If you have been rejected by an Executive MBA program, it often comes down to one of four reasons (or combination thereof):
- Your academic record was not strong enough to convince the admissions committee you could handle the rigor of an EMBA program,
- Your work experience was not sufficient/relevant enough yet to be considered a solid addition to the program,
- Your application wasn’t differentiated enough from the rest of the applicant pool, or,
- You did not show adequate interest in the program to warrant an offer of admission.
All of these reasons can be mitigated, with time and effort on your part. At the end of the day there is still no guarantee of admission, but after 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 be competent 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 traditional class as opposed to online is 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 those 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 some sort of 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 (at work and/or in extracurriculars), and work on putting together that “superstar” profile.
Lack of Differentiation
Differentiation is more of an issue for some groups than others. If you are a veterinarian who focuses on equine health, you can probably count on the fact there won’t be a large pool of applicants with similar backgrounds to yours. If you are an Indian male with a computer science degree working at a software company, lack of differentiation is more likely to be a possible factor. If you are in a well-represented group, you need to work that much harder to make your application stand out. If you don’t have any work examples that really show your uniqueness, then look to activities or interests you have outside of work. If you have a leadership role at Toastmasters, talk about that if you have an open-ended question. If you did some volunteer work in Africa, talk about that. You need to do some soul-searching to figure out what will grab the attention of the admissions committee if you are demographically-challenged.
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 the 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.
Reapplying to executive MBA programs? An Accepted EMBA admissions expert is available to provide a critical analysis of your rejected application and help you develop a successful game plan for the future.