(MBA vs EMBA) Choosing the Hard Climb: Why I Don’t Want an Executive or Part-Time MBA

One of the first questions that I get from people when either A) I mention my age/years of work experience while talking about my MBA candidacy or B) I mention my candidacy and they already know my age is “Have you considered a Part-Time MBA or EMBA?”

The answer to that question is yes, I have; and that is exactly what makes me so certain that I want neither.

I become slightly irritated when people ask me that question without knowing anything about my goals.  The source of my irritation is not the nature of the question itself, but rather the logic behind asking it in the first place.

“Canned answers” annoy me to no end; but I am even more annoyed by canned questions. What’s a canned question, you ask? A canned question (in my personal dictionary of self-defined terms) is one that is asked as a knee jerk reaction to partial data.

In all fairness, there is usually a reasonable expectation that the supposed conclusion of a canned question is likely to be true; nevertheless, the intellectual laziness that encourages people to just blurt out an ill-supported assumption without qualifying it first rakes my nerves just a bit.

This “reasonable expectation” creates a general level of agreement among a particular group of people that the presence of said partial data is enough to conclude that the canned question is appropriate (aka a stereotype). Ah, group think. I hate group think. I wish I could ding people like the GMAT does for making assumptions without sufficient data; but I digress.

A SHORT LIST OF CANNED QUESTIONS THAT ANNOY ME

(to a muscular black man)…. “Do/did you play pro football?” [as if that is the only thing for fit black men to do]

(to an overweight woman with a severe hormonal imbalance)…”Have you tried a low carb diet?” [hasn’t everyone?]

(to a 4th generation Asian American woman)…”Do you speak Chinese?” [she’s Japanese and Ukranian]

(to an MBA applicant who is 30+ years old)…”Why don’t you just get an EMBA/Part Time MBA?” [more on this in a few secs]

I’m sure you get the idea at this point (and if you haven’t, well, I just don’t know what to say about that).

REASONS TO GET AN EMBA OR PART TIME MBA

*You are looking to move up in the same company you already work for.

*You are looking to promote into a new position (most likely within your current field) in the same city you already live in.

*You have a family, a mortgage, or other responsibilities that would make A) quitting your job to live on loans for 2 years and/or B) moving to a different city to attend school an unwise life decision.

Note to canned questioners: None of the above circumstances describe me–mostly because I’ve put off A) becoming attached to any job or employer B) starting a family C) buying a home because they all tend to conflict with early-stage entrepreneurship.

REASONS TO GET A FULL TIME MBA

* You are looking to change careers.

* You have weighed the risk of quitting your current job, living off of loans for 2 years and possibly leaving your current city and have determined that it is a good risk in lieu of the likely return.

*A full time MBA experience is necessary for you to achieve your goals.

2nd note to canned questioners: Bingo x 3 on all of the above for me.

MY STATUS AS A CAREER CHANGER

The abbreviated version of my goals include transitioning from full time employment and part time entrepreneurship to full time entrepreneurship. I also plan to do so within the same general industry that I work in 9 to 5, a fact that makes my goal a reasonable one that can easily be backed up with prior experience and training.

QUITTING THE JOB

Being that I’m an entrepreneur, I’ve never been particularly attached to jobs. Any job that I have ever had has served two purposes and two purposes only: 1) to pay bills while I worked something else on the side 2) to develop skills that I could use in the development of my own enterprise.

When you cross reference that little piece of info with the fact that I took  a pay cut to come to my current job (it was about a 700%  better opportunity for about 75% of the pay) it becomes apparent that I wear no “golden handcuffs” (job perks/pay so great that you have a hard time leaving, even when you hate the job itself–although, I love my current job; it was my previous job that I hated).

THE NECESSITY OF GETTING A FULL TIME MBA

I’ve had some level of success in my past business ventures; however, it has never been enough to “take me over the top” (leading to burnout, then starting again from the drawing board). To that end, I’ve identified several skills that an MBA will provide. Additionally, the network of a strong MBA alumni (certain schools in particular) will be critical in helping me meet the goals that I will be outlining in my upcoming b-school application essays.

Finally, the experience that I am looking for is geared more toward transformation and less toward taking some classes to be a better “manager”. Honestly, the latter is just not an exciting enough reason for me to pay big bucks and sit in class for two years; I wouldn’t even bother with an MBA if that was all that I wanted to do with one.

THE HARD CLIMB OF TOP 10 MBA ADMISSIONS–POST 30

Once I accepted the reality that a full time MBA was the way for me to go I stumbled across pages of online op-eds and the like stating that “over 30” MBA applicants to top 10-15 programs might have better chances of success by collectively donating our organs to the world’s largest pink slime factory; I disagree.

Though there is a persistent rumor that admissions rates are lower for older applicants, the opposite of that rumor may in fact be the case. Also, due to the common 30+ responsibilities (families, mortgages) that I mentioned earlier a full time MBA program is too much of a commitment for most people in my demographic; hence, few bother to apply to more than a local, part-time program to begin with.

Nevertheless, those of us who are over 30 have specific challenges to overcome if we hope to earn a spot at a top-rated business school. My search to identify and hedge against those challenges inspired me to start this blog.

If you’re in the same boat and find yourself scouring the net for information on this topic, here is a list of a few resources that I have found useful and informative. I wish all of you well.

