Having clear goals and objectives about what you want from this degree will have a major impact on your timing. It’s important to have enough time left in your career to take full advantage of the boost an MBA will provide. For aspiring MBA holders who are already advanced in their careers, the degree may not be as valuable, or even necessary. Individuals with too much work experience may not be able to fully to capitalize on a return to school.

Most business school applications include a required essay asking candidates to clarify their reasons for pursuing a degree. Students who can articulate what they want from an MBA program — and be convincing — tend to win out when it comes to admissions. On the other hand, students who are unclear about the value of an MBA may wind up missing out on their dream program — or worse, squandering two years at school just to get a weak bump from their additional degree.

For every prospective MBA student, there is a right time to go. And, believe it or not, age has little to do with it.

Business Schools Prefer Applicants Who Are a Little Seasoned — But Not Fully Cooked.

These days, the average age of a Business School student in 28 years old. But in reality, business school is less about one’s chronological age and more about one’s years of work experience.

How many years or work experience do business schools prefer? The general consensus is a few, but not too many. That’s because a student with work experience brings maturity and perspective to their school experience. By design, the learning environment of Business Schools is somewhat dependent on the rich contributions of the students going there. Students with some work experience are able to bring their real-world perspectives and knowledge into the classroom. Students learn from the faculty, but they also learn from one another; so classmate contributions factor quite a bit into an individual's MBA experience.

Two to four years of work experience is the typical range of most students applying to traditional MBA programs. But there is no magical number. Have you been working for long enough that you can make a solid contribution to classroom discussion, but not so long that you have surpassed the value of the degree? That’s the sweet spot for most applicants. And while age is not really a factor, those aspiring degree holders are frequently in their late 20s and early 30s.

Nedda
Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.