The average age of a US MBA applicant to a full-time program is 28 years old with 3-6 years of work experience. In the top-ranked full-time MBA programs, only about 10% of students are over 30 years old. Older students have more to consider when applying to MBA programs regardless of the program schedule-full time or part-time/weekend.
Profile of the over 30 applicant
Most older students have more than ten years of work experience and are at a life stage where the MBA degree makes sense. Some examples of older students are military veterans transitioning to the civilian economy or upskilling their non-combat management skills e.g. logistics. Also, people with 8-10 years of work experience who want to pivot into a new industry, rejoin the workforce after a pause or want to position themselves for executive roles.
Benefits of being an older student
Perspective, time management skills, and discipline are some benefits that older students bring to an MBA program. Having seen a business cycle rise and fall or having been deployed overseas gives a person a broader perspective of life. Most working adults with young children are masters of time management. Adding in an MBA program is just another color-coded activity on the kitchen refrigerator calendar. Being responsible for your family and work gives older students a positive discipline habit. They do what they say and get things done.
Challenges for older students
Status, technology, and social skills are the biggest challenges that I see. Older students may be used to a certain professional hierarchy at work with the associated status. Students under 30 do not care about your status. They want you to participate in the MBA experience and fully contribute to the team.
People under 30 years old are digital natives, which means they have had access to mobile phones and computers their entire life. They arrive for MBA programs ready to handle the Learning Management System (LMS), which is a digital combination of a website and file server for course documents and assignments. Older students need to use the LMS and be comfortable with almost no paper syllabi or assignments. Team communication will occur in text messages or digital chat tools such as Slack.
Social skills are also a challenge for older students. Accept those social media invites and look forward to a wide range of interactions on mobile apps with your younger teammates!
Options for older students
Full-time MBA program demography statistics indicate that older students will have the challenge to be accepted. However, most part-time/weekend MBA programs have a more diverse age range, and Executive MBA programs will have most students with over ten years of work experience. This video on When to get an MBA might be helpful.
Top-ranked MBA programs will be difficult to get into as a person with 10+ years of work experience but is still possible. However, there are excellent part-time/weekend programs in a variety of formats (in-person, hybrid, or online) that will deliver the ROI and value that older students want from an MBA.
TLDR: Older MBA program applicants should consider a wider range of types of MBA programs and embrace the positive attributes they bring to an MBA class.