Executive Education

MBA vs. Executive MBA Applications—What You Need to Know

When you consider the typical applicant to an EMBA program, he or she likely has a much larger set of skills and experiences to draw upon than your average MBA applicant.

Generally a mid-career or senior executive, an EMBA program applicant has to consider the best possible ways to showcase his or her attributes gained over years and even decades of real world experience. An MBA applicant, though bright and ready to tackle the most rigorous B-Schools out there, could be coming straight from his or her college dorm room. Without any real world, on-the-job experience, these applicants might find the admissions process much simpler: academic background, transcripts, GMAT scores and a few essays.

Many EMBA programs reflect the elevated level of experience of their cohort in the structuring of classes and in the academic offerings provided. But in terms of allowing applicants to best showcase their top qualities, how do MBA and EMBA applications differ?

Employer Sponsorship:

Perhaps the greatest distinction between an EMBA application and an MBA application is the often-required employer sponsorship. In the past, employer sponsorship was more frequently a pledge of financial support for the EMBA program participant’s tuition. Today, financial support from the applicant’s company less common and less expected.
Many programs—particularly ones that have some weekday classes—however, do require an official sponsorship letter from the EMBA applicant’s place of business. Some schools refer to this as a “time sponsorship”. While not necessarily a financial pledge, employer sponsorship usually entails the applicant’s company offering its willingness to give him or her the time and flexibility to participate in all classes and to minimize travel during the program’s duration.

For a typical, full-time MBA student, retaining a high-level management position in an organization while simultaneously completing a rigorous academic program is not generally an issue.

 To GMAT or not to GMAT

For both EMBA and MBA programs, taking the GMAT is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. But for either type of program, unless you know exactly which school you wish to target for admission, it might be in your best interest to take the GMAT so that you may apply to multiple programs.

Interestingly, some top-tier B-Schools schools are now accepting the GRE in place of the GMAT for MBAs (more than 1000 MBA programs nationwide do as well)—a potential game changer for an MBA applicant who is also applying to other types of graduate schools, or for an applicant with weaker quantitative skills.

For EMBA applicants, while the GMAT may still be a requirement in many cases, most admissions councils report on their own websites that the score is less important than it would be for MBAs. In fact, the average GMAT scores for accepted applicants to EMBA programs tend to be somewhat lower than they are for the same schools’ MBA class pool. Take Wharton, for example: the average admitted MBA student for the class of 2015 scored between 690 and 760 on the GMAT while the average admitted EMBA student scored slightly lower between 640 and 760.

Undergrad GPA—all may be forgiven?

Most MBA programs require college transcripts and a GPA. Many EMBA programs also require a college transcript. However, EMBA admissions councils tend to de-emphasize college GPAs as the information may be many years old and irrelevant: potentially good news for an EMBA applicant that struggled in college but excelled in the working world.

Work Experience:

 While some MBA programs do prefer applicants to enter the workforce before matriculating, for EMBA programs, work experience is effectively mandatory. Some EMBA programs—like the ones at MIT or Northwestern, for example—require a minimum of eight to ten years on the job before an applicant can even be considered.

And, as expected, it’s not just the quantity of the EMBA applicant’s work experience that’s in question: it’s the quality. For prospective EMBA students, making sure to draw attention to on-the-job achievements and honors in both their interview and their essays can help elevate their application and make them stand out from the pack.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.