Top 20 EMBA Programs in North America

Top executive MBA programs in America are charging an arm and a leg —is it worth it? That’s the topic of a recent CNN Money Fortune/Poets & Quants article, “Executive MBAs: Great, if you can foot the bill,” which reports that if people are willing to pay the sky-high prices for an EMBA degree, they’ll likely graduate with a high paying salary and a positive attitude towards their educational experience.

Top programs, like those at Wharton, offer very similar curriculums to their regular MBA programs, yet are charging almost $65,000 more (for a total of more than $160,000). (Other top 10 EMBA programs charge slightly less, with Booth at $142,000, Kellogg at $153,900, and Columbia at $148,320.)

Studies show that 97% of EMBA graduates are “overwhelmingly satisfied” with their educations, despite the high tuition, and that the programs “met or exceeded their expectations when it comes to impact on their careers and their organizations.” According to the latest Executive MBA Council study, one-third of EMBA graduates received promotions at work; 44% received more responsibilities at work; and EMBAs in general reported an average 11.4% salary increase, from $127,955 to $142,534. And this is just following the great recession!

The article refers readers over to the new Poets & Quants for Executives website that ranks the 50 best executive MBA programs in North America based on a combination of ratings from The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and U.S. News & World Report. You can view a summary of P&Q ranking methodology on the bottom of this page.

You should read the full Fortune/P&Q article and review the full rankings for more information. In the meantime, here are the top 20 EMBA programs according to the new Poets & Quants for Executives website:

Top 20 Executive MBA Programs in North America

1.      Wharton

2.      Chicago Booth

3.      Northwestern Kellogg

4.      Columbia Business School

5.      NYU Stern

6.      Michigan Ross

7.      UCLA Anderson

8.      Cornell Johnson

9.      Texas McCombs

10.  USC Marshall

11.  Duke Fuqua

12.  UNC Kenan-Flagler

13.  Berkeley/Columbia

14.  Washington Olin

15.  Emory Goizueta

16.  Boston University

17.  Georgetown McDonough

18.  Thunderbird

19.  Rice University Jones

20.  Southern Methodist Cox

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Chicago Booth Blog Focuses on Fit

Chicago BoothChicago Booth‘s blog, Blog Insider, recently published a post on the application process from the admissions committee perspective. The article (“Round Two Application Update“) highlights the point that acceptances are not rewards for good performance; rather, they frequently reflect the applicants’ ability to showcase their qualifications as well as their “fit” with Chicago Booth. You should read the post, but in the meantime, here’s an excerpt on the importance of “fit”:

“There is no formula that we use to determine who is admitted. We strive to select the people we feel most thoroughly embody the values that we live every day which is why each admitted student is reviewed by at minimum 5 members of our committee (student fellow, first admissions director, interviewer, second admissions director, me). As we have tried hard to express to thousands of prospective students who read our materials, attend our events, or visit our campus, our applicant pool is full of interesting and successful people, but not all of them leverage the application in a way that truly conveys strong fit with those values. At the end of the day, it is fit that proves to be our final litmus test.”

While Kurt Ahlm was intending to describe only Chicago’s process I think a few aspects described are really true of most top MBA programs and are also sometimes very difficult for applicants to accept:

  1. This is a highly subjective process — the opposite of a computer program or mathematical problem.
  2. Acceptance is not a reward for meeting a set of criteria. It is not a check list where you check off certain boxes and you can expect a particular result, or a recipe where particular ingredients processed in a specific way guarantee a certain outcome.
  3. Fit can be determinative when it comes down to the wire among highly qualified applicants. Takeaway: Know your school and why you are dying to attending. Why do you belong at this program?

?View Accepted’s FREE webinar, Best Practices for MBA Admissions, to learn the 4 pillars of application success, how to choose the right programs, how to approach your recommenders, and more!

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MBA & EMBA Admissions News Roundup

  • Applying to Yale SOM? In a Yale news article (“Ten Questions from Prospective Students“), Director of Admissions Bruce DelMonico answers applicant questions about the admissions process, Yale’s GMAT/GRE preferences, the SOM curriculum, and the incoming dean, among others. Check out the article for details.
  • Top b-schools in the US are now accepting the GRE, which puts applicants at a new crossroads – should they take the GRE or stick with the traditional GMAT? A recent MBA Podcaster video addresses the pros and cons of each test in “The GRE vs the GMAT: Which Test Should You Take For Your MBA Application?” Watch the video for insight into the debate.
  • Some more news on the GMAT/GRE front: NYU’s Stern School of Business will be dropping the GMAT/GRE requirement for its EMBA applicants, reports a recent Financial Timesarticle. The reason? The Stern adcom believes that more emphasis should be placed on work experience and previous academic achievements than on test scores. Most EMBA applicants are already in their 30s or 40s and many have higher degrees; a GMAT or GRE test score is less important in these cases. Stern joinsChicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg in this decision.
  • Are you a young social entrepreneur, activist, or community leader who is looking for new ways to impact society? DoSomething.org is extending its deadline for its largest grant program, the Do Something Awards. Awards include $10,000 community grants, a $100,000 grant, and media coverage, in addition to continued support from the organization. To apply or nominate someone you know, visit http://www.dosomething.org/programs/awards. The extended deadline is March 15, 2011.

