Although more students are applying to attend graduate or law school directly after graduation, students should hold a job for at least two years to discover their interests and goals, a university official said. William Cron, professor of marketing and academic director of the MBA program for the Neeley School of Business, said an ideal MBA candidate would have professional experience.
“Our ideal candidate is going to have somewhere within a 650 to 690 GMAT score, probably five years of experience and a science background…beyond all that, somebody who has a pretty good idea of what they want to do when they get out of the program,” Cron said. “It is also really, really important that this person be a person of action.”
Applications for admission to graduate schools within the United States increased 4.8 percent between the fall of 2007 and the fall of 2008, according to the Council of Graduate Schools Web site.
Cron said he thought the poor economy was the main motivation for some students applying for a graduate program without work experience.
Increasing interest in graduate school was reflected in the rising number of admission test takers. It was estimated that about 270,000 people took the Graduate Management Admission Test in 2009, about 2,300 more than the previous year, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council. In addition, the number of LSATs administered in 2009 rose 6.4 percent from 2008, according to the Law School Admission Council Web site. In 2008, the number of LSATs administered rose only 1.6 percent when compared to the year before. Further, the number of Graduate Record Examination test takers rose to 670,000, a record 13 percent increase compared to last year, according to an article in The New York Times that cited the Educational Testing Service.
“Coming out with a degree, (students) don’t see the opportunities for employment right now,” Cron said. “They make themselves more employable by going to graduate school.” Cron said that a benefit of an MBA is the ability to make an adjustment in a career.
Maddison Grigsby, a senior international finance major, said that although she was confident in her ability to network and hold a job in this economy, she has seen friends who have struggled to find a job after recently graduating. “Undergrad is great, but undergrad is more (of) an expectation,” Grigsby said. “People are getting higher quality education and getting more education. If you don’t have a master’s, then you are likely not going to be marketable for the upper-level jobs.” Grigsby said she did not consider herself to be a marketable candidate to an MBA program without a few years of professional experience.
“There is not just one path,” Cron said. “The hidden cost…is that students who start out in one direction find out they don’t like what they have been studying or that there is greater opportunity for them elsewhere.”
Melissa Moody, a senior business information systems and supply and value chain management major, said that she is concerned about the job market outlook for when she graduates, but that the Neeley School has prepared her for the future. “I really took the initiative to talk with a lot of my professors and get mentored by some business people in the community,” Moody said.
Cron said he recommends students take on an internship before considering a direct transition into a graduate program.
Sixty people entered Neeley’s full-time MBA program this year, an increase of almost 50 percent from last year, Cron said. Of those 60, two were coming directly from an undergraduate program, Cron said. Neeley’s MBA students have an average of four years of professional experience, he said. As Neeley received more applicants to its full-time MBA program, it also received more qualified applicants, Cron said. In 2008, the average GMAT score of a Neeley MBA applicant was 608. Today the average GMAT score is 639.
Cron said the national trends in younger graduate students are not as prevalent at the university. Although the economy is a factor in graduate school interest, he said the reputation of the Neeley MBA program and the attractiveness of a TCU education was also increasing the quality and number of applicants