Every fall around this time I start to get this question a lot. Am I a competitive applicant to the JD-MBA program? Can I get into Kellogg and into the law school? Do I have enough years of experience? And is my GMAT / LSAT score good enough. Well, in a recent question from one of my readers, I was asked about the odds of getting into the JD-MBA program as well as what the required GMAT score is to get in. Because these are questions on everyone’s mind, I’ve decided to put my answers to those questions here as a blog post. See below for the reader’s question, and below that for my response.
Subject: Preparing for the Northwestern JD-MBA
I would like to say I have just recently found your blog during some research on the JD-MBA program and I am enjoying every bit of it. As I am entering my senior year at the University of Oklahoma, I was wondering on the possible outlook of getting into the JD-MBA program at Northwestern. I will have completed 2 majors (Marketing & Entrepreneurship) along with 2 minors (Management & MIS). I may extend my stay and also major in MIS rather than minor (3 majors, 1 minor). My GPA as of now is a 3.4. Community service is approaching 200 hours now and I have completed an internship with a company the past 2 years in a position that is usually held by a post graduate. Is there a chance of making the illusive jump from college straight to the JD-MBA program? Also, what kind of GMAT score should I aim for? Thanks for any help and advice you could provide. I look forward to reading the rest of your blogs.
Thanks so much for writing, and congratulations on your achievements in undergrad so far. I hope that you are satisfied with your experience.
I am glad that you are interested in the JD-MBA program at Kellogg. Broadly speaking, our programs gets applications from people with a very wide range of personal and professional backgrounds. As a result, the list of undergraduate majors and universities, job experiences, backgrounds, grades and test scores can be very diverse. And I would say that this isn’t just true of Kellogg or our JD-MBA program but that many of the top MBA programs around the country aim for the same level of diversity of students.
With regard to your email, I noticed two specific questions that you had. First, you asked about the required GMAT score to be accepted. And then you asked about applying to the JD-MBA program out of your undergraduate program. I’ll answer both, in part by pointing you to previous posts I wrote on the topics.
First, with regard to the GMAT, I would say that formally there is no minimum GMAT score required to be accepted into any MBA program. And every single school will tell you the same thing. Every year, schools accept applicants with a wide range of test scores (and GPAs), some of which might really surprise you. That’s because in a lot of cases, candidates offer a lot more to a school than a high score. Some offer many years of work experience; others offer unparalleled community involvement and impact; while others offer an unmatched level of leadership capacity in the eyes of the admissions committee.
That said, the majority of successful applicants to top business schools, and particularly to the Kellogg JD-MBA program have high GMATs (and GPAs). In the last few years, the average GMAT at top five MBA programs has been around 710 and in the JD-MBA program has been closer to 730. Likewise, the average GPA is usually over 3.5. And many of the folks I know did better than that.
In the end, that means do you best to get the highest score you can, especially if you are in no rush to apply by an approaching deadline. And even if there is an approaching deadline, I’d still say focus on attaining the highest score, within reason, that you can get, as putting your best foot forward is always important when applying to competitive graduate school program. For a more complete answer to this question, please see my post about GMAT scores here: http://www.jeremycwilson.com/2010/01/is-my-gmat-good-enough-to-get-in/
Second, with regard to being a young applicant, I would say that you should be sure to target programs that routinely accept younger applicants. Years ago MBA programs did routinely admit younger candidates. I’ve met a number of alumni from my undergrad that went to business school about 20 and 30 years ago, and the vast majority of them went straight out of undergrad.
In the 80s and 90s that changed, and MBA programs started accepting more people with more years of experience. In large part, this was one way to make the classroom experience and discussions better and also a way to ensure that students could make the most of the experience. Even today, many older candidates often tend to do a better job at getting more out of the classroom and recruiting experience than younger/less focused candidates.
In recent years however, MBA programs have began trending down again in terms of preferred years of experience. Today, many of the top schools in the United States welcome applicants with 0 to 2 years of experience. In fact, schools like Stanford, Harvard, and Sloan are openly taking more and more younger candidates, many of which are straight out of college.
From what I’ve noticed, most of these younger applicants submit applications with GPAs and GMAT scores since they have less work experience and community involvement to point to in an application. Many of them also have strong letters of recommendation, sometimes from professors, because these letters provide more insight about the candidate since they can’t talk about as many accomplishments on the job.
Likewise, JD-MBA programs have also traditionally welcomed younger applications. Because while business schools usually prefer a couple of years of experience, law schools have traditionally taken students with little or no work experience. On the other hand, the Northwestern JD-MBA is just the opposite, where the typical student here has nearly five years of experience. The JD-MBA program at Wharton/Penn is similar.
So to directly answer your second question: making the jump from undergrad to Northwestern’s JD-MBA program would be difficult given the age/experience discrepancy. If you’re dead set on going straight into a program, then you would have to find programs that take applicants directly from undergrad. On the other hand, if you’re set on applying to Kellogg’s program, than you’d be best served by working at least three years and then applying once you have more experience on your resume.
For a more complete answer to your ‘years of experience’ question, please see my post about younger applicants at: http://www.jeremycwilson.com/2009/08/early-career-mba-applicants/ And if you have any other questions about the program, or other programs around the country, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.