When to Attend Business School

If you are in college and keenly interested in an MBA, you ought consider carefully two options: (1) entering business school right after college, or (2) working for 3-5 years prior to enrolling (unless you’re an older undergraduate with full-time work-years behind you).

Entering business school immediately after graduation– while not a common practice – is a growing one. This is because institutions compete vociferously for the most able students; they are willing to adjust curricula to meet needs of students with little to no real experience.

Some admit college seniors with mutual understandings to postpone enrollment so that students can acquire professional experience. A few strong places, such as the University of Rochester’s Simon School, are more open to admitting college students upon graduation if they present with compelling work experience and/or in-school extracurricular records.

Generally, however, admissions officers go for those who have been working 3- 5 years. Your employment record should demonstrate consistently strong (or improving) performance, and include one or more promotions (where possible) with an attendant set of increased responsibilities.

Business schools seek leaders — that is to say, people who can be assertive and take the lead, as well as those who know when it’s time to retreat and take direction. Both attributes are found in our very best business leaders, not to mention the movers and shakers outside of business.

Finally, you need not already be in consulting or investment banking to be attractive to admissions committees, especially given the universal need for professional managers. MBA’s work in think tanks, universities, government, hospitals, classrooms, mosques, law firms, law schools, colleges, small to medium sized family-run businesses, real estate development, construction firms, museums, opera houses, ballet companies, orchestras, political campaigns, utility companies, film studios, newsrooms and, of course, the traditional banking and consulting industries.