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Many schools do recruit and encourage younger applicants to apply. Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford Business School and Harvard Business School are among those with a reputation for accepting younger applicants, but many schools admit almost no young applicants (even though they claim to be interested in them). Even those schools that do accept large numbers of young applicants are quite selective in their choices. In both the application process and the experience of business school itself the younger applicant faces special hardships, which are important to be aware of.

Application Process

Young applicants face several challenges in the MBA application process. They have to compensate for a lack of work experience with leadership roles, higher than average GMAT scores, higher than average GPA, even more focused career goals, recommendations showing maturity and preparedness, and uniqueness (in some manner).

Leadership experience is especially important. In essays as well as during the interview process, it is important that younger applicants show admissions officers or interviewers what leadership roles they have taken on, what they have learned in those roles, and explain with concrete examples. Younger applicants will especially want to highlight larger roles, which help to display their unique knack for leadership. Successful younger candidates can show that their uncommon leadership abilities exceed the average college student, through experiences such as being elected College President, internships in fields that recruit few undergraduates, or entrepreneurial experiences.

Business School Experience

At school, younger students sometimes experience difficulties relating to fellow students. Other business school students, who tend to be older and more experienced, come to school with different interests and home lives, as they sometimes have families and different backgrounds. These differences can cause mutual misunderstanding and ultimately limit the forming of lasting relationships and networks that many people go to business school to create.

In the classroom, younger applicants need to continue to show that they do have legitimate and interesting experiences to share and make this clear to professors. Overall, it is important that younger students keep their self-confidence in the face of older students. Younger students must respect older students for the greater breadth of experience that comes from spending time in the “real world,” but remember too that they were accepted because of exceptional ability (however young) and do indeed have things to offer the class and the professional world.

In the job application process, younger students may have difficulties with certain career paths. Venture capital firms, for example, often seek MBAs with greater professional experience. However, consulting firms and banks are happy to recruit younger, more energetic MBAs, though they may hesitate at first to put younger MBAs in management positions.

Overall Pros and Cons

Overall the MBA experience for younger students is not an easy one. Yet despite the difficulties experienced in the application process and in study, the young applicant does have the advantage of completing the degree early—especially important to women, who later, for personal reasons, may want to take time out from the professional world. Also, it is a good path for the over achiever who is used to being among older people. Young applicants who are not so used to it should carefully select the schools they apply to according to their percentages of younger admits. Younger applicants will find themselves jump starting their careers early and may possibly be spending more of their professional lives in unique, exciting roles where they can make a greater impact.

Issues of gender are discussed during the studies in relation to the experience of women in the workforce; notably, the differing role of networks for men and women has been an interesting topic of discussion in the program. They found that women tend to network more naturally across organizations and to have stronger contacts within their group of peers. Men, on the other hand, build stronger networks upward, which leads to better opportunities to promotion. Women, therefore, are at a noticeable disadvantage in terms of networking upwards within their organizations.

Another instance of behavioral differences between men and women that Buchel discusses happens during the job application process. When looking at a job description, women tend to become discouraged by the requirements they feel they are not qualified for, usually opting not to apply at all. However, men on average who are faced with the same situation tend to apply anyway, with a more optimistic and less hesitant attitude. These discussions of behavioral trends help the women to recognize their own tendencies and disadvantages, allowing them to be conscious of and improve in these areas.

When asked why Europe has lagged behind the US in terms of business programs for women, Buchel states that the issue of women in management hasn’t been on the forefront of corporate attention in Europe. The scarce number of women in executive positions has limited the viable market for such programs. However, these programs have been picking up more and more in Europe, especially since Scandinavian countries have begun to have much stronger female participation in management. Female representation on the political front, such as Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has also pushed the agenda of female leadership on the forefront in Europe. The establishment of programs such as Buchel’s has certainly created a unique example of how we can both recognize and promote the leadership of women in the workforce.

Posted on July 2, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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