Short answer: No, definitely not. Nuanced and more accurate answer: It depends on what you mean by “business school.” And by “old.” And for that matter, by “you.” If you’re asking, “Am I too old to get into a hypercompetitive full-time American MBA program?” Then it all depends on who you are and why you…
Yesterday we gave a breakdown of how to think about taking the GMAT or the GRE as your test of choice for the MBA applications you’re planning for. But what about the Executive Assessment? Most of you are aiming for a tippety-top full-time MBA program in the United States, and not for an Executive MBA…
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.
Dang. You didn’t make it in. 🙁 BUT WHY???
Most schools are explicit with a no-feedback policy. All decisions are final, and they’re unable to talk to you about it because they don’t have the bandwidth to field all of those calls.
But some schools are much more generous with their time and attention and encouragement.
For example, if you didn’t make it in to Darden, they’ve often offered the chance to get feedback in case you want to reapply. Usually they make this available in June (mark your calendar now!).
Only a few schools do this. In the past, HBS would do it if they interviewed you and/or put you on the waitlist before rejecting you, though they don’t advertise this policy very loudly and we’re not clear if it’s a one-off thing or a standing offer that they’ll continue to make available if you ask. Tuck will do it too. Yale does it. We understand that Berkeley-Haas is no longer doing it, which is a bummer.
If you go for one of these feedback sessions, just manage expectations. The stuff they say tends to be pretty standard. Unless you’re one of those super qualified candidates who just couldn’t break into bschool this year because there were too many others in your pool, then the adcom is more likely than not going to tell you stuff that you should already know. By the time you go for a feedback session, then hopefully will be able to predict what the admissions person is going to tell you. You should have a sense based on profile self-assessment (or a simple comparison to the school’s class profile) what the issues are. If your college academics are not that strong, or if your GMAT is a little low, then that’s what your adcom person will say. Predictable.
They may also tell you if your essays weren’t up to snuff. Maybe.
Generally speaking, the reports we hear back from BSers who ask for one of these feedback sessions are largely the same. The value of such calls is usually a bit limited. The adcoms aren’t going to tell you REALLY why you were rejected (especially not if the reason was the you came across like a jerk in your app in some way, or if your recommenders did not say nice things about you – it’s unusual but it happens, and these reasons will definitely not be directly disclosed). The adcom peeps are more likely than not going to give you some vague comments about how you’re qualified but it’s competitive, yada yada yada.
It can still be useful to go through the experience but honestly, you hopefully by this stage of the game have done enough self-reflecting and gone back over your candidacy in a more objective light, that you are aware of the deficiencies that may have been in evidence. And, even more hopefully, you’re already taking steps to fix them, in preparation for the coming Round 1 season.
We’re of course always up for taking a look at rejected apps – we have the formal Post-Mortem (aka “Oh noz!!”) review where we go into great detail on every aspect of your application. Or you can just get the Comprehensive Profile Review which lets you understand how things may be perceived by the adcoms in the upcoming cycle.
We do still appreciate the schools that do this. It’s certainly an attempt to be more transparent, and it’s an applicant-friendly policy. But it’s kind of like when someone is breaking up with you; it’s possible you’re going to get some variation of, “It’s not you, it’s me” – or maybe, “It’s not you, it’s your test score.” Sometimes people need to hear that directly from A Person In Power before they’ll decide to actually do something about it, so if you’re skeptical of the assessments you’ve heard elsewhere (ahem), then definitely get some time on the calendar with your friendly admissions person and see what they say. No matter what, taking advantage of the opportunity shows that you are motivated, and if you reapply then they will see that you took advantage of this opportunity, which can only be a positive.
It also gives you something to do. Since you’re probably pretty darned bummed out. 🙁
Channeling those disappointed energies into next steps and coming up with a go-forward plan is the best way to deal with dejection.
If we can help? Please reach out! There are lots of opportunities to begin working with us. We’d be honored to be part of your reapplicant journey!
You may also be interested in:
We get it, the EMBA is not the preferred format for many applicants interested in bschool.
But guess what? The EMBA is a pretty darned good alternative and many excellent schools have incredible offerings!!
As our recent Post-MBA Perspective series from a former BSer has pointed out, it’s a very individual decision and sometimes people don’t come to it easily.