****

Would you like my help getting into your dream b-school? Well, there are two starting points for that:

1. Get a Free Profile Analysis (after receiving your information, I’ll let you know whether or not I think I can help you)

2. Get Help Now (If you already know that you want help and what you want help on, then just skip to here)

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Wharton 2015 MBA

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97 Comments on “(MBA vs EMBA) Choosing the Hard Climb: Why I Don’t Want an Executive or Part-Time MBA”

  1. OhDenny Says:

    You’re definitely making the right decision. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Feel free to box the ears of the next person who says ‘EMBA’ to you (if you know them well).

    Reply

  2. Linda Abraham Says:

    Thanks for the recommendations and the thoughtful, articulate post. You’ve convinced me that the full-time MBA is the right one for you.

    Reply

  3. cheetarah1980 Says:

    CHEERS!!! I hated when people would ask me about a PT or E MBA. I had one person suggest a PT MBA after a 1000 word blog post detailing exactly WHY I wanted the FT degree. I wanted to scream. I also got a lot of questions from people asking if my employer was going to pay for my degree and when I told them I was leaving the job to go full-time they acted like it was the strangest idea they’d ever heard. I had soooo many people tell me that I was too old to get into a top 10 school. To the people who are teling you the same say, “SCREW YOU!” Their reference points are often skewed. Represent for the 30+ crew this application season. OhDenny and I are evidence enough that age is not an impediment to getting into the best business schools in the world.

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      I wholeheartedly agree Cheetarah1980; and you and OhDenny have been huge inspirations whose advice I’ve taken to heart and whose paths I’ve studied in detail. Thanks for all of your encouragement and support. I definitely plan to represent for the dive bar, cocktail and 2-step (read: over30) krewe this application season.

      Reply

    • Angie Says:

      Cheetarah1980:

      I believe we may be the same age – AWESOME. I want to say “ROCK ON” with your comment. I feel I may have found the group of people who are just like me – motivated to really go to full-time. I do not want to do part time and wait forever to finish. I have no kids, I am not tied to a mortgage. I want my degree in two years – I want a top school!

      Reply

      • cheetarah1980 Says:

        Angie,
        I turn 32 in a few weeks and will be starting at Booth FULL-TIME in September. There’s no reason your age should keep you out of a top school.

      • Angie Says:

        That is great to hear, Cheetarah1980. I am also 32 – my birthday was only two weeks ago! I will be matriculating at 33. It’s funny – I really do not feel “old”. I actually feel that it took me this long to understand what I want to work on, what I want out of life, etc. It also took me this long to gain the confidence to pursue this route.

  4. mograni Says:

    I wish I’d had this in my pocket when I was pestered with these same questions. They are tedious from those who know you (because it’s a canned question) and insulting from those who do – what, you think think I can’t get in?

    Reply

  5. Angie Says:

    Wow! This is so absoutely true. I am over 30 myself, and am looking to join a good school. The Part-Time programs just do not have what it takes to help those out there that want to do a career change. I hate the stupid and rigid thinking of some…it has to change!

    Reply

  6. Angie Says:

    Oh, one more question…I noticed that you are considering Stanford. Have you had any concerns about applying, since so many try to say that they only admit those “under 30”? I hate that, by the way. I attended the Diversity weekend held at Stanford, and MANY of the potential applicants there were in their LATE 20s and early thirties. No one was under 25.

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      I was at diversity weekend as well (Many Voices) last spring. Before that I wen to a coffee talk with someone from the c/o 2013 and he said that there were several people in his class throughout their 30s and the oldest person was actually in their 40s. As my blog post is title, I think its a “harder climb” for us, but very possible to pull of as long as we are a good fit; and that goes for any of the top schools–stanford, of course being one of the longer shots (but then again, Stanford is a long shot for most EVERYONE).

      Reply

      • Angie Says:

        SO true. It sounds like you are doing what we all think is the best route – just give ’em hell and pursue, pursue, pursue. I wish you all the best! I will be applying everywhere, and truly going for a great school!!!

  7. Angie Says:

    I apologize for the multiple comments. I just have one more note here. I did happen to work very briefly with Stacy Blackman’s group. They specifically told me that since I was “over 30”, I might as well apply to a “little known school…something maybe down south [in my home state]”. They were pretty rude, unfriendly, and not really encouraging of older students. I do not want to insult the company, since I am sure they have served other applicants very well. Just wanted to add my own experience – so others may think about this before they hire them.

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      Wow, that’s unfortunate. I’ve had a few conversations with both Linda Abraham from http://www.accepted.com and Kofi Kankam from http://www.admitadvantage.com and both were very positive. That’s also why I link to both of them from this blog; they have been tremendously supportive of me as an over 30 candidate.

      Reply

    • Andrei Says:

      I had the same negative experience with Stacy Blackman. Was strongly recommended to consider PT/EMBA once they became aware of my age (30).

      Reply

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Well if they pushed you to PT/EMBA @ 30 then I would surely be pointed toward the nearest glue factory @ 34 lol. So how did it turn out for you Andrei? Did you end up applying to FT programs? Were you happy with your results?

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Its actually weird for me to hear these things about Stacy Blackman; in my post above she seemed VERY positive when it came to applicants who are over 30, including helping a 37 year old (at application, not graduation) candidate with a sub-670 GMAT get into HBS and Tuck. Am I missing something? I’d say that makes her very supportive of our demographic. Were you guys speaking with Ms. Blackman directly or one of her staffers? She seemed pretty proud of her 37 year old to me.

