How to Prepare a Winning Executive MBA Application

by mba

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You are nearing the end of your journey towards your dream EMBA. You know where you want to study. You have done all your research. But there is one important task you still need to tick off your list: the EMBA application.

Every Executive MBA programme will have varying admission requirements, but you can expect some overlap: proven managerial experience, aptitude test score and application essays, to name a few. With sufficient planning and preparation, you will be able to submit an application package that not only feels authentic to you, but also demonstrates your skills and drive for growth.

Are tests important?

When applying for an Executive MBA, some business schools require that applicants sit a standardised test to assess their analytical and quantitative skills. Usually, these tests are the GMAT or the test designed specifically for EMBA candidates, i.e. the Executive Assessment (EA).

The weight of test scores varies greatly between schools. Overall, in EMBA admission, the focus falls on the quality of your experience and your career development plans rather than a test score. However, if your school of choice requires a GMAT or EA score, there is a reason.

Former EMBA admissions officer and currently head of admissions consulting at Advent Group Iliana Bobova explains:

“If the GMAT is part of the application package, make sure you prepare well. It works out for you in two ways. First, a high score always helps you stand out among competitors for a seat in the EMBA classroom. Second, and even more important, preparing to achieve a high score builds an essential skill set for success during your studies.”

So, if a test score is required, make sure to get it out of the way early so you can focus on the other parts of your application.

Pay attention to your CV

Your CV is one of the first methods of conveying a positive impression to the admissions committee. View it as a short self-introduction that should highlight your accomplishments and strengths. Try looking at your experience from an outside perspective: What do you want to stand out? What is most interesting about your experience and what would be most relevant to this particular programme?

Do not make the mistake of overlooking your CV; instead, craft one that will help you stand out and be a frame of reference for your entire application.

Make sure that you prepare a new CV that is focused on EMBA application. Don’t use a standard job application CV. It will help to check if your business school of choice has specific requirements. Take London Business School (UK) as an example. When it comes to the CV for their Executive MBA programme, the website states: “Your CV must be between 1-2 pages in length. If you have any significant gaps in your employment history, give your reasons on a separate sheet.”

What is your authentic story?

Between one and four essays will be the requirement, depending on the school and programme. This part of the application is your chance to really capture the essence of your character and portray your distinctiveness. Your goal is to give the admissions committee a reason to choose you over all the other equally qualified and successful applicants.

“Contrary to popular belief, we are not looking for perfect pros,” highlights Emily Haydon, Assistant Dean, Admissions and Financial Aid at Kellogg School of Management (US). “Rather, we are looking for the ability to answer the prompts clearly and to demonstrate your point of view. What’s your story and how have you reached this point in your career?”

An essay is the perfect way to tell your personal and professional story; you just need to find an authentic way to convey it in your words. Many applicants overlook the importance of an essay and write what they think the admissions committee wants to read. But there is no right way to tell your story.

What you can do to write a good story is to focus on the structure of your essay. Have a powerful and compelling beginning, leaving the reader intrigued to find out more. The middle should represent your career progression and actually tell the story you want. The end should focus on the university you are applying to, why you are pursuing that programme, what you want to gain from it and what you can contribute to the class. Adapt the structure to the particular essay topic.

Choose recommenders who know you well

At almost every business school you will be required to submit letters of recommendation. You might want to consider asking people who have worked closely with you and are familiar with your accomplishments, the challenges you have faced and how you managed to overcome them. They will be able to best frame your work and experience and paint a fuller picture to the admissions committee. Have an open conversation with them before they start writing and remind them of certain challenges you overcame and your accomplishments that you may want them to mention.

How to Prepare a Winning Executive MBA Application

The interview – the deciding factor for EMBA admission

The interview is a critical part of the admission process. There is a good chance that it has been a while since you have been the interviewee, so brush up on your interview skills. Try to view it as another opportunity to demonstrate how your experience and overall background can contribute to this programme, but also why and how the programme will help you achieve your personal development and career aspirations.

Your interview may well be the most important part of your application, so you’ll want to go prepared. Familiarise yourself in depth with the programme and information provided on the university’s website. Review your essays and CV as well, since you are likely to receive questions about your application. Make sure you showcase your teamwork and time management skills and also have a solid plan for how you will be able to balance business school with your other responsibilities.

Take your time with every part of your EMBA application to make it truly authentic and allow the best moments of your career to shine. Take every opportunity to tell your professional story and make it as memorable as possible.

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