This post is about older MBA applicants. Those who are over 30, have over 9-12 years of experience, and are wondering about applying to business schools.
Here are my five short thoughts for such applicants
1. Apply to schools which have higher average age intake - European schools like INSEAD, IMD are more welcoming. Harvard, Stanford are known to favor younger applicants. Columbia, Chicago and Wharton seem to be more accepting. Going to class and sitting with 95% others who are 8 years younger than you isn't exactly a utopian setting. It's important to have many who are within the 3-4 year range age as your own.
2. Don't assume experience will offset a poor GMAT - As an older applicant, you need to demonstrate mental agility and also contribute to the top school's higher average GMATs. A lower GMAT will hurt chances. A strong GMAT is one way to show you are as sure footed as the diaper-wearin'-2-year-experienced baby next to you ;)
3. The more experience you have, the greater is the expectation of leadership roles in your career. People with technical backgrounds and little vertical growth are at a disadvantage. If you are contemplating on applying to MBA in a few years, then it is time for you to start looking at getting leadership positions. My assessment is that when you have 1-4 years of experience, the adcoms look at potential. If you have 4 to 6/8, then signs of emerging leadership. Beyond 6-8 then you must be a proven leader.
4. In your applications, focus on showing strong business/managerial track record. Use numbers where possible. Paint a picture of business achievement. I don't think the ad-coms really care if you are an expert in multi-processor/multi-threaded architecture and can code assembly language while looking at Jessica Alba with one eye and Carmen Electra with the other. Cut the technical crap and save it for Slashdot.
5. Have the humility to accept that the chocolate-chewin'-4-year-experience kid next to you will probably know a few things far better than you do.
'Why MBA at this stage' is a question that might be asked. Interestingly, both my interviewers never asked that. But if you are, then be prepared.