It’s important to counter the fallacy that you can be “too old” for a regular full-time MBA program — though there is some truth in it, as there always is in the best lies propagated on the internet. Acceptance to bschool is never predicated on age. We have seen plenty (plenty!!) of BSers in their 30s who make it into all the schools in the world. At the same time, there is a standard age range for the cohort in any given program, and the adcoms need to be specifically impressed with someone who brings more years of professional experience with them on their application, in order to make an offer if they’re significantly outside the norm. There are always a lot of moving parts to any MBA application, and to someone who has more than ten years of experience then those moving parts need to be handled carefully in how the presentation to the adcom is made.
And, sometimes it just doesn’t work out, either aiming too high for the profile, or not pitching effectively. And for a BSer who really has decided that yes, business school would be an awesome opportunity and an advantage in furthering his or her career, then sometimes it makes sense to look at other options available.
Do you know how many Executive MBA programs there are? Quite a few! At many of the very best schools.
Here’s a quick lay-of-the-land to get you acquainted with what we would nominate as “the best” EMBA programs in the U.S. for you to consider:
EssaySnark’s Loosely Organized List of Notable Executive MBA Programs
(Basically, any top school that offers an EMBA is going to be on this list; it’s roughly organized by level of selectivity.)
- Wharton EMBA SF and Philly – probably the most selective EMBA programs around. Really tough to get into! And worth it if you do.
- Columbia EMBA NY – various formats including Friday/Saturday, weekends-only, and partnered EMBA with LBS, etc. More EMBA options than perhaps any other school. Also quite flexible on who they’ll accept; need not be a senior exec to demonstrate fit to a CBS program.
- MIT Sloan EMBA – they go for specifically more senior professionals in this track; they also have a shorter format one-year Sloan Fellows MBA for those with more experience than would be a fit for their regular two-year program.
- Chicago Booth EMBA Chicago, London or Hong Kong (and part-time MBA programs in Chicago too) – also more flexible on admissions, and currently catering to larger geographies including folks commuting from places like NYC (presumably who didn’t get into Columbia?? commuting for school is really a drag, though more and more students are doing it, to more and more places, especially up and down the West Coast)
- Kellogg EMBA Evanston (Chicago) or Miami – where a GMAT isn’t even required! Their Miami option caters to Latin America business, though not exclusively.
- NYU Stern with a variety of EMBA and part-time tracks on offer, including a recently launched Washington DC EMBA program, and their very exclusive TRIUM for senior execs
- Berkeley Haas EMBA which oddly we don’t hear many BSers being interested in, possibly because Haas has a part-time format which is a very strong draw for those in the Bay Area who want to stay working while pursuing their degree
- Michigan Ross EMBA including Global EMBA that had traditionally catered to an international student body interested especially in supply chain and overseas business, though this has changed in recent years
- UVA Darden which has had a Global EMBA for some time and has for several years also been expanding into the Washington DC area (Darden went to DC before NYU did, and of course Georgetown McDonough is also in DC)
- Yale EMBA which is one of the longer programs (22 months) and which, like Berkeley, we just don’t get that many people saying they’re interested in, but it’s well respected and a high-quality offering
- UCLA Anderson EMBA with different cohorts in LA and also through a joint program at National University Singapore
- Cornell EMBA with a new-ish NYC option along with a long-running joint program cohosted in Ithaca and at Queen’s University in Canada
Phew! That’s quite a list!
So who’s missing? Well, Stanford GSB has a non-EMBA EMBA — meaning, they have a unique offering that is targeted to the same type of more senior professional as other Executive programs, yet its got a totally different format (full-time residential, much closer to a standard full-time MBA) and a different degree (a Master’s, instead of the coveted little letters of “M-B-A”). It’s nearly identical to the Sloan Fellows program noted above (it was founded through a grant from Alfred Sloan, way back when, just like the MIT version was, and then renamed in the last ten years; LBS has a Sloan format too). The Stanford MSx is an awesome opportunity but we’re carving it out separate since it’s not technically an EMBA. But, it may as well be, in terms of the education offered, and, well, it’s Stanford. Not easy to get in!! At least as competitive as Wharton EMBA. But definitely a valuable option to consider if you’re in the market for a top-notch business education.
Where can you NOT go for an EMBA? There’s actually a handful of schools that don’t offer any formal MBA degree to this cohort, notably Harvard Business School and Dartmouth Tuck.
