Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ivy league going the IIM way

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


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I am pretty happy to hear that... but the financial requirements are enough to make most of the people work for 2-3 years... if we want to talk in Indian perspective, I think the top graduates from IITs make through these schools... coz I recall some 10 odd people who have joined in past two years and all of them are toppers from IITs... And what I get from them is that 2-3 years work ex is needed in order to meet the financial needs... neverthless this news is a more than welcome thing... and m just keeping my fingers crossed...

  3. strange cos the IIMs seem to be going the other of them has the all time highest proportion of work ex ppl this year. the ratio has been steadily increasing every year and so is the average work experience.

  4. Nice read. Another practical aspect is how well would an Indian person with an Indian graduation(B.E., B.Com. etc.) and a US Post Graduation (by our standards) be taken in Corporate America and more so how well will she/he adapt to that environment. MBA being such a hands on practical professional course in most cases. I am of the belief that a couple of years of working in US would teach one more than all the case study, internship and field studies will in the 1-2 years of a MBA, especially if it's done in the same field; as is the case in India.

  5. Is this because of a potential slowdown in the US, that people are not too keen on doing that MBA now which makes schools look for younger chaps?

  6. 2 questions:
    1) How does the title relates to the post?? There is no connection, infact, IIMs seem to be going other way as also pointed out by duke..

    2) Whats wrong with 'Kheti' as work-ex??

  7. I think it is misleading to say that Ivy Leagues are going the IIM way. As pointed out by other commenters, IIMs are steadily moving towards applicants with work ex. Also, all the top US Bschools still have average age of 27-29 years, despite their admitting more 'fresh' candidates.

    Further, these 'fresh' applicants have an exceptional profile and because of that their numbers are not going to be too high unless the schools lower their standards considerably (which I don't think they will do).

  8. its all about variety !!

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