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Journey to my MBA

Thursday, September 14, 2006

FT Article: B-Schools going younger + "Am I too young too apply question answered"

Today seems to be the day that I write my heart out. There are very few times when a Business school will tell you in very certain terms about their recruiting goals like this article has. This is a very insightful article for several reasons. Although, the article does not express a compeling reason why younger candidates are being sought after, I'm going to make some educated guesses as to why I think this is occuring. Please chime in with your opinion if you like.

These are the 3 key reasons why I see this to be a necessary action by top Business Schools.
1) Increase the number of women in Business School (A particularly hard area to grow for any B-school) You ought to see how much a Dean of a top 20 Business School get's excited over a 1% increase in Women students. Entire sets of PR articles fly out every year just to huff and puff how many women they have in their school. "XXX School increases women students year after year!" or "We have the highest percentage of women students of any Business School!". It's a very serious thing as much as my statements might sound like I'm making fun of this thing. I'm really not. In case you didn't know, the school that is arguably the most popular for women is Columbia. Think New York, "Sex and the City" and a stellar track record to attract women and you start to get the idea why.
2) Address Corporate pressures to allow younger candidates to receive an early MBA education to hit the ground running.
3) Remove the intimidation factor of Business School.

Attracting women to Business school has always been hard. It's gotten easier in some sense because census stats now show that women are marrying later, having children later and are attending to a career almost as much as men are. This is a drastic change from 15 years ago. Many Business schools have taken credit for their increasing numbers of women students. I applaude their efforts, but I can't give them all the credit. Several foundations such as the Forte Foundation have put in an amazing effort to educate and attract women to Business Schools. Business schools and Corporations around the globe have provided amazing support to this group to somehow get more qualified women to apply. But, I think the Forte foundation has just about reached its peak in terms of making an impact to increase the number of women applicants. Business Schools want 40+ or 45+ percent women. That has NEVER happened. And with the way things are... it'll probably take a revolution in the work place even more than now for that to happen. In other words, Business Schools don't have control over the numbers of women applying more than what it is now. Recruiting younger is the number one thing they have done to increase the number of women than any other initiative in the history of Business School.

By the way, this is totally my opinion, but I believe that this is why you will NEVER EVER hear any Business School say that they are recruiting younger for women. They will say general quotes such as, "we are looking at smart young people who may be better served by looking at getting an MBA earlier than later." It's a spin factory in this regard that makes every effort to sound unbiased. Don't go around telling people this opinion of mine about women and young recruits as fact... please. If you do... please tell them it's my opinion and not based on fact. Assess the situation for yourself. Having said all this... isn't what I wrote about the trend of younger recruits for women a reasonable conclusion?

The second reason for this action is the growing international market where non-U.S. MBA program recruit young students. I've received thousands of e-mails over the years from Indian's who think life is over because they can't apply to a world-class US MBA School because they already got one from ISB or the like. Hordes of students go to MBA School in India straight out of undergrad. It's the norm there. That means, US Business Schools really miss out in attracting these men and women. The same goes with candidates from all other non-U.S. Business Schools. For the most part, nearly all non-U.S. Business Schools are 1 year programs and they attract young folk straight out of college like nobodies business. I'm generalizing of course as some schools are more cautious with their diversity than others.

Dean's of top U.S. Business School talk and Blog about this all the time. They are constantly sought after as consultants and guides. The level of change and communication that is going on in the Business School is unlike anyone has ever seen in the last 5 years. At, They have regular articles that talk about "oh how this school consulted me or I talked with that xxx non-U.S. Business School about that." In the last 12 months, over 15 of the top 30 US Business Schools have started branches, executive MBA schools or committees in non-U.S. countries.

Increasingly, businesses are supporting Schools by readily accepting younger MBA graduates. Across the board, if you look at the top 25 Business Schools that have gone the "young" route, you'll find that Business Schools are not having a problem with these youngin's getting great jobs after graduation. Corporations are the "customer" to Business School. What the market receives, the vendor(Business School) can/will continue to produce.

I've also found it to be interesting how the rankings of Business Schools have become rather diluted in terms of differentiable quality. It used to be that Wharton and Harvard were unreachable in terms of quality candidates. Now, the top 20-25 Business Schools provide amazing MBA Graduates to the market. That means that Business Schools are in a race to fight over candidates. Yes, "fight". One of the greatest equalizers to any Business School these days is money. Carnegie Melon(Tepper) and Michigan(Ross) are amazing examples of schools that came out of nowhere by rising to top of the rankings after some key financial donations. Go ahead and argue this last point if you like. Over the years, I've received hundreds of communications from MBA grads all over the Globe about the Ross and Tepper money factors.

