This is the fifth post in our Ace the EMBA series on how to apply successfully to a top executive MBA program. Get need-to-know EMBA basics down with these important tips.
After you decide which programs you’ll apply to, you’re ready to start the hands-on application work. As you update your resume, plan your essays and choose recommenders, keep in mind several “qualifying” factors that EMBA admissions committees want to see in applicants they consider for acceptance. These factors will put you in the running for consideration; they’ll make you a viable candidate.
Throughout the application, but primarily through the essay(s), address these key questions:
1. Are your goals credible, and do they contain the right blend of feasibility and ambition?
Appropriate goals will place you within senior management, since presumably you are already at mid-management level or higher (or a comparable position) if you work for a company. If you are a business owner, your goals should clarify not only your plans for the business, but also the specific role(s) you intend to undertake – i.e., your own professional growth path. In addition, the adcoms want to be assured that the graduates will be a credit to the program!
All EMBA applications require a goals essay or a similar Statement of Purpose/Intent. Be prepared to discuss your immediate/short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals. Not all goals essays ask for this breakdown, but many do – and even if a question doesn’t ask for it, it will hardly hurt to present such a progression, for context.
2. Do you have the knowledge and skills to succeed in the EMBA academic program?
Even if your goals are credible and appropriate, you will need a fundamental familiarity with business operations plus quantitative skills to handle the coursework. Undergrad and/or grad transcripts will cover the quant aspect.
But EMBA applicants who come from non-business sectors – education, government, clinical medicine, and nonprofit are not uncommon – you have a higher burden to (a) show that you need business training, specifically, to address your goals and (b) that you understand the core purpose and content of graduate level business education. You can ask your recommenders to address this point and you can work it into your essays.
For those lacking quant coursework, you can take a reputable online or community college course and/or take the GMAT and score 80% or above in the quant portion.
3. Will you contribute to the program (professionally and/or personally, during and after)?
This is a three-pronged point: (A) Does the quality of your experience make it a potentially rich and valuable resource to draw from? (B) Do you have something to say – do you draw insight and meaning from that experience? (C) Do you share – are you a team player/collaborator?
EMBA programs are learning communities, and thus require willing contribution from all parties. While your recommendations can and should shed light on this point, your essays will be the primary vehicle to communicate your prospective contributions both as a student and as an alumnus/a.
4. Do you have the right level and amount of experience to fit the program (both its student body and its coursework)?
As we indicated in earlier posts, EMBA programs and their various sub-programs/options are looking for specific amounts and levels of experience. And these two items – amount and level – are inter-related.
In the “classic” EMBA candidate, the “level” will be achieved in a certain amount of years, during which the candidate progresses at a quick if not necessarily breakneck pace. You may have achieved the desired level with fewer years of experience, or you may have taken longer to achieve the desired level. Of these two deviations, the former is preferable to adcoms generally, because it indicates a high achiever. However, someone in the latter situation may well have good reasons for the slower pace – family matters, previous career transition, industry volatility, etc. Again, the burden is on the applicant to clarify such situations, and not to give the impression that you’re less than high achiever. Often, entrepreneurs seek the EMBA education when their business is poised for a growth spurt that will involve greater organizational and financial complexity than they’re prepared to handle with ingenuity alone.
5. Do you understand the demands of studying while working, and do you have a workable plan for fitting the EMBA studies into your life?
Some EMBA applications have an essay question specifically on this point. The last thing the adcoms want is for someone to leave the program before completion, or to get by academically without being a full participant in the learning community. And it’s very easy to underestimate the demands of studying and contributing while maintaining one’s professional and personal responsibilities. Whether in an essay or during the interview, demonstrate your time management skills and show that you have juggled multiple responsibilities effectively.
With these qualifying factors covered, the next post will how to go from “qualified” to “accepted” by differentiating and distinguishing yourself as an applicant.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, Ace the EMBA. Cindy has helped MBA applicants get accepted to top EMBA programs around the world. She is delighted to help you too!