      • Vico Says:

        Man I know what you mean about the “canned questions.” I’m a couple years older than you and it’s interesting how many times I’ve been advised to aim my targets lower than a top 15 school or a PT/EMBA program even to the extent of recommending local LA area smaller MBA programs..Argosy, LaVerne & Redlands were often mentioned…oh man…

        Anyhow, I’m aiming high…but everything is contingent in scoring above 700 on the GMAT…

      • mbaover30 Says:

        I hear you Vico. Keep striving and working toward what you really want.

      • Andrei Says:

        I’m in the same boat as you, gonna apply to FT this fall, though I’m already done with GMAT (wish you good luck!) As I’m a foreign applicant and a career shifter, I even don’t consider PT/EMBA, FT is the only way which works for me.

      • susan Says:

        On the Poets & Quants site I just read Stacy Blackman’s negative feedback for a prospective MBA full-time applicant in his/her 30’s. It was extremely discouraging for me as a 33 year old. My heart literally sank. Thank god for your website!! If it weren’t for these articles and comments alike, I may have been completely discouraged from even applying to top-tier full time programs.

      • mbaover30 Says:

        I’m glad the blog could provide you with some encouragement. Could you link to the negative feedback that you are referring to for the benefit of others?

      • Angie Says:

        DO NOT listen to Stacey Blackman. I had the displeasure of speaking with her and her partner. They were very discourteous! A person who is 33 has an amazing breadth of experience, and you would be a wonderful addition to ANY school! I am also 33, and I have a great sense of what I want. I know I can bring some awesome experience to the table.

        Good luck to you! Don’t ever listen to that noise. That’s all it is – just annoying, misguided, and incorrect NOISE.

      • mbaover30 Says:

        HAHA Angie you are always refreshing.

      • Angie Says:

        Well, I do what I can. I feel we all can motivate and support each other as a mutual goal! As I have always said, this is a great blog. Things like this help us all to NOT listen to fodder that will only deter us!

        Susan, if you would like to stay in touch, please feel free. This process is always easier if we can stay positive.

        Thanks, Mr. MBA Over 30!

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Also Susan let me know if are looking for professional help with essays. I give pretty intensive consulting services much more affordably than what you would usually find – https://mbaover30.com/mba-admissions-essay-help-top-10/

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Also Susan let me know if are looking for professional help with essays. I give pretty intensive consulting services much more affordably than what you would usually find – https://mbaover30.com/mba-admissions-essay-help-top-10/

      • susan Says:

        Whooops – I am admitting that I was wrong. I went back to look at Stacey’s comments and they weren’t overtly horrible. It was Roger’s comments that were negative:

        “Full time MBA at 34 with a career transition?
        Mate, you are better off with an executive MBA. The top 5 are all going to be
        long-shots given your age (just look at the stats such as median age for HBS
        and Stanford).
        You will be 37 by the time you graduate. You want to be 1Y at MBB / Deloitte at
        37???????”
        http://poetsandquants.com/2013/02/20/have-an-admissions-question-ask-stacey-our-resident-expert/

        In any case, I am still grateful for an alternative voice and a forum where 30-somethings can share how the Rogers of the world are not always right! Thank you Angie for the positive energy! I would love to stay in touch. And thanks, Mr. MBA – I will seriously consider your help with the essays and application.

        Just to share a bit more about me (I don’t usually share or even comment on blogs, but was so surprised to receive a reply so soon!)

        – Worked full-time in a CPA firm while going to community college & transferred to UCLA after about 6 years.
        – Graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a BA in sociology – worked and paid my own way through school
        – Had various accounting jobs in between. 2 years ago I got an opportunity to become an accounting manager/controller for a 60+ company.
        – I’m starting a GMAT prep course and am determined to kill it with at least a 700

        I don’t feel like I have an impressive resume, but I do know how to work hard towards a goal, push through adversity and make the most of opportunities that come my way. It was only a month ago when it crossed my mind that I may even have a chance (as small as it may be…or is it really??) to get into a top-ten MBA program. All to say – for someone over 30 with a nontraditional background, it is immeasurably encouraging and inspiring to see others aim high despite “unfavorable” odds & kicking some ass!! Thanks everyone for sharing!

      • Angie Says:

        Susan,

        I hear you. Believe me. I work for the military and have had a great deal of other jobs.

        The thing thing that bothers me about Roger’s comments is that they are canned and generic. Not every MBA wants a traditional consulting, finance, etc job. The same old shtick is not why over 30 folks apply. Lots of us are entrepreneurs, or just want something more than just a typical rat race job. That’s the beauty of being older – we KNOW better.

        If you are interested in keeping in touch, email me at: resterfla@gmail.com
        Keep trucking!

      • mbaover30 Says:

        I’m impressed by all this Over30 love! LOL.

      • Angie Says:

        You are welcome. Hope all is well! You really have to keep us updated on all your adventures at b-school. Hopefully, the rest of us will do the same in a year!

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Looks like Roger doesn’t know math very well. Those averages and age ranges reflect the dearth of apps in the over 30 group more than adcoms not choosing them. Now, I don’t believe that the adcoms want classes full of 30somethings (mostly because the MBB’s and IB firms want younger candidates who they can work to death until they burn out at around 35), but I also believe that the acceptance rate among older folks is probably the same if not HIGHER due to far fewers apps. You have a solid foundation to attend a good school. Kill that GMAT and let’s talk soon.

