You might suspect that the typical MBA student is someone who is still in the early stages of their career. But what does this mean in raw numbers? According to an informal survey conducted by Poets and Quants, “the average years of pre-MBA work experience at [top business] schools ranges from 4.6 years … to 5.5 years.” To put those numbers in another context, that means that the average age of the American MBA candidate is between 27 and 29 years old.
You may find these figures discouraging if you are an older learner. Are MBA programs not interested in accepting students over this age? Perhaps the better question to ask is, “What is the average age of those who occupy positions in upper management?” Consultant Jack Zenger, writing for the Harvard Business Review in 2012, noted that most supervisors do not begin to transition into positions of real leadership until their early 40s. While MBA programs may be training tomorrow’s leaders, many of those trainees have still not accrued the years of experience — and expertise — they’ll need in order to take full advantage of their degrees.
If you are contemplating enrolling in an MBA program but are unsure whether your maturity will help or hinder you, consider the following points in your favor.
Work Experience Gives You an Advantage When Applying to MBA Programs
Admissions committees base their decisions on quantifiable data: GPAs, GMAT scores, etc. However, admissions committees also give a great deal of weight to qualitative measures as well. Don’t think of your age as a number but as a narrative. Your MBA application essay is your story; it is a record of your professional achievements. It is an account of the ways you’ve learned to adapt, improve your skills, and remain a high-performer in a challenging business environment. Your application essay is a platform for you to connect your diverse experiences to your career goals.
Return on Investment (ROI) Isn’t Always About the Money
In fact, your objectives might not even be strictly career-based. As a prospective MBA student over the average age, you may already earn a good salary. You might also have family obligations to balance, and you might not be in the market for advancement that will leave you very little time or energy for other pursuits. If you are looking to start your own small business, to transition to corporate leadership, or to mentor the next generation of business professionals, earning an MBA can make a positive difference in terms of what you wish to accomplish.
Lifelong Learning Has Real Benefits
The increased life expectancy of the average American (78.8 years, as calculated by the Centers for Disease Control) is a tribute to modern medicine and standards of living. Nevertheless, growing older does not come without its challenges. Maintaining your mental agility is one of them. We’ve probably all read at least one article touting the power of “brain games,” but research conducted by psychologists in Spain between 2007 and 2011 suggests that such exercises are no comparison when it comes to continuing one’s formal education.
The scientists studied a group of 82 seniors as they pursued a comprehensive, three-year university curriculum designed for older adults. They then compared the results of several tests to those generated by a control group that did not participate in the university program. Their findings? “Pre-post comparisons showed that participating in school helped older adults increase their overall level of activity and improve memory functioning over time (both trends became worse over the same three-year period for the control subjects who did not attend university)…. The university students also did better on tests of information-seeking and general health awareness.”
The social benefits of enrolling in an MBA Program also cannot be over-estimated. Dr. Karen Li, director of Concordia University’s laboratory for adult development and cognitive aging, advises older adults to seek out novel situations and to be as open as possible to alternate points of view. “Following and contributing to a conversation requires a lot of mental prowess,” Li claims. By focusing on executive decision-making and encouraging you to adopt the habits and strategies of your field’s thought leaders, MBA curriculum will require you to listen to your peers as much as it will ask you to share your opinions.
You’re Never Too Old to Learn Something New
SOSU alumnus Ronnie Coppedge is living proof that when it comes to MBA success, age is no object. A graduate with a 4.0 GPA and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society, Ronnie came to SOSU after having almost single-handedly built his own business from the ground up. His MBA has already allowed him to return his expertise to the classroom as an instructor. He teaches a course in entrepreneurship at Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Perhaps most impressively, Coppedge has used his own experience as a student over the average age to change perceptions about who should earn an MBA. Asked how family and friends reacted when he announced he would be going back to school at the age of 58, Ronnie responded, “At first, they just thought I was nuts. Now that it’s finished, they’re saying things like, ‘I really wish I could do that.’ I tell them it’s never too late — you’re never too old to learn something new.”
Learn more about how SOSU’s online MBA with an emphasis in Management can help you achieve your lifelong learning goals.
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