Some of the EMBA programs listed above are quite accommodating in terms of who they will consider for their programs based on age and career trajectory to date and overall levels of experience (Ross, Columbia, Darden); others (notably NYU, Berkeley, some of MIT’s tracks, etc.) are much more restrictive. Plus, the programs themselves vary widely. Some include travel to different locations with your cohort every semester; others only meet at your university’s campus. Most will require nearly as much group work as a full-time program does with your fellow students, though obviously the manner in which those projects are completed will differ greatly based on the distributed population. So the experience of going to class and meeting with teammates will not be the same. But, if you have diverse responsibilities already based on where your career is at and/or family obligations, then having a more flexible format might actually end up as ideal.
So today’s post is just to help you keep an open mind, and consider your options.
Let’s continue what we started on Friday! Here’s a Q&A from EssaySnark to a long-ago Brave Supplicant who’s now made it all the way through the process, completed his MBA, and been spit out the other side. Catch up on Part 1 if you missed it, and here is Part 2!
## **EssaySnark:** How did you determine if a school met those priorities or not? What was the best resource you used or action you took to learn about the school and decide if it was a fit for you?
**former BSer** Any school on my list would have been fine. Heck, any school in the top 20 or 30 would have worked for my original consulting goal. Mainly this was because I didn’t care about recruiting. After networking into BCG on my own without an MBA, I knew I did not need to depend on the usual recruiting game.
What really changed everything was the visits.
My first visit specifically.
Ah, Tuck! Tuck is like the high-school crush you move on from, but always remember with a sigh. My visit was amazing, and it helped me realize what all the jabber about “fit” really meant. This, ahem… refocused my priorities, and it’s why Darden eventually rose to the top.
You see, Darden is akin to a southern Tuck, which made it a fantastic fit for me. Furthermore, Darden prides itself on an educational experience built around the case method classroom, which is exactly what I needed to do better in consulting case interview. (The GMAT proved it wasn’t a mental horsepower issue, and my earlier networking provided it wasn’t a fit issue. This left confidence as the problem, and so a classroom built on the case method would be perfect).
The school visits changed my thinking.
At Tuck, I fell in love with the school.
Then, at Wharton, I felt like a number in a large system. A good friend with a Wharton MBA would later tell me that it took her almost a full year to find her crew. Looking back, that would not have been the best place for me. (Wharton is a fantastic school, and “not the best for me” is nearly a distinction without a difference).
At Kellogg, I had a good time. Almost too good of a time. Actually, I was beginning to suspect the hardest part of my MBA would be keeping up with all the twenty-somethings late night shenanigan-izing.
At Darden, they let me visit a real class. And I still remember it clearly. It was the last session of a first-year strategy class. The interactivity and thoughtfulness of the classroom discussion blew me away.
Best classroom I’d ever seen. Hands down.
Darden only lets you visit one class, but I charmed my way into a second one, because I figured the one I had seen was a fluke. So I visited an operations class. I saw the same level of interaction. It was as if the students were teaching the course, while the professor was conducting or directing the discussion.
As you guessed from all that gushing, Darden went to the top of my shortlist.
Actually, Darden turned me down for their regular MBA but wanted me to interview for the EMBA. I was so totally and emotionally invested in the MBA that it took a couple weeks to work through my feelings to make an objective assessment. I boiled the situation down to a simple question. Was an MBA worth $200,000 more than an EMBA? (This is a simplistic estimate based on lost wages and loans, disregarding the NPV of future income, but it was the key question that focused my analysis of the choice.)
Because I had been so caught up in my plan to get an MBA for consulting, it was difficult to admit the EMBA was actually a far better option for me. However, I still stand by this assessment. It would have been a personal and financial step backwards for me to go into a regular MBA.
Hmmmm….. the plot thickens! More to come as we follow along retrospectively with this former BSer’s adventures to bschool! UPDATE: POSTED HERE! In the meantime, we can offer this post from the ‘snarchive on related topics….!
We often stay in touch with certain former BSers as they go through the actual GOAL of this whole process and launch into their MBA adventure, and it’s so helpful and interesting to get reports back from the field. One comment from a current student in a recent private exchange with us is worth sharing:…
Happy Groundhog Day, Brave Supplicant! To continue with our Round 3 Reality Check series, today we’ll talk about programs that might be in range for an admit even at this stage of the season. In case you missed them: What about Round 3? To Round 3 or not to Round 3 Who / what situations…
Hey BSers! We’re reblahgging this from 2015 because dang, that was three years ago, and this info is timely for where some of you are at today!!!
And yes, we realize that those answers were unsatisfying to many of you.
