Career Planning

Applying to business school — How parents can help

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By Diane Schwemm

Is your college student or recent graduate considering an MBA or Specialized Master’s? Do you wonder what role parents can play in supporting the business school decision?

Many undergrads and young working adults are still experimenting and exploring. Though they’re living independent lives, they often turn to their parents for advice. They know their parents understand them, and care about what they dream of accomplishing and becoming.

There are lots of ways you can support your potential B-school student. Start by…

Teaming up on preparation and research.

  1. Together, explore different kinds of graduate business programs. What type of degree and/or focus area interests your student?
  2. Help your student understand the timeline and process for applying to a graduate business program. What is required for the application? When are the due dates?
  3. Parents who’ve mentored students on the path to business school universally agree that it’s an excellent idea for students to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) while still in college, when subjects like math and economics are still “top of mind”. You can prep for a conversation by learning more about the GMAT yourself (why it’s valuable, what it covers, how students prepare, when and where they take it). The score keeps for five years — it’s a great part of the application to have ready and waiting for when the time to apply is right.
  4. Financial planning is part of the process and parents can be a big help here. Together, estimate the overall costs of different schools and programs, explore financial aid opportunities, and discuss a funding strategy.
  5. up-professor student-classroom4Encourage your undergrad to cultivate relationships with academic and career advisors. Your student can consult advisors about how different careers connect with his or her academic major and also get advice on internship and graduate school possibilities. (Young alums can continue to access career resources at their college.)

Encouraging exploratory experiences.

When it comes to preparing for a possible business school application while still in college, there are a few things parents can encourage. Wendy and her husband did not steer their four sons towards business school, but from sophomore summer on did steer them to “real jobs” — “work experience that changed their minds, or reinforced [a career interest], or introduced them to something new.”

Tammy, a Tuck School of Business graduate, also spoke to the importance of lining up meaningful experiences while still in college. When her son Jeffrey, a biology major, expressed interest in attending a B-school summer bridge program between sophomore and junior year, she was on board. “Summer bridge programs allow a student who’s not doing undergrad business to find out if they like business,” Tammy said.

Making the most of your supporting role.

Young adults — in college or out in the working world — are used to making their own decisions. When applying to business school, your student should initiate and follow through on all research, communications, networking, etc. Every portion of the application needs to be the student’s own product.

However, parental support can be pivotal. You can help with organization, deadlines and proofreading. It’s absolutely appropriate to connect your student with your colleagues or family friends who’ve recently attended business school or who work in professions that interest your student.

“I also always counsel kids to talk to their peers who are three or four years ahead of them,” Neil said. Sometimes that role model is very close to home — Jack sees his youngest son, Drew, a college sophomore, “processing his older siblings’ experiences” (big brother Jack Jr. recently earned an MBA).

Janienne confirmed that the parent’s role is “advisory, encouragement” — to help with the “self-reflection piece” and be a sounding board.

Cheering them on to the finish!

Now and always, a parent’s main job is to be their student’s best champion, and to support perseverance. Wendy observed that millennials are idealistic and want to change the world right off the bat. Sometimes they need encouragement to “stay the course, remember that [they’re] learning, stick with it. It takes a while to find your place.”

As your student’s future unfolds, and specifically when it comes time to apply to business school, you can:

  • Take an interest in what your student hopes to accomplish via business school.
  • Send a care package when they’re prepping for the GMAT!
  • Be enthusiastic when they have good interviews or are accepted to a program.
  • Keep encouraging them if they don’t get in the first time they apply.

Did you miss the first article in this series on the “Value of a Graduate Business Education”? Read it here, and find more resources for parents at “Welcome Parents: Let’s Talk Business.”


Meet our parent contributors:

  • Neil is a consultant with decades of Wall Street experience. Though he didn’t go to business school himself, he couldn’t be happier that his son Cam seems to be heading in that direction.
  • Wendy has an MBA from Harvard and four sons in their twenties: “Business school has crossed all their minds in varying degrees!”
  • Tammy lives in Darien, Connecticut. She met her husband when they were both getting MBAs at the Tuck School of Business. Their college son — a biology major — recently attended a summer bridge program at Tuck.
  • Jack K. and his wife have five young adult children — two in college and three out. His eldest has an MBA and Jack wouldn’t be surprised if one of the younger siblings follows suit.
  • Janienne lives in Connecticut, within easy range of her son and daughter who both work in New York City. Her daughter Kate recently took the GMAT and is gearing up to apply to graduate business programs.
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