  8. Angie Says:

    I spoke with Ms. Blackman via email. She referred me to her second in command. We spoke via phone. I was very deterred by this individual. She was rude, and did not bother to think outside the box. She had no intention of working with me. It was a waste of my time. Everyone has their preferences, but I would never put my MBA dreams in the hands of her company and their consultants. I WOULD recommend Admit Advantage. They are professional, realistic, and encouraging. Kofi Kankam and Eric Allen are the owners.

    Reply

  9. StrongSafety Says:

    Just to put a little balance into the argument – if you’re really starting your own venture, wouldn’t it be nice to have time during the day to actually pound the pavement, instead of simply “perfecting the pitch” and talking in the realm of ideas to VC firms?

    Reply

  10. Angie Says:

    Just wanted to add one more comment to those that say they got rude comments – that has happened to me. The most insulting thing is that they came from my mentor! He actually told me that I was “aiming too high” when I expressed interest in Stanford. I gave up on him and found a new recommender!!

    Reply

  11. Gustavo Says:

    Great site! I too will be applying this year for a FT MBA and am over 30. I’m just wondering what you all think. Is being over 30 something that I should address in my optional essay? Or should I just leave it alone? What do you all think?

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      IMO it depends on how old you are. If you are just 31/32 then I would not address it; however, if you are 33/34+ (meaning that you’ll be 34/35+ @ matriculation) then I would address it in your optional essay. This might save you from being pushing toward an EMBA

      Reply

      • Angie Says:

        This is actually a good question…I am 32 right now. I will be 33 at time of matriculation. So, I suppose I fall into a weird pocket. I think your advice is really sound. I am actually going to be working with the Admit Advantage folks (shout out to Kofi Kankam/Eric Allen!) after my GMAT retake. So, I thought I could also address this rather touchy issue. I have had some health issues that had to be taken care of beforehand, so that is why I waited a little longer. GREAT question, Gustavo! Thanks to both of you guys.

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Kofi is awesome; definitely a man of integrity. You’ve made a wide choice in working with him and the Admit Advantage team.

  12. Ussi Says:

    I’m in the same boat as well. Am 31 and want to have a career change.

    My career has stalled recently as I don’t see many career progression opportunities at my current workplace. I work in a niche industry and it will be difficult for me to find a job in the same industry (wih the market conditions pretty bad). I

    Instead of looking for a job and starting from scratch I think an MBA will be ideal for me. I have only recently started studying for GMAT. I plan to appear for GMAT in mid Oct and apply at the R2 stages.

    I hope I’m not too late… any suggestions of what I should do?

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      Hey there Ussi. Thanks for posting. While I am no expert, my most urgent advice for you is to do some introspection to come up with a more heartfelt and purposeful feeling than a realization that your career has stalled. That is the exact kind of over 30 applicant that top schools are itching to ding; and I completely understand why.

      While most everyone has some fairly practical reason(s) for wanting an MBA (more income, prestige, etc.) the adcoms want to admit people who will bring value to their class. They want people who are constantly growing and yearning for new opportunities to grow. They want people who perform well at work and have been rewarded with promotions, rotations and/or new job opportunities for their value.

      If you put on an application that you basically want to restart a stalled career, you’re toast. What are your passions? You’re only 31 years old…certainly there are TONS of things that you both have accomplished and want to accomplish. What are they? What drives you? How has your experience up to this point prepared you for your next step? Are you the kind of person who takes each opportunity and learns/grows for it or have you just blown along like a tumble weed and now want to go to Wharton to give your resume some cache’ to breathe some life into your career?

      Those are the kinds of questions the adcoms will be asking. So do yourself a favor and ask them to yourself NOW and spend WEEKS or MONTHS coming up with compelling, thoughtful, forward-minded answers that inspire you. That is my advice. I wish you all the best, and don’t forget to subscribe!

      Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      Oh and I also suggest you apply this year. If you’re just GMATTING through October, you won’t have time to present your strongest app; especially if what you are telling me about your career is true.

      I say dedicate the rest of 2012 to acing the GMAT and visiting your top 2-3 school choices. Leave yourself room for up to 2 retakes (I flubbed on this and wish I had started earlier for one more try!). Then come out of the blocks in Jan/Feb on fire with purpose.

      Hang out in places like beatthegmat.com, gmatclub.com and poetsandquants.com. Learn this game in and out and if you don’t already have friends at your target schools make friends with strong applicants this year who will be first years next year.Get them to begin looking at your essays next June/July then apply ROUND 1 when the class is a blank slate.

      Reply

      • mbaover30 Says:

        I mean’t DON’T apply this year. Apply in 2013/2014. And if you can, get a new job with new and exciting responsibilities that is inline with the goals you end up choosing (or as close as you can get) either within your own company or another company (name brand if you can swing it).

      • Ussi Says:

        Unfortunately I don’t think I can wait another year. Other than the frustrations I have at work, I have family issues as well so next yr seems to be the most likely year to do an MBA. After 2013 I don’t think I will be able to do an MBA.

        I have my CFA level 3 exam in June so not sure I will have the time.

        I can email you my CV that will give a better picture of who I am. I know it will be difficult for you to judge but it will be good to know what you had to say.

