MBA or MS in USA at 30 after 6 years of work experience

MBA or MS at 30 after 6 years of work experience

The average age in MS programs is lower than the average age for MBA programs. In most cases, based on the candidates experience and career goals, only one of those two degrees would be a good choice.

When supply chain professional, Nidhi, was applying for masters degrees, she picked a combination of MBA and MS programs. She explains why she decided to do that, and how she tackled the dilemma of choosing between multiple MBA and MS university admits with scholarships.
 


MBA or MS in USA at 30 after 6 years of work experience

by Nidhi

 
I actively participated in stage plays, debates etc. during my school days. I also found a plethora of such opportunities during my engineering days at my alma mater, NIT Jalandhar. I maintained an average GPA there and was in the top 10 students of my branch.

After graduation, I joined IBM India as a SAP Supply Chain Consultant. It gave me a chance to learn the business side of supply chain as well. Here, I was getting a chance to speak to global IT Directors, Operations Managers that allowed me to pick up the business communications skills and jargon used in addition to technical skills.

The job was highly challenging in terms of managing customer expectations and client management skills. But little did I know that this was my preparation for the journey that I am looking forward to right now.

I knew the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system side of supply chain and wanted to equip myself with the supply chain analytics and business fundamentals as well.

Upon rigorous research, I shortlisted seven target schools for MS and MBA programs based upon program rankings, employment opportunities, personal preferences and financial implications.

Based upon my research on the class profiles and various interactions with alumnus of my target schools, I got a realistic idea of GMAT score required, scholarship opportunities and its requirements, and employment opportunities post-graduation.

Another way of research that I adopted was to search for prospective students on forums such as MBA Crystal Ball and GMAT Club where you can get plenty of information on how the entire process evolves.

In fact, I then contacted them over LinkedIn. In my experience, every single connection that I contacted over LinkedIn was extremely helpful in answering any query related to the school or curriculum.

I got a GMAT score of 690 in my second attempt. My second attempt was roughly after one month of preparation post my first attempt. For Verbal, I focused on Official Guides (OG) and e-GMAT.

For Quant, I completely relied on GMAT Club Quant practice and Manhattan books. I wasn’t very happy with my score but I knew if I could couple my application with strong essays, my score should not prove to be a disadvantage for me.

For my first round of applications, I barely had a month. All of my prior research came extremely handy while drafting my essays. For any clarifications, I could easily connect with alumnus that I got in touch prior to my GMAT preparation.

For MBA application essays, my learning has been that if one is clear about his/ her career goals and has a roadmap to meet those goals, it is just a matter of translating your thoughts into words.

I had put in exactly those instances that motivated me to pursue a career in supply chain and let those unique occurrences during my job assignments reflect in my essays as well.

I gave my best to my application essays, got them reviewed from my husband and my brother multiple times and they started taking a satisfactory shape after a couple of iterations. With every next application, my essays improved.

I finalized upon seven schools for specialization in supply chain for a mix of MBA and MS programs, and luckily got through all of them.
 

My admission results

 

MBA applications

  • Broad School of Business – with around 95% tuition waiver
  • Wisconsin School of Business – First year tuition waiver
  • W.P. Carey School of Business – Full-tuition waiver with a GA stipend
  • Smeal School of Business – Full-tuition waiver with a monthly stipend

 

MS in Supply Chain Programs

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT – $10,000 in scholarship
  • Michigan Ross – $5000 in scholarship
  • UW Foster School of Business – no scholarship

After I had heard all of my results, my next dilemma was to decide between MBA and MS.
 

MBA or MS after 30: Which is better?

Most of the MS programs are STEM certified and have their obvious advantage. They are of shorter duration as well.

But then, the scholarship opportunities are limited too whereas, in case of MBA there are plenty of scholarship opportunities.

Also, another advantage is that the job roles and employment opportunities are more diverse after an MBA degree.

Since I was getting decent scholarship for MBA programs which are also highly ranked programs for supply chain, I decided to go ahead with an MBA degree.

But this decision wasn’t easy as like every other prospective student, MIT is too hard to resist as an option. Although I had decided upon an MBA, I needed a third part impersonal viewpoint as well.

Here, my LinkedIn interactions with Sameer Kamat further helped me in my decision making and re-instated my confidence that I was thinking in the right direction.

Although I had no formal engagement with MBA Crystal Ball, Sameer was still very helpful with all the queries that I had. I am very thankful for his kind gesture.
 

