By Dartmouth - Tuck December 2, 2011 Leave a Comment

It seems to me that there’s a pressure towards top MBA programs admitting ever-younger students with ever-less experience. I understand, yet lament, this.

Why do it?
1) Ambitious, smart young minds want to access post-MBA salaries and career trajectories earlier and feel able to do so
2) Other US grad schools (e.g. law, medicine) tend to admit students closer to or right out of undergraduate programs
3) Top schools don’t want to miss that top talent, so adapt their programs and admissions policies to cater to it

What are the repercussions?
1) Learning from classmates becomes more limited. Ideas that are good in theory but limited in practice are more likely to be espoused – and accepted – by students whose backsides are yet to be firmly kicked by the harsh realities of the working world. For me, learning from classmates with extensive and diverse prior experiences is a massive part of the MBA experience, and the program would be poorer for its diminishment.
2) Expectations of newly minted MBAs erodes. If employers expect new MBAs to be 25 year-olds, they design roles and responsibilities befitting of that experience level. This limits opportunities for more experienced professionals to use the MBA to move their career in a direction that is closely aligned to their well-informed (by experience) long-term career aspirations.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some people are truly extraordinary or have had incredible experiences for their age. Such people, in my humble opinion, have a great deal to add to their classmates’ experience. But such people – even in top business schools, the land where extraordinary is ordinary – should remain the exception.

For me, Tuck has the balance just about spot on. It has not had to admit younger students en masse to find quality applicants. My class had an average age on matriculation of 27, with a little over 5 years’ work experience. There are some unbelievable people who were a couple of years younger than that, and a handful of highly accomplished professionals who were quite a bit older. I learn from them all but, I find, especially from the more experienced. Wisdom is not at odds with dynamism, in my experience. It would be a shame if the trend towards younger MBAs deprived future generations of the wonderful learning experience I am able to enjoy and benefit from now.

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