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February 01, 2002
MBA Programs Seeking Younger Students
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Not long ago, MBA programs wanted people with extensive work experience, thinking these students would be more focused and able to apply class lessons to real-life experiences.

But now, according to the Wall Street Journal, business schools are reaching out to younger students in an effort to diversify their classes and attract fresh graduates before they become established in other careers.

"Business schools have been so rigid," says Derrick Bolton, who directs master's of business administration admissions at Stanford. "For the past 10 years, they have been saying that students must have years of work experience to contribute and to learn. You can't erase that message overnight."

The MBA programs that are trying to change their ways include Stanford, Harvard Business School, University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business, University of California at Los Angeles's Anderson School, and University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, according to the Journal.

Some of these schools are creating marketing brochures and holding recruiting events on college campuses, even as applications to most MBA programs nationwide have skyrocketed because of the slowing economy.

Harvard, for instnace, has enlisted the help of alumni, asking them in an email for referrals to "fast-track candidates who are at an early stage in their careers, as well as women and underrepresented minority candidates."

"It's really about having a truly diversified class, not to pass up an opportunity to get some very talented people in here," says Linda B. Meehan, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at Columbia Business School. "Why wait? Are they going to get any better with one or two more years? Probably not."

As alluded to in the Harvard email, reaching out to a broader age range also helps widen the pipeline for women and minorities. Older women, for example, are often reluctant to apply to full-time MBA programs.

"If a woman enters the class at 27 and graduates at 29 or 30, and then invests a couple more years in getting that ground work experience, that's pushing the child-rearing age," says Rosemaria Martinelli, director of M.B.A. admissions and financial aid at Wharton.

The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, tracks the ages of people who take the business-school entrance exam. In the 2000-2001 academic year, the age range with the most GMAT takers was 28 to 30 years old. That is substantially older than the 1982-1983 academic year, when the age range with the most GMAT takers was just 22 to 23.

Some MBA programs are sticking to recruiting candidates with significant work experience. "We look for five years' experience at Kellogg, on the average, and pretty much all our students are coming in at about 28," says Richard Honack, director of external relations at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill.

Read the Wall Street Journal article by visiting
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