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Dan Bauer:

“An increasing number of women are pursuing admission to the top schools”


Dan Bauer, founder and Managing Director of The MBA is interviewed by to EuropeanPWN:

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Dan Bauer?

I have the privilege of leading The MBA Exchange http://www.mbaexchange.com/, advising applicants to the world´s best business schools. A 1990 MBA graduate of Harvard, my previous career included marketing management positions with Citibank and MasterCard International. I´ve served on the board of directors of the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago and was an advisor to the University of Chicago´s Graham School of Continuing Education. I live in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park with my wife Debra, a CPA and music teacher. We have two sons, one in the music industry in New York City and the other a college senior – both future MBAs!

What is the MBA Exchange?

Founded in 1996, The MBA Exchange has worked with over 1,200 business school applicants from around the world, including many from Europe. Our consulting team features former admissions officers and experienced MBA graduates from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Kellogg, Tuck, Chicago and INSEAD. Most of my colleagues here are women. Our expertise has been featured in major media including BusinessWeek.com, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Economic Times of India, Hong Kong Career Times, and Washington (DC) Business Journal.

Each year The MBA Exchange provides thousands of free evaluations through our website for future applicants who seek an objective assessment of their b-school potential; this produces a robust database that enables us to weight and compare each applicant´s individual strengths and weaknesses, and then to project admissions success. Our concept of an "exchange" distinguishes us from traditional advisory services by involving our former clients — current and past MBA students – who help current applicants with insights and information about their respective b-schools.

In your experience, why are women going for an MBA? What is their main motivation?

Working with hundreds of highly motivated female applicants from around the world, we find that women are motivated by the same factors as men. That is, they want the core knowledge, strategic perspective and network of relationships necessary to achieve their highest potential. Many don´t know exactly what they will do immediately after graduation, let alone 10 or 20 years into the future. However, they do realize that investing two years and six-figures in a top education can catapult their careers and provide a lifetime safety net like nothing else. The financial break-even may take a few years, but with a prestigious MBA the return-on-investment is virtually guaranteed.

Have you noticed any recent tendency for an increase in the number of women applicants to b-schools?

Over the 12 years that The MBA Exchange has worked with applicants, we have seen a steadily increasing number of women pursuing admission to the top schools. Earlier in this decade, when total application volume was lower, the schools were trying to improve the percentage of female students and started to market themselves more aggressively. That triggered a heightened interest in MBA programs among upwardly mobile women that continues to this day.

What do you think women gain from getting an MBA education?

It´s always difficult to generalize, but many women find that a top MBA degree is an "enabler." That is, the education is a way of creating more and better career opportunities, moving forward at a faster pace, building alliances that produce future job offers, being considered for promotion ahead of non-MBAs, getting funding for entrepreneurial ventures, and "joining the club" that historically has been the domain of males.

Have you any statistical data concerning age? What is the average age for women applying for an MBA?

We´ve found that women applicants tend to "bracket" their male counterparts in terms of age. That is, many females are applying just a couple of years after college in order to accelerate their careers rather than just "putting in their time." Or they may choose to apply 10 years later, after getting married but before having children, trying to jumpstart a career that has slowed or to change industries or functions. A bonus is that the MBA degree can provide a "return ticket" to the job market after devoting a few years to raising kids.

Is there a best age for women to apply for an MBA? Do you have an advice for older women candidates?

The "best" age varies among applicants. The challenge is to find that optimal time when you are old enough to demonstrate solid skills and results, but young enough to have "growth room" in your career. Business schools want students who bring practical knowledge gained in the workplace as well as the hunger to challenge assumptions, create innovative solutions and look beyond the bottom line. .

Regarding older applicants, I relate well, having attended Harvard Business School at age 39. I would tell others age 35+ to consider executive and part-time MBA programs as an alternative to the full-time programs. However, if the immersion of a full-time MBA is important, then go for it! As one of my mentors told me when I was wrestling with the decision of whether to go to b-school, "Two years from now, no matter what you decide, you´re going to be two years older. So, why not be two years older with a top MBA? Besides, there´s no decision for you to make until you´re offered admission!"

What is your advice to women candidates considering a top MBA education?

Think big, have confidence, and keep selling until the sale is made.

Set your sites high in terms of the caliber of school that you attend. The lifetime benefits, financial and otherwise, of graduating from a top-tier business schools can be huge. If you don´t prepare thoroughly and apply aggressively, there´s no chance of getting in.

Believe in yourself. Every applicant has unique experiences and assets that would add value to classmates and the overall MBA program. Be proud of that. Your uniqueness is important and valued by admissions committees. They could fill every seat with applicants who have 4.0 GPAs and 760 GMATs, but they don´t. The better the school, the more they want diversity and balance in building the incoming class.

Compete hard until you have received your offer of admission. This means building your resume, cultivating your recommenders, crafting great essays, visiting schools, introducing yourself to students and alumni, going the extra mile. There are thousands of other applicants, male and female, who have stronger credentials than you. However, by convincing the admissions committee that you understand value and embody their selection criteria, have strong examples of your impact, and hold powerful aspirations for your future, you can win.

Of interest