How To Get Into An Elite EMBA Program

moneytreeDo I Make Too Much Money for an Executive MBA?

Q: I make $180K-$350K per year, am 31, and am thinking on taking a global EMBA course. I provide my compensation because my friends who have MBA’s (some from elite programs) say that I am stupid to even consider taking on debt (or to pay, period) to get any kind of MBA with what I make, but I feel like an MBA is becoming an increasingly common required checkbox for future movement, even in a performance driven environment. My company will likely not contribute to my cause, owing to my income.

What are your thoughts on Account Executives (Sales) getting an EMBA– is it worth it? How should I speak to my experiences if I have no direct reports? Will the fact that I work directly with the some of the largest NFPs in the world be a swaying factor?

A: Thanks for your question. Given your salary, it may be difficult to try to justify the EMBA to you in terms of salary-growth ROI. However, an EMBA may well make sense for you as a ‘defensive’ or ‘strategic’ credential to keep you confident about or well positioned for your career’s future. Self-funded EMBAs are increasingly common, so they question may be more, can you handle the cost financially, rather than, can you convince a well-ranked executive program to accept you. A program like Duke’s Global MBA admits something 15% of its students from the sales function and does not specify that they focus on direct reports so much as a “strong leadership/management component and current global work responsibilities”…(Note that Duke does require that you have a “minimum” of 10 years of post-grad work experience.)

Yes, emphasizing the magnitude of your role and impact in the terms that best describe your position (such as working directly with large NFPs, closing multimillion dollar deals, and managing project teams of 16 people) is exactly the way you and your recommenders should talk about your experiences in the essays and recommendation letters. Top programs are by no means using only traditional criteria (like direct reports) to evaluate your potential to contribute to their EMBA classes.

Am I Too Old for an MBA?

Q: I’m 36, a PhD scientist from a great European institution. I have a good academic background overall (undergrad equivalent GPA of about 3.8). I worked in academia as a post doc (the ‘usual’ route for biomedical scientists on a path to university faculty) for 5 years before transitioning to the biotech industry where I now work as a scientist in a start up. My career goals are basically to start a biotech company or fund them in a venture capital firm. I’ve yet to take the GMAT and would be applying to programs next year. I would like to go to a full time program and a highly ranked one (i.e. Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard). But I’m concerned that my age and career path to-date is not of the somewhat cookie cutter mold that seems to describe the average 28 year old at all of these programs. Should I only be considering EMBAs given my situation?

A: Business schools *love* non-cookie-cutter profiles, but older applicants they–at least the U.S. schools–have a problem with. The percentage of the average full-time MBA class at a top school that’s older than 29 is under 10% and most of those older admittees are nearer 30 than 35. So they do take the exceptional 36-year-old, but it’s quite unusual. However, you could aim for full-time programs if you’re willing to (a) lower your sights (e.g., the following schools not only skew older but are not super selective, so they’d be more likely to take you: Penn State, Washington Foster, Washington Olin, Minnesota, etc.), (b) look toward Europe (8 of the most age-friendly full-time MBA programs are in your neck of the woods, including EM Lyon, Manchester, IMD, and HEC Paris). Though EMBA programs expect a good track record of people management, they often don’t require a GMAT score and have fairly loose selectivity rates.

  • Kathleen Brennan

    Great article… I start EMBA at MIT next month; valuable advice here for applicants. Thanks

  • chris

    I am 48 years old. I might not start an EMBA until I am 49 or even 50. Am I too old for such a program?

    • JohnAByrne

      Definitely not. You’ll find a good number of people in their late 40s and early 50s in these programs. It’s a great time to think of an EMBA as a way to refresh your career, give yourself a generous gift of new knowledge and friends, and to bring to bear all the wonderful experience you’ve had to date. Go for it.

  • Great article. I work with EMBA clients, helping them get in to the most competitive programs and offer free initial consultations:

  • creatureji

    I am 31 years and currently pursuing EMBA @Kellogg .. My undergrad grades weren’t that great, but I spent significant amount of time starting and selling web businesses..

    I find EMBA @ Kellogg really amazing and so far it allowed me to talk and network with people and put together team to start new venture.

    F/T MBA programs are different from EMBA, and someone with 15+ years of experience shouldn’t quit work to be with F/T MBA students, other then intellectual power F/T students lack experience on what steps required to put together talented people to execute a plan which in returns generate profit.

    My advise for aspiring EMBA candidates is to have flavor of what they want to achieve in life, be laser focused and frame your ideas in structured way. This will help you connect with people who will understand you better and propel to the levels you want.

    Networking is always tricky, believe in what you want to do and don’t shy away of thoughts about what others will think off you… Speak your mind in social gathering and approach people fearlessly.

    • Julio Cardenas

      Hi, Pundit any admission tips for the Kellogg EMBA? That’s the program I intend to apply for. Thank you

      • pundit420

        several tips.. but I narrow down to top 3 from my experience and what I saw in the program..

        1) Do know your future plans and reflect it on your application as how it related to your past, current and program/ people can guide you.. I was more interested in gaining industry perspective from seasoned executives and thoughts about IT in finance.

        You will meet with some of the Top professors in all of US and I was lucky to meet with someone who enabled me start new venture.

        2) References, have your manager write strong reference letter for you, your accomplishment and how you can progress thru the ranks with this EMBA.

        It’s important because (in my opinion) EMBA students are expected to create own career path/find new job and not rely on career centre.. however they will support you

        3) Students love lively debates inside or outside classroom and what surprised me is ability to complete work and get time for outings/social life… I struggled first few months but learned techniques from them.

        You should also reflect on your application on how you can contribute to the class, stories from your experience in travel, projects, social work, entrepreneurship… opportunities…. More important..

        Not sure about other schools,, but most of the students have no ego.. they driven by instincts / intuition developed from years of experience/knowledge or from personal stories. It’s important you share some examples in interview which shows you have no ego and willing to work with someone even you don’t get along with.

        • Julio Cardenas

          Thank you very much for your useful advice. I’ll keep it in mind when I send my application. My best wishes for your endeavors.

  • Paul Davidsung

    Interesting commentary . I am thankful for the specifics , Does someone know if my company could possibly acquire a fillable OPM OF-306 version to type on ?

    • Ava Cueto

      Greetings Paul Davidsung ! my business partner got ahold of a blank OPM OF-306 document with this link