What we’re discussing today is not available for a standard two-year full-time competitive MBA program. However, if you’re interested in an Executive MBA, or potentially certain online or hybrid part-time MBAs — or practically any other graduate educational program in existence — then you typically have an opportunity to connect with an admissions person directly about your profile, your interests, your reasons for considering their program, and your suitability or fit to what they offer.
Again, not available with any big-name MBAs associated with all the brands that come to mind (Harvard Stanford Wharton -> Ross UCLA Duke).
BUT, surprisingly available most anywhere else.
Typically how it works is you submit your resume to them and then schedule a call where they talk about that specific program and how you might be a fit. Sometimes they’ll steer you to another of the degree programs that that school offers, but often it’ll be a way to encourage you to apply to that program specifically. It’s a high-touch approach that they find valuable, since it lets them start to build the relationship and gain exposure to what they offer, and it can be great for you as a potential applicant since they even sometimes coach candidates or steer them in a better direction on issues like which test (GRE or GMAT or for EMBA, Executive Assessment) and what type of score would be needed.
Case in point:
If you’re browsing the Yale SOM website for their MBA for Executives program, you will find this:
There’s a few other schools that offer this too, like Duke with their Global Executive MBA program:
This is merely a reflection of the different market dynamics in effect for these programs. It’s not that they’re not good programs, or they’re not in demand, or they don’t attract a high-caliber candidate. It’s just that they get far less interest from potential students for these tracks compared to the ever-popular full-time MBA, and also because with an executive program, they’re catering to (usually) an older person who is at a different stage of life and many times expects a bit more of the white-gloved treatment given their station in life. More hand-holding of the candidate is common, and this even extends into the actual student experience at many executive MBA programs — to the extent that the school offers catered meals throughout the residency portion of programming, and some schools will have any required textbooks pre-ordered and shipped out to students directly without the student having to deal with the hassle of getting them. That sort of thing.
These programs often will also waive standardized testing requirements depending on the nature of work experience or past educational background — again, a reflection of the different clientele and the separate market segment that the EMBA resides in (in most places) compared to the oversubscribed F/T MBA tracks.
Even Wharton has this opportunity with their EMBA:
(We say “even” in the case of Wharton because this is probably the most competitive EMBA program around — it’s nearly as hard to get into Wharton for Executives, particularly the SF location, as it is their full-time tracks! and they’re not going to waive the testing requirements.)
As we said, almost any other non-MBA graduate program offers these opportunities, too, so if you’re wondering if maybe you should ditch all this business-y stuff and follow your heart into an MFA, or you are in love with public policy and you want to try for a program in international development, or practically anything else, these opportunities to speak with an actual admissions person directly are common. This is also something you’ll find at a few of the European full-time programs like ESADE ; it’s not something that most of the top U.S. schools offer since they don’t have the ability to meet all the demand that they would have for it, nor do they really need to worry about convincing anyone to apply or trying to sell their program to any particular candidate.
But if you’re kicking the tires on MBA programs, and wondering if you’re “too old” for a standard full-time MBA (spoiler alert: you’re probably not! not if you can make the case for it, at least), then you might consider scheduling one or two of these pre-assessment phone chat executive MBA interview thingies. It can help you get a feel for the different programs and you can use it as a sounding board for your graduate education plans.
Just be aware of this reality: Most admissions people will be very encouraging of you to apply, almost regardless of whether you do in fact have a chance (read: Wharton). We’ve mentioned this phenomenon about cagey adcom types before; it’s always in their best interest to get you to apply (or reapply, in the case of those admissions teams on the rare full-time programs that offer feedback). They’ll be doing a sell job on you. But in some cases, they may also be candid. If you’re talking to an admissions person at an EMBA program that does not waive the GMAT, and you have a 550, they might directly say if they feel it’s too low for them to make an offer of admission. (We’re not telling you that a 550 is definitely too low at any particular program; we’re saying that certain admissions folks will be forthcoming if they sense a true obstacle to you getting an admit into that track. Or at least they may hint broadly that the test score is a risk, or be particularly encouraging of the suggestion that you try taking the test again. If they do that, take the hint, and take action, before you apply, if you’re really serious about getting in to their school.)
Those calls tend to be fun, since it’s a chance for you to interact directly with an insider who is knowledgeable about what their program can provide as an accelerant to your career. Don’t go into it cold; do your research on your own first! Study their website, talk to your friends who’ve done an EMBA, either at that school or elsewhere, come up with lots of questions that pertain specifically to you and your motivation surrounding graduate education. Use it to your advantage.
You can try the “What are my chances??” question in such a context and it’ll likely be received better than if you lob that at an adcom person work works in the full-time MBA admissions office.
Be sure to dig through all the pages of your school’s website to see about such opportunities, and if an admissions team offers it, then jump on the chance.
And oh yeah, to mention before someone brings it up in the comments: A handful of full-time MBA programs do indeed do applicant-initiated interviews, where everyone applying has the opportunity to be interviewed as part of their app process. This short list is primarily Tuck — if you can get your butt up to Hanover — and Kellogg — who may or may not waive the interview if they cannot match you up with an alumni to conduct it. Duke also offers this in a limited window at the very start of the admissions season in September.
This applicant-initiated interview opportunity is not the same as what we’re discussing here, which is a chance to meet with AN ADMISSIONS PERSON to discuss the program and your individual profile BEFORE YOU SUBMIT AN APPLICATION. These interviews with Kellogg and Tuck are where the school is actively evaluating you as a candidate to their program. While you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that ANY interaction with anyone at any school is still part of your evaluation process (meaning, anybody can write a note to place in your file that captures anything exceptionally positive or negative that they experience when they talk to you), these pre-evaluation assessment things are somewhat more casual, and they’re definitely about the school trying to sell to you, instead of the other way around.