        Thanks

      • mbaover30 Says:

        I understand. It all depends on where you want to go to school. If you are aiming at 16-50 as opposed to 1-15 you may not have a problem at all with that strategy.

      • Ussi Says:

        I don’t think I’m doing that bad and I am not looking for anything less than top 10 otherwise it just ain’t worth it!

        Perhaps I didn’t explain my situation clearly. I have had progression in my career so perhaps I painted a more bleak picture than it actually is.

        I do come up with a unique background- coming from a developing country, working in London, and in a niche industry. I have talked to a few MBA grads from top tier schools who do think I have what it takes provided I get a good GMAT score. So all hinges on that and the essays…

      • Angie Says:

        I definitely do not want to counteract anything anyone has said here, but I think you should just go for it. I realize that we all have our own strategy when it comes to MBA school. GO FOR IT. If you have confidence, believe in yourself, etc. etc., then GO FOR IT. One thing you may want to do is attend some webinars given by admissions consultancy firms. I know that some do not feel admissions consultants are worth it, but these webinars are FREE.

        They will give you the insight you need into what it takes to apply. I have met hundreds of people, over a period of three years, that all have applied in different ways. Get a good GMAT score, get good recommenders, and apply. The worst thing that could happen is that you just do not get in.

        I realize that putting off the GMAT until October is a stretch. I started studying in late April, and I am taking it in October. Why the long period? I stink at this exam. I needed the time. I put that effort into myself to do well. You can too. Just do it and go forward. If you fall on your face, then you fall. Clean up the scratches and cuts from the fall, and move forward.

        GOOD LUCK. I wish you all the best. We are all in this fight together, and I am sure you can do it. Talk to admissions and visit those webinars.

      • Ussi Says:

        Thanks Angie, I just didn’t have the time otherwise I would have started early. I was studying for CFA which takes 6 months to prepare.

        And some family issues have cleared up recently and I feel I can afford 1-2 yrs out (I’m applyintgo EU schools too!)

        I’ll give it my best shot and wish you and everyone the very best! I have signed up for MBA events in London.

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Ah! Then I suggest you speak with an MBA Admissions consultant. I see that Linda has responded to you. She’s trustworthy.

  13. Linda Abraham Says:

    Ussi,

    I just want to add that at 31, you are not THAT old. Realize that for programs with an average age at matriculation of 29, you’re at the upper end of normal. This is especially true if you are looking at European MBA programs, where average age tends to be a little higher. If you can, aim for the programs that support your goals and that tend to have higher ages at matriculation.

    Best,
    Linda

    Reply

  14. Oliver Says:

    I want apologize in advance for the ultra-long comment. I hope that you find some part of it useful as I wish someone would have been more forthcoming with the difficulties that I would have finding a position during and after my MBA program.

    I admire your spirit and the “kiss my @@@” attitude when it comes to age questions. I, too, pursued an MBA at a non-typical age (37) and had to answer similar questions. I had an average GMAT for a top program (710) and after receiving rejection after rejection I chose to attend a 20-30 program.

    Although I applaud your steadfastness to attend a top program, I would recommend that you decide if you really need an MBA. I say this because the age bias that you face at the admissions office is not even close to what you will face when you start to apply for internships and full-time positions. Not a single person over the age of 33 (or that looked it) at my program received either a paid internship or a full-time offer by graduation and the placement rate for the entire program is well into the 90’s.

    My decision to return for an MBA was driven by my desire to get out of a position and industry that seemed impossible to leave. I was making around $110,000/year at the time, but I wanted more responsibility and greater challenge and an MBA looked like the way to get it. I did not find an internship and I desperately needed income so I ended up with a part-time $7.65/hour summer job between my first and second year. I held out hope all summer that I would find a full-time gig in my second year so I decided to take it on the chin for a few months.

    My first post-MBA position was not anywhere close to MBA level and paid roughly 55% of my former salary. My second position is no better. I now lovingly refer to my MBA as my million dollar mistake because in ten-years (barring a miracle) that is what I (and my family) will have given up to get it. I am semi-unique in that I am married so my wife had to give up her job and move with me when I chose to return to school which slightly skews the numbers. She has also taken an income beating so our combined income is $70,000 lower per year post-MBA.

    The one thing I suggest is to keep your options open. I was laser-focused on a specific company and most of the decisions that I made (even choice of program emphasis) was based on my desire to secure a position with them. I still applied to myriad open positions (probably over 150 while in the program), but my main focus was them. I went to all of the on-campus information sessions, set-up informational interviews with employees (the corporate campus was 15 minutes from school), and told my story to everyone I met, including individuals as high as Sr. VPs. When I was asked why “blank” school? I responded “Because I want to work for you and this is where you recruit”. Unfortunately, drive, determination, and past successes mean nothing when recruiters and hiring managers see gray hair. That said, no one can ever take away my degree and I formed new friendships that span oceans so it was not a complete loss.

    I guess what we both have in common is an unwillingness to take no for an answer. I am still trying to get into that company and I am sure that you are still working all angles to get a spot in a top program. Good luck with your quest and I wish you all the best.

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      Hello Oliver thank you for that post. I really appreciate it and I am sorry to hear how tough of a time that you have had. I am well aware of the professional and financial risks of my decision to aim for a full time MBA program. One thing that helps me at least a little bit is that my goals are not company based; they are independent; so long term employment is less a part of the equation for me–at least for plan A it’s not. Let’s definitely keep in touch. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to subscribe.

      Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      It would also be interesting to know what your goals were and how you presented them. If you got rejection after rejection with a 710, age may not have been the deciding factor. Was the company that you were going for in consulting or i-banking? Those are the industries that drive the demand for younger MBAs from top programs, and schools know that. When you are 33+, having goals that are age agnostic tends to help.

      Reply

      • Oliver Says:

        That is a fair statement. Age is not the entire basis for a negative decision. Many factors influence the decision, including career progress to date and future career goals. I also hit the MBA application boom that occurred after the economic downturn which pushed a lot of highly qualified applicants to lower ranked programs (oops). I was actually looking for an Operations or Supply Chain role in retail when I first applied to MBA programs. That was an easier story to pitch in interviews and essays because it more closely matched my background.

        How is your search progressing?

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Ah makes sense. And the fact that you applied during an economic downturn not only makes sense regarding your admissions difficulty, but in your job prospects afterward as well. I am, however, curious as to why/how you were not able to match your pre-MBA salary post MBA. Thus far, I’m please with my search. I’ll know prior to Christmas whether I was able to successfully execute or not.

      • Oliver Says:

        I agree with mbaover30. The best way to assess your ability to find a job after graduation is to talk to current 2nd year students, preferably those who are in a similar situation. You may also be able to reach out to the alumni in your area. Top tier programs have incredibly strong networks that can be very useful before, during, and after your MBA experience. I firmly believe that the program (especially a top 5 school) would not accept you if they felt that you didn’t have a really good chance of getting a job when you graduate.

        Believe it or not, the most difficult thing for many spouses to get used to is the fact that their significant other will be spending more time at school than at home. There were times my wife wanted to run me over, but thankfully she never found the car keys. The loss in income can be hard to get used to as mbaover30 pointed out and the debt load can be rather intimidating (I am feeling that pain), but having a job that you enjoy is literally priceless. I have always felt that if you do something that you love, the money will follow (assuming that is what you are looking for). My brother-in-law loved to play the oboe when he was a kid. I thought he was crazy, but he loved it and he never put his instrument down. Now he plays for the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. He couldn’t be happier and he makes a really good living doing it.

        Moving your family across the country is a tough decision. I moved my wife and then one year old daughter from NYC to MN to get my MBA so I know exactly where you are coming from. My wife gave up her job and ended up working in various temporary roles for almost three years before finally landing a permanent position last month.

        Good luck and congratulations on being accepted to a great program!

      • Oliver Says:

        mbaover30

        My search did not land a full-time position before school ended so I resorted to sending out resumes blind via career sites with more companies than I care to remember. After going two years without any luck finding a job I have to admit that I was worried. I had a wife and three year old daughter with vision problems so I took the first job I was offered. If my financial situation was such that I could have held out longer I probably would have. That was July 2011. I haven’t stopped looking for something comparable to my pre-MBA salary, but alas, no luck. Unfortunately, once you take a step back it is much harder to move forward.

    • BAAP Says:

      Oliver, Just wanted to say I really appreciate your post. I am in an eerily similar position as you are. I just happen to be 2 years earlier in the process. I got admitted to a top 5 program but had to defer for a year for personal reasons. But I am reassessing whether I should still take the plunge or not. I am 30 (33 at graduation in 2015). I am married, with a baby on the way and would be moving across the country for school. I am not sure that I will want to go into consulting, but the thought that that option might be closed off to me due to unspoken age/experience restrictions bothers me severely. I want my MBA to open doors to do other things. I have entrepreneurial aspirations but may not be ready to make that jump right after business school. I see consulting as a place to park myself on an interim basis post business school. Also if you are saying that it’s just as difficult to get a role in other fields such as brand management or supply chain (I work in manufacturing) because of age restrictions, that is also a very scary proposition. I actually enjoy my current job and make >$100K/year. But I am not intrigued by the next two roles in my current career path. Any thoughts that you and/or mbaover30 can offer would be appreciated. I really wonder if I am being selfish uprooting my family to move across the country into an uncertain future, when I know that in my current career path, even though I may not love my future roles, I would still be progressing and earning tangible increases in income.

      Reply

      • mbaover30 Says:

        You have a hard decision to make in that A) There’s more than you and the fun/enrichment of this experience to think about. You have others to consider B) You already make great money (which your family is accustomed to and depends on), C) You might be taking on loads of debt (I don’t know your financial situation and won’t ask) . I will say, however, that 33 isn’t too old for consulting. It’s borderline, but within range. A good deal of graduates finish between 30-32 so you’re not so far off. I, on the other hand, will be just shy of my 38th birthday when I finish my program; completely different planet. If I were you I’d reach out to current 2nd year/recent graduates from your school who are 32-40 and get their perspective. You’re sure to find some gold there that will aid you in your decision.

      • Oliver Says:

        Sorry, I posted my reply to the previous thread.

    • BAAP Says:

      I appreciate the feedback and advise Oliver and mbaover30. I’ll be reaching out to 2nd year students to get a feel for the post MBA employment situation. I wish you both the best in your endeavors.

      Reply

      • Angie Says:

        I agree with one poster on here – it is VERY important to like what you do. We forget abou the fact that life is so very short…one day it could all end. If you were dying, and you had only a short time to live your life, would you be proud and thrilled with the way you lived it?

