavily on peer-to-peer interaction, and bringing a skill set with you to school becomes as useful to your classmates as the professors themselves. Much of the work in business school is accomplished in teams, so imagine a team of six freshly minted undergrads who have never worked in the “real world” being charged with solving some kind of business problem on a project team. Schools have found things go much better when students leverage everything they learn in the classroom with everything they have learned on the job.
Still, there are a handful of newly degreed students who successfully navigate the admissions process each year. Most often, these are students with exceptional core qualifications (think high GMAT, high GPA, strongly involved), and also some demonstrable leadership experience. More often than not, they also have some significant work experience already under their belt, whether it be from an internship, having started their own successful company while still a student or job outside of school. It doesn’t have to be a paid job either—if you have achieved something remarkable as a volunteer, it can also impress the admissions committee. The key is demonstrating a strong vision for your post MBA career, a plan for achieving your goals that is mature, and a compelling reason why now is the best time for you to return to school without first “earning your chops” with a couple of laps around the block.
Some schools are more amenable to applicants without prior experience than others. Make sure you investigate this with the admissions office before you apply. Still other schools have special programs designed specifically for younger students. Good examples include the HBS 2+2 program (where you are accepted to HBS as a rising senior in college or MS candidate, but go on to work for two years before you matriculate), and the Yale Silver Scholars program (where you also are accepted as a senior in college, but start the MBA program immediately and then work an extended internship before returning for the balance of the program). These programs are highly competitive, but offer an opportunity to get started on your MBA journey before the average applicant.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.