If you have been rejected from an Executive MBA program, it often comes down to one of three reasons (or combination thereof):
1. Your academic record was not strong enough to convince the admissions committee you could handle the rigor of an EMBA program,
2. Your work experience was not sufficient/relevant enough yet to be considered a solid addition to the program, or,
3. You did not show adequate interest in the program to warrant an offer of admission.
All of these reasons can be mitigated, with time or effort on your part. At the end of the day, there is no guarantee of admission, but by taking a hard look and assessing your situation, you can make yourself a much stronger candidate by addressing the pertinent issues.
A low GPA in and of itself is not a reason to ding an applicant. What tends to concern schools is when a transcript shows consistently low grades in subjects that are important to have competence in to do well in an MBA program – quantitative subjects in particular. If you do have quantitative weakness, enroll in an Algebra or Statistics course (or both) at a local college – a “real” class as opposed to online would be preferred. Get strong grades, and submit that transcript with your new application. In the optional essay, express how you recognize the admissions committee might have been concerned about your quantitative abilities, but the new grades should allay any concerns. Also lay out any additional plans you may have prior to joining the program to bolster your skills – MBA Math, for example.
In this situation, time and more leadership experience are probably the two best ways to enhance your application. The average years of work experience in an EMBA program is typically 10-15. Some schools specifically state the minimum years of experience necessary to apply. While I was at Cornell, we never seriously considered anyone with less than five years of experience, and when we did admit someone on that lower end of the scale, there was a clear indication the individual was a superstar at his or her organization. So, if you are in the lower range of experience, seek out more high-profile leadership opportunities, and work on putting together that “superstar” profile.
Admissions committees realize most applicants consider multiple options, as they should, and most have a clear first choice school. What tends to bother admissions folks is when it’s obvious an applicant is only applying to a school because it’s a brand name and would be an “ok” fallback.
How can they tell an applicant’s lack of interest? It’s pretty easy – never came to an information session, never visited the campus, never reached out to anyone on the admissions committee, and/or put reasons like “location” and “reputation” in their essay as to why he/she would like to come to the school. With EMBA classes quite small compared to fulltime programs, it is a distinct possibility an applicant with stellar qualifications could be dinged – why offer a spot to someone who clearly has no real interest in attending? If you feel this might be why you were rejected, this reason can be mitigated or eliminated as well. Reach out to admissions committee members and ask questions that show you’ve both done your homework and are thinking seriously about their school. Start sending signals indicating your sincere interest.
Not sure where your application might be lacking? The good news about most Executive MBA programs is that with smaller applicant pools, admissions officers typically have more time to devote to individual applicants. Therefore, make a call and see if you can receive feedback on your application.
Jen Weld worked as an admissions consultant and Former Asst. Dir. of Admissions at Cornell’s EMBA program (4 years) prior to joining Accepted. She has an additional 10 years of experience in higher ed and corporate marketing.