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.

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