        I would have to say that I would be disappointed if I never got to have a job I enjoyed. To this day, I can safely say that I have never been employed in a position that I had a passion for. I work hard and strive for only the best in my finished work products. I seek out opportunities for improvement, and I respect the support and hard work of my colleagues. However, when I come to work, I am not thrilled about it. I am so very grateful for my position, and I am lucky to be employed. However, I want to strive for the global position I always dreamed of. This is why I would take this plunge – regardless of age or anything else.

        I do not have a family, however, and I greatly appreciate those persons that do. Kids are wonderful. I admire your tenacity for wanting to improve yourself for your family! Many have asked me why I do not request that my boyfriend come with me to my program of choice (IF accepted). I always tell them that I would never ask him to leave a wonderful position that he was recently promoted in. I think it gives me a golden opportunity to focus on my studies and my internships solely. If I am accepted, WHEN I am accepted, I plan to hit the program with the force of a fierce fighter…I want to gobble up every opportunity like a hungry animal!

        I wish you all the very best. You all sound so talented and intelligent – any program would be lucky to have you.

        mbaover30 – CONGRATULATIONS on all this success! So very cool.

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Inspiring post! The job that I am in now is the first that I have enjoyed; however, I have a strong desire to be in a higher level role so that I can drive the very management decisions that currently create situations that aggravate and annoy me.

      • Angie Says:

        I agree with that. I work in an office where average age is 50-55. You really only see promotions in those of folks who have a lot of “time in”. When policy is made, you are basically expected to agree and move on. Opinions are not welcome….not negative ones.

        I want to take a shot at truly having real impact. I had a taste of that as a team lead. I liked being able to have some authority…to be able to shape change.

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Angie, your job description reminds me of my old company. SO glad to be out of that! Good luck on getting out yourself.

      • Angie Says:

        Thank you so much. I appreciate it!

  15. Justin Says:

    As a recent PT MBA grad, I think there is value in any MBA. I would say that one of the biggest benefits, at least for me, is the network you will establish. I wouldn’t discount the value of a PT MBA for career changers. Perhaps your program will be different, but my school had both a full time and part time program. The majority of FT students were early 20s with no work exp, many were foreign students who intended on taking this valuable degree to their home country post graduation. Most PT MBA students were 35-45 and had full time managerial positions. I am 30 (started at 27) and am a career changer who was formerly active duty military. The visibility I got with these professionals has been invaluable. Though I was rough at first, they saw my work my tail off and grind through anything to ensure we were successful always. I now have immense opportunities and thru one of them I was employed in a great role at a top Fortune 500 company before I graduated. Many of my other cohortians made career changes too.

    The FT MBA programs will likely offer you tight connections and great opportunities too, but I suspect that many of your cohort members may have to get some experience themselves before they will be able to offer you networking benefits.

    In any event, you get out what you put in, so be ALL IN on it, it’s a life changing experience that is sure to pay off quickly for you, congrats on your decision!

    Reply

  16. TC Says:

    I don’t think you’ve really given any distinct reasons for a full time mba over an executive or PT MBA. You state “transformation” and skills and a network as your reasons why a full time program is necessary. Well, you’ll get that too from an EMBA. As a hiring manager, I am actually more impressed when I find out people did an EMBA.

    At any rate, congratulations on your acceptances. Obviously, the full-time programs are great and are the core of any great business school. But I just think you’re being a little hard on other types of programs.

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      Thank you TC; EMBAs are fine. Just not for me. When I speak of transformation i am talking about the MbA experience beyond just classes on weekends– and without the distraction of a job.

      Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      Im also not necessarily looking to get a job. I’d rather build a conpany.

      Reply

      • TC Says:

        Understood, but I think it’s a big misconception that EMBAs don’t have any entrepreneurs. Plenty of EMBA grads have started their own companies.

        Your reason for not wanting to be distracted by a job is the strongest reason for a full time, in my opinion.

      • mbaover30 Says:

        TC, that makes total sense to me. Thank you for lending that perspective. My (perhaps mis-) conception has been that EMBAs are for people who are trying to move up in their current jobs–basically checking the “MBA” box for that promotion into top executive roles. In my old (Fortune 50) company, that was what everyone did. I also remember being in a conference room just before an EMBA class where their companies were literally on their nametags. I can see, however, that my view of this might have been limited.

  17. ToluAgunbiade Says:

    I’m 35 from Nigeria and was accepted by Ross and Darden to the class of 2015. By this time last year, I was not sure of my chances of getting accepted by a top MBA program because of A) my age and B) that I’m from Africa. I thought that my age plus the fact that I’m from Africa is a toxic mixture any ad com will not want to consider. Those concerns though genuine, we’re unfounded. I’m glad to say that didn’t deter me and I’d be at Ann Arbor this fall with my colleagues at Ross to commence my MBA journey.

    Reply

  18. Oliver Says:

    The real challenge is not necessarily getting into a program, it is getting a job once you get out. Many companies are looking for a cookie-cutter MBA. In other words, under the age of 30 with 5-7 years of work experience. Once you are beyond that point they are less and less interested in you based on how far away from that target they think you are. I had one individual who held a good position with a DOW component company tell me that he would never hire someone like me because his boss’s boss said not to. Why? Age.

