Congrats, Grad! Your cap and gown have arrived, and you are ready to walk across the stage to receive your well-deserved undergraduate diploma. For many students, along with the excitement of graduation and celebrating the end of one educational milestone comes the thought about “what happens next?” Is it a full-time job, heading back into the classroom for graduate school, or both?

Pursuing a graduate level master’s program immediately after earning a bachelor’s degree is encouraged and even preferred for certain disciplines.  Particularly for students who want to take a deep dive into an educational area, gain additional credit hours to sit for a professional licensing exam, or those working toward earning a Ph.D., applying to and pursuing a master’s program directly after earning a bachelor’s degree is a logical next step.

But, what about MBA programs?  As a newly minted college graduate, should you apply to an MBA program right away, or is there a different recommended timeline for graduate business school admissions?

If business school is part of your career plan, timing is unlike other masters programs in that you are encouraged gain “real world” professional experience before heading back to the classroom. Students applying to the Evening UST MBA and Full-time UST MBA programs are strongly encouraged to gain at least two-years of full-time work experience before submitting an application.

What if you are not working in the business field after graduation? Not to worry. One important note is that the recommended two years of professional work experience for applicants is not limited to solely “traditional” business fields like accounting, finance, or marketing. The Full-time and Evening UST MBA programs value diversity of academic and professional backgrounds across the student body, and admit applicants with pre-MBA careers ranging from industries such as engineering or education, to non-profit and banking every year.

But the question remains – why is work experience so important for admission to an MBA program?

The experience you gain in a full-time, professional work environment prior to earning your MBA will be invaluable in many ways. In particular, this experience will allow you to more deeply understand your own strengths and weaknesses, help to better inform your overall decision to pursue an MBA, assist in clarifying your career goals. It also lends transferrable skills that you will be able to apply in the classroom, working on teams with others, and showcase in interviews with potential employers for internships or full-time jobs.  In addition, the MBA classroom is built upon engaging dialogue and applied learning, allowing students to better understand how the business education they are earning is relevant to their previous, current, and future careers. Therefore, the unique, individual experience you will bring to the classroom and to discussions with team members helps to create a rich dialogue and brings MBA coursework to life, bridging the gap between theory and practice.

While enrollment in an MBA program may be a few years down the road for you as a recent college grad, the research about differences in structure, curriculum, location, student experience, and required application items for the programs you are considering is something that you can (and should) start working on in advance. In addition, certain application items such as the GRE or GMAT exams require significant preparation and studying. Starting to work on these items with plenty of time in advance of submitting your application sets you up for success by allowing you to take the exam more than once, which will work to your benefit as most MBA admissions teams will only look at your highest score.

Visit campus, attend an information session, network with alumni, and set up a meeting with the MBA admissions team at UST and other schools to learn about which program will be the best fit for your career goals and experience. Not only will you get to leverage the knowledge of the admissions staff (highly recommended), you will also be able to more easily discern the culture of an institution over several different touch points.

The decision to pursue an MBA is always a great one, and we look forward to reviewing your UST MBA application in the near future. For now, enjoy your graduation festivities, your new bachelor’s degree… and, your new full-time paycheck.