Applying to an EMBA Program with a Less Than Perfect Profile
Are you thinking about applying to an Executive MBA program—but aren’t sure that your profile is the right fit? We’ve talked before about how to choose whether an MBA or an EMBA is right for you, but I also wanted to address something I see a lot: the concern over applying for an EMBA when you feel like you don’t have enough experience to get in, or you’re not old enough, or you don’t have the “right” background.
It is certainly true that Executive MBAs are designed for candidates who have more experience, and at a higher level, than the typical MBA students, and are therefore generally older. At Wharton, for example, the average student in their EMBA program is 35. And at London Business School, EMBA students have an average of 12 years of work experience.
But in our work with helping students gain admission to top EMBA programs, what we’ve seen over and over again is that these are just averages. Students get hung up on these numbers and on the class profile, and start thinking that they are minimums to hit. They are not! They are averages. As many people as there are who exceed those numbers, there will be just as many who “fall below.”
If you’re starting to think about an EMBA program, I want to encourage you to look into backgrounds and look more in depth into who is being admitted to these programs, and why. Don’t take a quick look at the profiles and write off the program because you feel like you don’t “meet” the averages. There is a lot more depth and substance to the student body at top EMBA programs, and I don’t want you to be thrown off by a glance at some general numbers.
When you look at the ranges, you will see a much broader picture of who gets admitted to EMBA programs at top business schools. Wharton’s average age may be 35, but 10% of the class is over 40, and 18% is under 30 years old. And at LBS, the range is from 5 to 26 years of work experience. At both schools, the emphasis is on finding “high-impact professionals from a diversity of industries,” not people who fit a specific mold.
It’s All About the Message
There are applicants who get admitted every year who are in their early thirties, or even in their twenties, for whom the EMBA is the right choice. They might have had a career that moved at an accelerated pace, they might be entrepreneurs, they might just be in a place where it doesn’t make sense, for them or for their company, for them to leave work for one to two years.
Any of those stories (and many others) could be positioned for an admissions committee so that it makes perfect sense that the EMBA program is the right place for this candidate, and age isn’t an issue at all.
What really matters when you’re applying to an EMBA program is demonstrating to the admissions committee that you have the leadership mindset and managerial potential to be an asset to the program. Sometimes if you don’t fit the “standard mold”, you have to do a little extra work to connect the dots and show how your experience translates, but we have found in working with applicants that adcoms are very interested when they have the right story in front of them.
We have worked with a ton of clients who fall in that “gap” where they could really still apply to MBA programs, but for various reasons they have a unique story and an EMBA program suits them better. And these students have gained admission to the INSEAD EMBA program, LBS, Columbia, and the like. We’ve had a candidate from a family business background who was accepted into the prestigious TRIUM program. It all comes down to the applicant understanding what the school wants.
Tell Your Story
Many applicants focus far too much on the number of years of experience that they have, and really discount the value of their experience.
Six years of really intense, interesting, varied, or high-level experience can absolutely make you just as much of a candidate for an EMBA program as ten years following the standard path. And that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the standard path, it’s just that students often make the error of thinking it’s the only path to being admitted to a top EMBA program.
So if you are ready to apply to an EMBA program, don’t focus on averages and numbers. Tell your story, and show the admissions committee why you’re the perfect fit for their program.
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