    Age bias is alive and well but it can be overcome. Be strong, be positive and never give up. Many of the over 30’s in my class formed an unofficial club – the OFC (Old Farts Club) – to be a support network for one another. Alright, maybe it was just another excuse to have a happy hour.

    I am not here to tell you what to do or assume that your position is the same as mine. My father was a teacher and because of that I place more value on education than most so I am all for people wanting to better themselves. All I would recommend is for you to connect with current students and alumni that were/are in your position to find out exactly what you are up against post-graduation. I wish I had. There is a good chance that I never would have attended a full-time program.

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      Great input Oliver! Wharton has such a club as well. As an entrepreneur, my goals are age agnostic (though some VC’s discriminate there as well); I am convinced that this gave me a slight bump in admissions. I may, however, recruit for Google.

      Reply

  19. MapleLeaf Says:

    Hi mbaover30,
    Your blog is very interesting and should I say an eye-opener of sorts. I’m 37 and will be 38 in 4 months. Indian male IT – the most common breed that you will see among foreign students. My pursuit of MBA started 2012 September after I was dinged for an EMBA at one of Canada’s popular schools (because my profile did not stand out). My ego took a bruise and I then decided to go for a FT MBA. Little did I realize what a pain GMAT was. A year of study and 2 attempts – My best score is 630(Q42 V35). I have still not given up hope. I have been pushing myself to work even harder.

    I’m married and have a 1 year old daughter. My wife is apprehensive of whether I will find a job post MBA (assuming I get an admit to top 10 program) but she is very supportive of my initiative. She has sacrificed more than one can ask for in the last 1 year especially with an infant.

    If you ask me why I need a MBA. It is the same stuff – plateau at your career, want to shift gears etc.. After having read your blogs I realize I don’t have a strong motive and neither did I think hard as to why I need an MBA. I recently read about Sloan Fellows and talked to someone who graduated at MIT last year. He was forthright in mentioning that except for him (of course sponsored candidates), none in his class could get a job. He strongly advised me to assess the risks and not dream of a plush corner office post MBA

    I cannot take off more than a year of studying due to family considerations and at this time have narrowed myself to Cornells 1 year, Kellog’s 1 year and MIT Sloan.

    Your blog and words give me the strength and resolve to go for it but I have also realized after reading all the comments here that unless I convince myself strongly that I need an MBA, it makes little sense to pursue my journey.

    Thank you once again…You have simulated my thought process

    Reply

  20. Andrew Says:

    We have to get real here. If you are leaving the work force to obtain your FT MBA as the author of this piece suggests…you want to become a full time entrepreneur only. That does make sense. However, if you are over 30 and leaving your employer to say you “have a calling to do FT because it better fits your needs in order to get a better job” is just plain BS. If you are truly established in your field and are fully valued by your employer an EMBA program is the way to go. It shows commitment to your career and WILL fast track you. In kind, if you leave in search for other opportunities am EMBA shows a stronger hand. To explain, if you are over 30 and leave a job to pursue a FT MBA says to me as a hiring manager that you are not fully committed to your career and or have not found yourself yet. Which in turn, I would steer away from you as a candidate. On the other hand, an EMBA candidate who is successfully working full time…that is commitment. This assumption in that model is that both candidates are in top programs for either FT MBA or EMBA.

    And yes, I have received my EMBA from a top school here in NYC. And yes, my employer did pay 80% of my tuition. And yea, I was them fast tracked when I submitted my 4.0 gap.

    Bottoms line: if you are over 30 and want to fully be an entrepreneur then go for your FT MBA. If not, you will look weak and someone who is a “career student instead of a doer”. In that case, go for your EMBA. If your employer is not willing to sponsor you…there is most likly a reason for that. Self awareness goes a lot further than a degree. Start there.

    Reply

    • mbaover30 Says:

      Thanks for your perspective Andrew, but I must respectfully disagree. Few millennials–many who are now in their 30’s–are interested into being “fast tracked” or “climbing the ladder” at one company. They want the option and flexibility to be free agents with a prestigious MBA as one of several stamps on the passport that grants them that fluidity. To this cohort–and I include myself because I have always had millennial values despite being 3-4 years older than the “official” cutof–staying at one company and “moving up on the fast track” is not a sign of having “found ourselves” or being “self aware”. If anything, it symbolizes becoming stale and not being open to, aware of or able to matriculate into exciting new opportunities to learn new things and apply all that we’ve learned in previous roles, companies and industries up to that point. Additionally, a prestigious MBA is not needed to do that anyway. A strong and well-respected local EMBA program or PT EMBA program with a powerful local network will more than do the trick. I could have gotten a company to pay for me to get an EMBA or PT EMBA at a #20-50 school years ago (because only 3-4 top schools have EMBA programs and you must be local to them to really make them a good decision; I was not); and if I had done that, yes, I would have been fast tracked in that company/industry.. But I would not be getting constantly trolled and recruited by some of the hottest companies on the planet the way that I am now. In fact, I was looking to ESCAPE the people at my old companies if anything lol! The last thing I wanted was to play politics with them in order to “move up” there. Either path is good for a particular kind of person, but be careful about knocking the full time path simply because you made another choice. I’ve never met a top MBA graduate who attended mid-career who wished they had gone back and done it via the executive route; in fact, many people at Booth use the PT/EMBA option as a way to back door into full time Booth MBA’s program..transferring after a semester or so in order to have the amazing experience that a prestigious full-time MBA provides.

      Reply

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