Yesterday I bumped into a Stanford GSB student and learnt something new. It is possible for foreign students enter one of America's top bschools with negligible or even zero work experience.
"The youngest person in my class is just 21, and with a kheti background (ie family owns a horticulture business)," he said. And there are other examples of students at Stanford GSB who are just graduates or have 1-2 years work ex.
"Of course your profile should stand out in some way," he adds.
Frankly, this news has left me a bit confused. What does one now advise the numerous students who ask:"What is the eligibility for a top 20 US bschool?" Is the standard answer of '4-5 years of work ex' redundant??
Some google research reveals that there is an effort by leading bschools to recruit younger applicants. Since 2006 Stanford GSB has lowered its age requirement for Chinese applicants.
Guangdong Online reports: "Our school welcomes undergraduate applicants with outstanding experience," said Seda Mansour, a vice director with the Stanford business school's recruitment office.
The Wharton School also greatly encourages Chinese applicants with less than two years of work experience.
In 2007, a QS TopMBA Applicant Survey revealed that the average age of MBA applicants has fallen to 25.5 years, from 26.8 years in 2004.
Columbia is actively seeking to recruit fresh graduates into her class of 2007 – academic high-fliers who would otherwise be lost to the business school world once they enter fast track careers in banking or elsewhere. Columbia will also target a greater number of candidates with less than three years of work experience.
Harvard Business School has also started to recruit younger students to their MBA programme. They target students within 3 years of graduating from university or college. The average age of the Harvard MBA student was 27 years of age, but has fallen to 26 years of age as the school has recently admitted a number of 22 year-olds.
However, the survey noted that while US bschools are becoming more flexible, European bschools have not changed their policy. The average age at top European bschools remains 28.5 years.
Do younger applicants face a problem in the job market? Apparently not.
According to Jana Kierstead, Director of MBA Career Services at Harvard Business School, younger students received salaries just as competitive as their more experienced classmates, and equally across all industries.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Katherine Schwab, a vice president at Citigroup, says she has recruited "young, hungry" M.B.A. graduates at Rochester with great success for the company's finance training program.
"The students we have hired at Rochester bring a lot of energy and flexibility," she says. "They haven't had management experience in the past and are willing to travel all over the world and approach different opportunities with a lot of enthusiasm."
Hmm, sounds like the Ivy league may be headed the IIM way. And it's ironic because IIMs have always faced criticism for taking in fresh graduates.
Chicago GSB and some other top-ranked schools have relaxed work-experience requirements partly in hopes of attracting more minorities and women.
Whatever the reasons, the bottomline is, if you have a high GMAT score, great academics and something in your CV which stands out in terms of leadership skills or entrepreneurial experience, you should take a shot at top US bschools. Even as you take the CAT, XAT and all that.
The good news is that if you are admitted to a school like Stanford GSB, you will automatically be eligible for a student loan to fund your studies. And of you can apply for the Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani fellowships at Stanford which covers ALL your expenses (estimated to be $ 83,000 per year).
The only condition being that after graduation you must return to India for a minimum of two years of employment in the private or public sector.
Last year there were 1400 applications for 5 fellowships which is tough competition but still worth trying for!
If you are an student or graduate of a foreign bschool do share your insights and experiences with me. Especially on this work ex issue but any other topics also welcome. Drop me a line at rashmi_b at yahoo.com.