“You’re telling me to WAIT, EssaySnark?? Why in heck would I want to WAIT? I procrastinated my way to this point where I missed out on my prime opportunity to apply – but now I realize that that was a mistake! Now I know that I **NEED** to go to bschool. Now I’m ready to do this thing! Why on earth would I WAIT??”
There are in fact a few other options to consider at this time of year. Here are ones for you to consider.
1. A lower-ranked program often still has openings in Round 3.
You don’t even need to go too far down the rankings to find a program that could still be open to an app from you. While we don’t encourage it, we have seen people make it into Cornell, Ross and Darden with a last-round application. If you’re even more flexible (and you have a halfway-decent profile) then a school like Georgetown or USC or Vanderbilt should be in range. It depends on your priorities, and of course on the school. We talked about some bschools where Round 3 is viable before.
2. INSEAD has multiple intakes and rolling admissions.
This means that they sometimes have openings during parts of the season when other schools are full. The more competitive candidate pools will not have the best shot in any INSEAD Round 3 but depending, again, on your profile, there could be an opportunity for you to try for INSEAD right now.
3. LBS also has four rounds – so Round 3 is possible for them.
You’re good to go with a Round 3 on any school that has four rounds. LBS is the main hold-out among top schools that still does this (besides INSEAD but they have a year-round apps, rather than the standard September/October to March/April season). NYU also now has four rounds but their schedule is more like Tuck and Duke, where they all have three deadlines in the timeframe where their peers have two. Anyway: Yes to LBS. It is definitely more competitive than their Round 2 but it’s doable, and you have some time remaining before that date hits, too.
4. Part-time programs are often not yet at capacity. Same with Executive MBAs.
These programs are often still accepting candidates through the summer, and Round 3 is nearly always still feasible. We discussed possible programs where a Round 3 app might work previously.
5. If your profile is ah-maz-ing, you could still make it into a top school.
The problem with this advice is that few people understand what “ah-maz-ing” really means. You can check out our posts here on the blahg about “the Harvard type” as a hint – you need to have a profile that’s near that caliber even if you’re trying for a school like lowly old Tuck in the last round. If you want some guidance on whether you’re all that (or not) – or just get a sense of what you should really be focusing on right now – you can go for our Late Season Strategy Review to get some help on evaluating your chances. And of course, our little booklet-thing called Everything You Need to Know about a Round 3 Application lays all of this out for you in greater detail.
The most important consideration when you’re thinking about applying now: Will it mess up your chances next season if you end up as a reapplicant? That’s a real risk (we go into all of it in the Round 3 booklet). You need to be looking at your cross-season strategy right now. It may seem like you’ve got nothing to lose to submit a bunch of apps at the tail end of the admissions season but that’s not actually how reality works. You need to consider your options carefully.
But yes, every year we see BSers squeak in under the wire in Round 3. We don’t recommend it but if you play your cards right, it can happen. Mostly we see people NOT get in, so don’t get your hopes up too terribly much – but we’re around to help if you want to do the Hail Mary!!!
Obviously you already know that EMBA means “Executive MBA.”
The “E” does not stand for “Exclusive.”
However in terms of selectivity and difficulty of admission, landing a spot at an EMBA even at one of the most highly regarded business schools is STILL DIFFICULT!
No, it’s not nearly at the same level of difficulty as it is for a full-time program. It’s just not.
But it’s also something to be proud of, if you’re able to pull it off.
We did a whole series last year around this time on the option of the Executive MBA and how that might be the right way to go for certain BSers who have struggled to make it into a top full-time program, and yeah, we just covered this a few weeks ago too. But it keeps coming up, so we thought we’d do it again.
It may feel like a kick in the gut when you see all those applicants on the MBA forums celebrating their interview invitations, and your inbox remains stubbornly empty.
But there are multiple paths to the same goal.
It’s not a badge of shame to try for an EMBA instead. Getting into an EMBA is still competitive. It’s still not something that just anybody can pull off (at least, not to the top universities). Sure, there are some schools out there where all you need is a pulse and a GMAT score and they’ll take you. The EMBA tracks at schools like Columbia and Booth and NYU and UC-Berkeley and Wharton are definitely not in that category.
So what’s more important to you? Being validated that you’re “good enough” (whatever that means, in this crazy-competitive era) for a two-year full-time program? Or going to an excellent school that will give you the same education — and the same exact credential — as its more highly selective sister?
It’s all a matter of perspective.
As we say all the time, the MBA is what you make of it.
Five years down the road, we can guarantee you that ain’t nobody gonna care that you got into a program that had an “E” in front of its name.