Even if she had worked three or four years before applying to business school, Ellis still feels she would have been too young at 24. "The M.B.A. curriculum is better understood and applied later through the lens of experience," she says. "Entering the workplace without that immediate application was a lose-lose for me and the company."
[Thinking of applying for an M.B.A.? See our Best Business Schools rankings.]
Many business schools agree, which is why so many clearly state on their websites that early career students need not apply. But there are exceptions, such as Assumption.
Some schools offer tips to young M.B.A. aspirants on their websites, such as the Middleton, Conn.-based Wesleyan University, which has a page devoted to "When to attend business school," and the University of California—San Diego's Rady School of Management.
According to Melinda Battenberg, assistant director of marketing and communications at the Rady School, three of the 57 full-time M.B.A. students who entered the school in fall 2011 were accepted directly from undergraduate programs.
"We look for students who have demonstrated that when they come into an M.B.A. class environment that they can make a significant contribution to classroom discussions with fellow students who have work experience," she says.
Gary Carini, associate dean for graduate programs at Baylor University's business school, says about 20 percent to 25 percent of the approximately 50 students who enter the M.B.A. program each fall are accepted directly from an undergraduate program. "We look for exceptionally strong students who not only have strong GPAs and test scores, but show excellence in the experience they have had thus far," he says. "They have to convince us that they, at an early age of 21 or 22, should be part of our program."
"I think you're an entrepreneur in two key moments in your life: either right out of college or much later in your career, when you're established and have less to lose," he says.
[Read why new graduates should consider entrepreneurship.]
In between the two, banking and consulting professionals are particularly averse to taking risks, because they are trying to advance within the system, according to Kafie, and business schools aren't paying enough attention to young "hard core" entrepreneurs, who aren't even considering working in corporate America.
"Business school programs really miss out on those candidates the moment they don't admit them for lack of work experience," he says. "Now that I am a few years into my own venture, I cannot imagine going back to business school, even on a part-time basis."
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