Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The question of timing

When is the right time to apply to b-schools?  The correct answer, more or less, is that you should apply when you are ready and can put together the strongest application possible.  For me, however, the issue is a bit more complex. 

Given that I'm in my 30's and have applied to schools before, I don't have that many bullets left to fire, so to speak.  With each year past age 30, your chances decline, and I can't afford to wait that much longer if I do re-apply.  At the same time though, how much can I really improve my app in the next 6-8 months?  I just started working for a financial software startup, basically running the entire project from the ground up.  I'm getting a very modest salary (just enough to pay the bills) but will receive a % cut of the fees from clients once the software is in production mode and in use.  It will take 3-4 months before that happens, and who knows what the growth trajectory will be like.  As with any startup, there is a lot of uncertainty.  And this product is rather unique in its market, so it could be a resounding success or a complete dud.  It's just too soon to tell.

So the $64,000 question is this.  Should I still re-apply this upcoming year due to the age issue or wait until next year, with hopes that by then the startup will be quite successful and that will bolster my application chances, enough at least to make up for age?  To be honest, I'm genuinely torn on this question.  I could see the argument for either side and have received conflicting advice from trusted friends.  Of course, admissions consultants want me to apply this year and cannot wait to get my money! (I will write a separate post on my thoughts on consultants; I could actually write a book on this).

In the next few months, I will get a better idea as the startup progresses.  Hopefully by the end of August, I will arrive at a wise decision.


  1. Hi. I really like your blog.

    I think the age thing is overblown. You should keep working on the startup and maybe also spend an extra year prepping yourself to be more interesting to bschools. I hear they are really into nonprofits and extreme sport experiences.

  2. LastChanceMBA,

    I agree with MBACommenter about the age thing--it is overblown for sure. I think you should wait until you are sure you have the best possible application. Perhaps a longer gap will give your greater distance from your previous applications and convey to admissions committees how adaptable you can be and make the most of limited resources.

  3. I wouldn't say its overblown. Having been waitlist at four top schools and getting direct feedback from the AdCom members, I got feedback that my age and amount of work experience did raise questions for them. At one school, I saw with an AdCom member who had my application in front of her and there were comments about whether an EMBA would be better.

    As with anything in the b school process, no one factor should be taken in isolation. If your goals, career progress and everything else fits with the story, then your age will be overlooked. But from my experience, as soon as you reveal you're about a certain age (like 32 or so), I found that I got extra scrutiny and questions. It's like a knee jerk reaction. They see your age, and they form a stereotype.