After you decide which programs you’ll apply to, you’re ready to start the hands-on application work. As you plan your essays and choose recommenders, keep in mind several “qualifying” factors that the admissions committees want to see in applicants they consider for acceptance. In other words, 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), you should address these key questions: 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 a mid-management level (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. You should be prepared to discuss immediate, 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. Do you have the knowledge and skills to succeed in the EMBA academic program?
2. Quant Skills
Even if your goals are credible and appropriate, you will need a fundamental familiarity with business operations plus quantitative skills to handle the coursework. If you are a high-achieving mid-level manager with budget responsibility at a “name” company, your resume itself will essentially “cover” this point. However, if you are closer to the “Kareem” profile or an entrepreneur, you may have to explicitly clarify that you have this basic understanding. While Kareem did not have a business role and could not be expected to fully understand, say, corporate finance and management principles, he would certainly have understood his company’s customers’ business needs and interacted substantially with marketing and product development at a fairly senior level. You can ask your recommenders to address this point, you can work it into your essays, and you can take the GMAT if you believe your score will validate your capabilities. Will you contribute to the program (professionally and/or personally, during and after)?
3. Contributor / Team Player
This is a two-pronged point: (A) Do you have something to say – do you draw insight and meaning from your experiences? (B) 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.
Do you have the right level and amount of experience to fit the program (both its student body and its coursework)?
As we indicated earlier, 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, showing the candidate to progress 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 portrays a high achiever. However, someone in the latter situation may well have good reasons for the slower pace – family matters, previous career transition, etc. Often, entrepreneurs seek the EMBA education when their business is poised for a new level of growth, which will involve greater organizational and financial complexity. Do you understand the demands of studying while working and do you have a workable plan for fitting the EMBA studies into your life?
5. Time Management Skills
Some EMBA applications have an essay question specifically targeting 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. While you may or may not be asked to address this point directly by an essay question, it is important to demonstrate your time management skills and also that you have juggled multiple responsibilities effectively. Of course, the essays are the ideal place to make these points, followed by the recommendations (if you have a say in their content).
Key Qualifying Factors the EMBA Adcoms Look For was excerpted from Ace the EMBA: Expert Advice for the Rising Executive by Cindy Tokumitsu. To view the entire free special report, please click here.