Stacy Blackman, MBA Admissions Expert
There are some programs that accept applicants directly from college (for many of these, you would've needed to apply during your junior year), but most of the top programs strongly favor applicants with at least two years in "the real world" (and many people wait until they're 3-5 years out of college to apply). If you look at the "Class Demographic" sections of most major MBA program sites, you can usually find the average number of years people worked before matriculating. That will give you a good idea if the program puts a lot of weight on work experience.
As many MBA programs encourage students to learn from each other based on their life and career experiences -- meaning that each class is really a discussion rather than a lecture, with people offering their perspectives based on their own experiences -- you'll want to be able to prove in your application that others will have a lot to learn from you and that you'll be an asset to the class in that way. It's much tougher to do that when you are coming straight from college.
If you want to set yourself up for success when you apply in the future after gaining some work experience, here are some things you can do in the meantime to strengthen your application: 1) Don't slack off your senior year. Keep your grades up. Your GPA is important to MBA programs.
2) Get involved in a cause or a nonprofit organization you are passionate about... and STAY involved, eventually taking on some sort of leadership position in the group, like spearheading an event or overseeing a certain committee. You'll want to show that you have a life outside of school and work, and you'll want to be able to explain WHY you care about the cause/organization you got involved with.
3) At work, always be looking for ways you can take initiative to do something that helps you stand out in your role. Understand what you need to do to get promoted -- showing a clear trajectory is important, even if you change companies along the way. Take on as much responsibility as you can. And keep track of everything you've achieved and worked on... you'll want to remember all of those details to use for stories in your essays, and you'll be shocked at how quickly you'll forget them if you don't write them down.
4) Seek out a mentor -- someone who really wants to see you succeed. They'll be invaluable as both a career coach and potentially a recommender later on.
Hope that is helpful -- best of luck!