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Is It Easier to Get Into an Executive MBA Program?

Nov 13, 2020
We break down the different admissions processes for MBA and Executive MBA programs and explain why acceptance rates don’t tell the whole story

By Kara Sherrer

Students just beginning their b-school research journey have likely discovered the MBA and the Executive MBA program (EMBA) options. One of the major differences that often jumps out between these 2 programs is the much higher acceptance rate for EMBA programs vs. daytime MBA programs. These acceptance rates prompt many prospective students to wonder, “is it easier to get into an Executive MBA program?”

Statistics are important, but in the case of MBA vs. EMBA programs, exclusively comparing acceptance rates doesn’t paint a full picture. We talked to Juli Bennett, Executive Director for Executive MBA Programs, and Sarah Fairbank, Director of Recruiting for Executive MBA Programs, to learn why the admission process — and therefore the acceptance rates — are different for Executive MBA programs.

How is the admission process different for an MBA vs an Executive MBA?

While the application requirements for MBA and EMBA programs may look similar at first glance, there are actually some key differences. Many well-regarded EMBA programs, including the one at Vanderbilt Business, heavily vet candidates before they submit applications and, in some cases, may actually conduct the interview before the application is complete. This contrasts with an MBA program, where it’s more incumbent on candidates to reach out to admissions and recruiting officers if they want to talk before submitting an application.

Sarah Fairbank

Sarah Fairbank

One of the main reasons EMBA programs do so much work to screen upfront is that EMBA students continue working while in the program. “I don’t want somebody to go to their boss for a letter of recommendation for a program they’re not going to get into. The turnoff points are… a lot earlier, because the stakes are higher,” Fairbank explained.

“If you’re going to quit your job and go to a daytime MBA program, your boss knows you’re going to quit, you know you’re going to quit. You don’t know where you’re going to go per se, but you know you’re going to go back to school. With an executive program, it’s a different undertaking,” she added.

Is it easier to get into an Executive MBA program?

Juli Bennett, Vanderbilt Executive Director for Executive MBA Programs,

Juli Bennett

Some candidates start looking into Executive MBA programs because they see the higher acceptance rates and think that it will be easier to get accepted. However, Bennett says it’s very important to recognize just how much pre-screening happens behind the scenes. “I want to go back to the original question, which was, is it easier to get in?… Executive MBA programs take fewer applications, because if you’re the right fit, they’re going to encourage you. We’re not in the game of trying to get people to apply so we can send out denial letters,” she explained.

Speaking of those denials, while some daytime MBA programs can get a lift in rankings if their acceptance rate goes down, Executive MBA programs aren’t ranked on their acceptance rates. Even if a program does have a higher acceptance rate than another, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s less prestigious or that the quality of education is lower. “Executive programs are not ranked on their acceptance rate, whereas it’s very important to rankings for daytime MBA program,” Fairbank confirmed.

In terms of other factors to look at beyond acceptance rates, Bennett and Fairbank recommend considering the quality of professors and the type of degree awarded. (Not all Executive MBA programs bestow a full MBA to graduates; the Vanderbilt Business program is one of the exceptions.) Other factors such as in-person classes and location may also be very important for busy executives trying to balance work and family time with classes and networking.

One of the best ways that prospective students can learn whether or not an Executive MBA program is a good fit for them is to schedule a personal consultation with the EMBA team. If you’re thinking about an Executive MBA, consider reaching out to get answers to your questions.

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