Lastly, the intimidation of Business School is pretty high. If you don't see it, then you ought to attend a consulting meeting at a fortune 100 business where 5 consultants from McKinsey show up who all graduated from Harvard, Kellogg or Wharton. it's pretty intense. "What you do not dream, you will not achieve." Ever hear of that saying? Getting students to consider application to a top Business School without work experience under their belt is currently a big hurdle in the U.S.. It stalls and halts the imagination of many possible U.S. candidates. U.S. students ought to be shown that there is an amazing people network and skills gain to be had by getting a degree from a top Business School early on in life.

If you've read my earlier stories you should know that my life would be a completely different had I known about the benefit of Business School early on. I never realized the possibilities and need of it until the last 4 years of my life. I'm around my mid 30's in age. It's a damn shame that I wasn't informed earlier. Put it this way, it wasn't until I was over 30 that I heard of Wharton.

Why would I write about such a topic as this? It's because nobody else has in a manner that I thought even approached the content of what I've just written. I'm ever frustrated because I wish I knew earlier in life what I know now about Business School. It's also a way to answer the question, "How much work experience do I need to apply." The answer is that if you can show a thriving passion for entrepreneurship, marketing, operations or finance early on with a compelling vision of how you'll really make a difference in the world we live in... then you should apply regardless of your years work experience. (Just be sure to check out the school admission requirements. Some schools still want the experience.) Know that Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Chicago and Harvard Business School all seek younger candidates though. By the way, please don't ask me which schools accept students with or without work experience. I've already listed what I know off the top of my head. Any more would require research on my part which you the reader can do just as easily by asking the admissions office of the school or checking out their web site.

Like it or not, Business Schools across the U.S. will be recruiting younger than they are now. Martinelli at Chicago University said it herself,"10 per cent of the incoming class have less than three years' work experience...compared with 2 per cent five years ago. "I'd like to get it up to 20 per cent" Martinelli was a Wharton Sr. Staff member only a year ago. Therefore, I really don't see Wharton that far off from this direction to pursue young recruits. Other schools will follow. Like any major change, many of them wait for someone to start and the rest follow.

You can complain all you want about younger MBA students. It won't change. It's only going to become more obvious that every MBA class will be seeing younger peers and especially younger women peers.


Top schools woo youngsters

By Rebecca Knight in Boston

Published: September 14 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 14 2006 03:00

Top US business schools are recruiting younger, less experienced candidates in an effort to boost applications and head off competition for the best students from other graduate programmes such as law and public policy.

In an attempt to lure new students, leading business schools - including Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago and Wharton - have moved away from the unofficial admissions prerequisite of four years' work experience and instead have set their sights on recent college graduates and so-called "early career" professionals with only a couple years of work under their belt.


"There has been an assumption that to apply to an MBA programme with less than five years' work experience was a waste of time, and that's not true any more," said Rosemaria Martinelli, associate dean of student recruitment and admissions at University of Chicago School of Business.

"Schools want to attract the right students when they're ready."

Applications to full-time MBA programmes plummeted during the late-1990s internet boom. While applications have rebounded over the past couple of years, they are still not at the levels they were prior to the technology bubble, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the industry body.

Meanwhile, applications to law schools have risen 16 per cent in the past five years, according to the Law School Admission Council. Applications to public policy schools have also increased. Both these graduate programmes tend to require less work experience and are therefore inclined to admit a large portion of new graduates.

Business school admissions officers said the new drive to attract younger students was in part the result of a realisation that they had inadvertently limited their applicant pool by requiring several years' work experience. Talented students who might otherwise have gone to business school instead opted for a law or policy degree because they were intimidated by the expectation of work experience.

Admissions officers also said they had become more mindful of the various age-related life choices that young people - particularly women - faced.

Questions about when to go full throttle on a career and when to start a family are all part of the graduate school equation, according to Thomas Caleel, the director of admissions and financial aid at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. "We've come to understand that it's a much different life choice for a woman to get her MBA at age 23 versus 28," he said.

So far, efforts to attract younger students are paying off. The incoming crop of students at leading US business schools is younger and less professionally seasoned than in years past. At Stanford, for instance, the average number of years' work experience for the incoming class is 3.8 years, compared with an average of five years in 2001. About a dozen students in the class of 370 are straight from university. At MIT's Sloan School of Business, the average age of MBA candidates has been steady at 28 for many years but this year fell to 27. At Wharton, where there had been a de facto admissions policy of no fewer than four years' work experience, 3 per cent of this year's class of 800 students have less than two years' work experience.

The class also has 10 students who are new college graduates. Harvard Business School has also had success in encouraging younger applicants by doing away with the $235 (€185, £125) standard application fee.

At the University of Chicago, roughly 10 per cent of the incoming class have less than three years' work experience under their belt, compared with 2 per cent five years ago.

"I'd like to get it up to 20 per cent," said Ms Martinelli.


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