Posted by: Geoff Gloeckler on May 16, 2008
Recently I’ve received a few emails from college seniors asking if it’s possible to go straight from undergrad to a top B-school without the “normal” two to five years of work experience. The simple answer is yes, it’s possible. It just isn’t easy. And it appears that now it’s even harder than it was a few years back.
At the University of Chicago, I’m told you can count the number of accepted MBA students with no work experience for the Class of 2010 on one hand. That number is holding steady. At Harvard, 22 college seniors were offered direct admission, but considering the total class size will be in the ballpark of 900, that doesn’t amount to much. At Notre Dame, work experience is down, but everyone offered admission to the Class of 2011 has at least a little.
Bottom line: It’s a tough time to be graduating from college with the job market in a state of flux and the economy on a downturn. So it makes perfect sense that more students are weighing their options in looking for ways to put off their dive into the working world. The problem is, folks with the “normal” amount of experience are thinking the same thing, opting to take two years and invest it in B-school in the hopes of when they graduate, job prospects might be a little more positive. This means that application numbers are on the rise and schools aren’t as hard up to find qualified candidates to fill their classes.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Apart from being one of the lucky few who are accepted right out of undergrad, a number of schools offer options to get an MBA with less than the usual experience. For instance, schools like Indiana, Rochester, and Carnegie Mellon offer a 3-2 program. Simply put, this means a student can get an undergraduate degree and an MBA in five years. On a similar note, a few years ago Harvard Business School launched the 2+2 program in which college juniors apply to HBS then once they are accepted, they work for two years in an approved job then enter the B-school. As an observer, it seems like a win for both the student and the school. The student is guaranteed a spot at a top MBA program and the school gets a strong student with two years of good work experience.
For students graduating now, it’s probably too late to get into these kind of programs, but for juniors it might be something to consider.