Lessons and tips

Overall, I had quite a few learnings during my entire journey that I would like to share with you all. To briefly quote a few:

  1. Aim to keep at least two months of buffer between your exam and the time you plan to start working on your application so that you have time for a re-attempt if needed.
  2. Not all of the schools need official GMAT and TOEFL reports at the time of application. Please do remember to check for this condition carefully while applying. It saves you a lot of money.
  3. Some schools waive off the application fee as well if you attend information sessions. I got it for few of my applications (especially for second round applications.)
  4. It’s advisable to get in touch with admissions committee in case you have any questions prior to your application as well. Believe me the relationship that you nurture will even help you when you request for a favor such as extension of deposit deadlines or negotiating upon your scholarships.
  5. Keep official academic transcripts (more than one) of your previous institution ready in advance as some schools do ask to upload unofficial transcripts at the time of application. Also, check if the school needs a WES evaluation as well. In my case, Ross needed one and didn’t review application till WES evaluation was completed.
  6. Utilize the extra word space in form of optional essays in your application. I used it to highlight my average grades in some subjects such as Mathematics or Computer Science subjects for MS programs.
  7. All of the schools that I applied to, had different essay questions. So, I tried to ensure that I was answering every question in specific and did not take any single answer as a reference.
  8. MBA interviews are generally conducted in order to understand you as a person. Let your personality, aspirations and beliefs shine through.
  9. GMAT is just one component of our application. If you can couple it with strong essays and recommendations, you have already made a strong application there.
  10. In case your target school doesn’t have any preference for GMAT over GRE and if you are comfortable with either format, I feel it is better to write GRE exam. The reasons being its wider applicability to both MS and MBA programs these days and lower cost as compared to GMAT exam. The difference in the cost is not just accounted to the higher cost of GMAT exam but also the additional score reports that you order.
  11. Application essays or video essays get better with every application. So, make sure that your dream school gets the best application attempt.

 
Looking back, since I wanted to explore in the area of supply chain, I would not have changed my choices of schools. They are all great schools and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire application process with each one of them.

But I wish I had devoted more time for my AWESOME video application for MIT SCM Residential program.

So, once you have decided to spend your money, time and energy on a school application, make sure you have put your best foot forward.

Most importantly, stay optimistic during the entire journey as one improves with every application.

My husband has been my biggest strength during this academic journey and didn’t let my confidence waver at any point of time. My family helped me stay optimistic even when my GMAT mock tests were not so encouraging.

With the Covid-19 situation, financial implications have played out a huge role in my decision making.

Further with visa uncertainty right now, I am not sure how the situation would evolve in the coming months.

If everything goes as planned, I have decided to go ahead with W.P. Carey as it is a STEM MBA program now and has a location advantage as well.

However, only time will tell what my fate holds!

Lastly, I didn’t have an extraordinary GMAT score or have a very coveted work experience but I chose to put my best in every application and highlighted in what ways I performed my regular tasks at my job in a different manner.

Sincerity and honesty in the process definitely helps.

Wish you all the very best as you plan to make the best move :-)
 


Also read:
MBA after 30: Pros and cons
Never too old for a Masters degree, says 29-year-old IT engineer
MBA or MS after engineering: Which is better?


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// Sameer Kamat
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

4 Comments

  1. Anupriya says:

    It think the title of the content is lost in the story. i looked into this story to understand details of why MBA over MS. Pros and Cons of Choosing MS overMBA. What if you choose MS in 30s. When is the right age for MS and MBA. This is should have been revolving around MS and MBA rather than GMAT and essays.

    • Nidhi Virdi says:

      Hi Anupriya,
      While the debate may revolve around MS or MBA after an applicant’s certain age/ work experience, I personally feel it’s more of a choice of curriculum that you wish to study for the next 1/ 2 years and the kind of cohort you would want to interact with. To elaborate more upon the curriculum, MBA and MS are vastly different and it’s about whether you wish to study the breadth of business fundamentals (including) or achieve more depth in your area of concentration. Secondly, rather than age of the applicant, I think what matters more is the average work experience or the average age of the cohort of the program. You will often find more established MS programs having an average cohort work experience of +5 years. Or vice-versa, there might be some MBA program too with an average cohort work experience of less than 5 years. So, it’s up to you to make a choice here.
      From my list of choices, two of the MS programs listed above had a pretty decent average cohort work experience. So, those options were on my wish list as well. Hope this helps. Good luck!

      Best,
      Nidhi

  2. Kumar Utkarsh says:

    Congratulations on your success. I can very much relate to this post as I am also traversing the same path(well almost). I am looking into an MBA for changing my career as a merchant navy professional to a supply chain/operations specialist. I have same GMAT score and 8+ years of experience. Could you throw some light over your school selection? I would be grateful if you could give some guidance wrt current scenario? Thanks

    • Nidhi Virdi says:

      Hi Utkarsh,
      Thank You so much!

      Great to hear that you are planning to pursue an MBA in supply chain concentration as well. All of the schools that I mentioned above are renowned for supply chain in US. You can also check the respective MBA rankings at US News or Poets and Quants. Speaking specifically for US supply chain school rankings, you will find that many of the top-rated schools are state universities. So, you can try for the scholarships accordingly. More expensive good options could include CMU Tepper.
      Assuming you are applying for next year, I would suggest that you include more schools in your wish list as the competition is stated to increase. Please plan for Covid-19 uncertainty too when you make your decision as a sudden urgency could add to your worries (if you are thinking of financing your studies). Hope this helps and I wish you all the best.

      Best,
      Nidhi

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