Q: I’m a successful entrepreneur and executive in a family company. I’m in my mid-thirties and have five children, but I’ve always wondered about getting an MBA from a top school and testing myself in the corporate world. My undergraduate grades are good, but the GMAT looks like Greek to me. What do you recommend?
A: As for the GMAT, it’s a form of aptitude test that’s not like riding a bike. It’s best taken when you’re in college, taking similar timed tests frequently. It also tests basic college math and English skills that aren’t used much in the workplace. I’m confident that with practice you could recover your college skills and memories and raise your score.
That begs the question of how much effort you should put into the GMAT. Many top business schools may worry about your age. They cultivate relationships with companies that give new MBA graduates entry-level professional positions. You could be viewed as over-qualified in terms of work experience and thus difficult to place, as employers might ask whether you’d be happy in this kind of position.
From a personal standpoint, you would face a great opportunity cost in leaving your current employment and a significant out-of-pocket cost in relocating to a traditional college campus. You’d certainly learn a lot there, but your greater life and work experience might make you feel as though you’re getting relatively less than your younger, less-experienced colleagues.
If you’re set on getting into the Fortune 500 world, a full-time MBA at a top school may be worth the effort and sacrifice. The one thing they offer that is hard to get otherwise is career placement with these firms.
However, your greater experience and current employment opportunities make an alternative such as a Western Governors University MBA something to consider. You could complete the degree without relocating or giving up your employment. You’d get most of what you want in terms of substantive learning while moving at your own pace and perhaps saving time because of what you already know. Also, WGU does not require the GMAT.
It really comes down to your desire to take the corporate career path. I enjoyed that path for several years but have also found satisfaction in other things. The bright lights of Boston and New York have their charms, but so do the starry skies of Idaho. You can find intellectual challenges and opportunities to serve wherever you create them.