Pursuing Second MBA: Why the Bar Is Higher and How You Can Cross It?

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You’ve an MBA degree and have worked for 4 years now, but you aren’t satisfied with your career- either you didn’t get the right opportunities post-first-MBA or, after few years, you found that this industry isn’t your true calling.

It’s now or never, and the best option that comes to your mind is doing a second MBA, preferably from U.S. or Europe.

But unfortunately, many international MBA programs don’t accept applicants who already have an MBA. Some accept with riders. And some unconditionally. But even those who accept, want to know why you are pursuing a second MBA, after all it’s not common. That way, they’ve raised the bar higher for you. Made an already competitive process, even tougher.

But it can be negotiated if you focus on the right reasons for pursuing a second MBA.

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(Note: Admission policies of schools and guidelines for standardized tests can change. Refer to their website for the most updated information.)

Why do applicants want a second MBA?

They’re not satisfied with their industry/function

They can be classified into four broad categories:

1. MBA programs in some countries such as India take plenty of applicants straight out of undergrad. Here, applicants with more than three years of experience are exceptions.

When you join an MBA program with little to no professional experience, you’re more likely to go with societal pressure of landing the ‘most reputed’ job on campus, most often filtered through compensation packages and brand names alone, rather than by what you like or what matches your strengths & weaknesses. And when you become wiser few years down the road and learn more about other industries, you realize that you boarded the wrong train in the on-campus placement melee.

2. Then, there are applicants, especially from less reputed MBA programs, who don’t get the opportunity to recruit for the best companies, and they settle for whatever best they get in terms of compensation.

3. Some career trajectories take a hit because of bad job market, getting laid off, failed entrepreneurial venture, or bad career moves.

4. And, finally, there are people who are fine with their industries but they think they can do better. They’ve usually been achievers (in academics and/ or career) and have reputed brands in their resume (IIT, Unilever, or McKinsey), and think their potential can be better fulfilled by transitioning to more competitive industries such as management consulting, investment banking (less so, now), or private equity.

They want an international career

For some, a different geography, usually developed markets such as U.S., Europe, or Singapore, is the main driver for pursuing a second MBA, as it isn’t easy to make such a move in your existing industry/ function.

Do B-schools accept applicants who already have an MBA?

Some schools mention their policy in this regard in the FAQ section on Admissions page of their website. Most others are silent, and if you don’t find anything on this issue @ FAQ/ Admissions on your target school’s website, contact the admissions office to know their policy to avoid an unpleasant shock at a later stage.

The schools, on the basis of their policy in this regard, can be classified into three categories:

Those who don’t accept

Some such schools are Haas, Tuck, and Duke. Tuck’s policy, for example, is:

Tuck will not accept applications from individuals who have already earned an MBA. If you hold a similar graduate degree, but not an MBA, from another country, we will consider your application; however, you must provide us with an additional essay explaining why you need an MBA in addition to your current degree.

Those who accept conditionally

An example being Darden:

The Darden School of Business does not admit students who have already completed an MBA from an AACSB accredited institution. To find out if a school is accredited by AACSB, please refer to the AACSB website

Indian B-schools, for example, are not AACSB accredited, and, therefore, you can apply to Darden if you’ve your first MBA from an Indian B-school.

Those who accept unconditionally

Some such schools are Ross, MIT, and Wharton. Wharton’s policy, for example, is:

Yes. We do not exclude candidates who have an MBA or any other graduate degree. You should, however, fully explain your reasons for pursuing a second MBA in your application.

Schools, in general, aren’t welcoming applicants with a prior MBA: even schools who accept (conditionally or unconditionally), want to know why you are pursuing a second MBA. That way, the bar is slightly higher for you.

So, what’s the best way to approach your application if you already hold an MBA?

Key is to answer ‘why you need a second MBA’ – something that B-schools specifically ask you to address – well. (Unless the school has a specific question on why you want to pursue second MBA, you can address this in optional or special circumstances essay.)

Don’t give lame, superficial responses such as:

‘The school’s brand, alumni network, and diverse class stands out for me.’

‘I want to learn from world-class faculty.’

Don’t get me wrong here. You may want all of these, but are these the primary reasons why you are pursuing a second MBA. Or, is there something more important? Ask yourself: “what are 1-2 most important things I’ll get in second MBA that I didn’t get the first time?” Answer to this will be the basis for answering ‘why you need a second MBA’.

You can focus on, for example, certain aspects of the curriculum (say, leadership and strategy) which you didn’t have in your first MBA. Or you may focus on your aspiration for an international career. These are just few possibilities, though. There can be other substantive reasons. And the more you can tie in your reason (for a second MBA) with your past experience and future goal, the more compelling your case will be.

Beyond articulation of the reasons for pursuing a second MBA, you need to avoid these two mistakes which some applicants make:

  1. Your past experience, including first MBA, shouldn’t come out as regret, even though it may be the reason why you want a second MBA. Your application should portray a steady, positive career progression, with explanations for exceptional circumstances, if required.
  2. If you are pursuing second MBA because you want to transition to more competitive industries, avoid mentioning industries such as Private Equity and Hedge Fund (or something that’s too audacious) as the reason why you are pursuing a second MBA. These industries are extremely tough to get into, and the admission committee may take it as a sign of not having done your homework well.


If you already have an MBA, the admission bar is set higher for you. It’s not difficult, though. You need to articulate ‘why you need a second MBA’ well, and the key question to ask to get this answer is what will the second MBA do for you that the first couldn’t.

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