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Multimedia Hits the MBA Application

More and more highly qualified applicants are applying to business school, which means that if you want to gain admission to a top b-school, you’re going to need to show some serious skill, that is, serious multimedia skills—at least that’s the recommendation according to a recent Financial Times article, “Express Yourself.”

High test scores, a strong academic record, impressive letters of recommendation, and killer essays may not be enough to gain you admission to your dream MBA program. Many schools are now introducing an optional essay, or “third essay,” often in the form of an electronic submission, including PowerPoint slides, PDF files, videos, CDs, DVDs, and links to personal websites or YouTube videos.

The thinking here is that an admissions reader can gain a better, more complete, picture of an applicant by taking a look at his or her creative abilities, rather than by simply reading an essay entitled, “Why I Want to Go to Business School.” Kurt Ahlm, senior director of admissions at Chicago Booth, explains that “while the other two essays are ‘valuable,’ they are also ‘somewhat programmed’.”

Also, it’s harder to cheat or plagiarize when it comes to multimedia submissions. 

Still, some schools believe that their current admissions process works just fine and that there’s no reason to complicate things by adding a new component. According to James Holmen, head of admissions at Indiana Kelley, “[T]he [application] process we have now works really well for us… My concern with the multimedia option format is: would [the admissions committee] be getting a good sense of who the applicants are and what they bring to the table, or would they be swayed by style over substance?”

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Time is Ticking on MBA ROIs

Because of the economic crisis, the increase in b-school tuition, and the decrease of starting salaries post-MBA, business school grads are taking up to one year longer to see a return on their MBA investments than it took their peers from just a few years ago.

A BusinessWeek article, “For MBAs, Breaking Even is a More Distant Dream,” calculates the length of time it should take the MBA class of 2010 to “recoup their MBA investment” (6.5 years) and compares it to the average 5.6 years of an MBA class of 2008 graduate. (The article explains in detail how the ROI figure was calculated.)

European business schools rank highest when it comes to calculating the fastest MBA ROIs, which should come as no surprise due to the cheaper tuitions and the fact that many European programs run for one year instead of two (meaning lower costs and less time away from the workforce).

The top four MBA programs for ROI according to the BW article are:

  1. SDA Bocconi – Milan
  2. HEC-Paris
  3. Manchester Business School
  4. Cranfield School of Management

A few of the top U.S. MBA programs that offer the fastest return are:

  1. Texas A&M – Mays Business School
  2. Michigan State – Broad College of Business
  3. College of Business at the University of Illinois

According to the BW article, programs that are generally ranked as the top U.S. programs actually fare the worst in ROI rankings, many of their grads needing about 10.5 years to achieve a return on their investments. High tuition costs and students with high pre-MBA salaries account for the lengthy ROIs, especially at Chicago Booth and Harvard Business School.

John Byrne, in his recent article, “Is An Elite MBA Degree Worth The Cost?,” explains: “The biggest surprise of the study was not that payback  periods grew longer, given the impact of the recent economic meltdown and rising tuition. The most shocking and implausible result is schools outside most Top 25 lists give students faster returns on investment than the acknowledged leaders in graduate business education.”

Byrne continues to explain some of the flaws in BusinessWeek‘s ROI analysis. For example, he points out that the analysis fails to account for starting bonuses, year-end bonuses, relocation allowances, tuition reimbursement plans, performance bonuses, and the value of other pay increases. He then elaborates on how these figures can dramatically affect a program’s ROI.

Byrne’s critique is somewhat scathing, but solid. It’s worth a moment of your time to check out his article (complete with his own rankings) to get a better understanding of the value (or lack thereof, as he’ll point out) of the BW ROI analysis. It is equally valuable to read Louis Lavelle’s response. Lavelle is the Associate Editor of Bloomberg and in charge of BW’s business school section.

If anything the exchange shines a bright spotlight on the limitations of studies of this kind and of course the rankings. While I don’t advocate chucking the whole exercise, Mark Twain’s words keeping running through my mind: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Use with caution.

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