Applying for an Executive MBA: Do's and Don'ts |

Applying for an Executive MBA: Do's and Don'ts

By Laura L

Updated Updated

Sponsored by ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA Asia-Pacific  

Deciding to study an executive MBA is a lifechanging decision that can help drive your career further and advance your leadership skills for a bigger impact.  

The application process for an executive MBA can be a challenging and rigorous process while managing work as a senior manager or executive leader, but with solid research, it’s your opportunity to showcase who you are and how the programme will shape your future and the future of your industry.  

Admissions teams will look for clear demonstration of your leadership abilities, examples of creativity and innovation and an eagerness to develop advanced executive networks.   

At ESSEC, EMBA admissions officers will also look at how your work experience could help you contribute to the peer-to-peer learning aspect of the programme. 

“Peer-to-peer learning occurs when each person contributes their own experiences and expertise and brings their own comparisons to the classroom. We highly encourage experience sharing in all of our EMBA courses,” Prof. Cèdomir Nestorovic, Academic Director of the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA Asia-Pacific, shares. 

Here are our dos and don’ts when applying for an executive MBA programme:  

Do get clear on your goals 

Before you apply for an executive MBA, you must be clear on your career goals and the outcomes you aim to achieve from the programme. 

How do you envision an executive MBA having an impact on your career? What challenges do you face that you seek expert guidance on? What network are you hoping to build? How do you plan to implement your learning into your organisation?  

The ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA provides a strong focus on actionable learning and tactical frameworks that are applicable in the workplace, including a programme-long group project on innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability which helps students develop innovative approaches to business.  

Having a clear understanding of what you want will demonstrate to the admissions team that you take ownership of your education and have a strong vision for how you’ll gain from the experience.  

Do research the school thoroughly 

On top of researching the specific programme details, it’s important to gain a rounded view of what your chosen business school is about. Attending information sessions and webinars can be a great way to ask questions and understand how you might fit in.  

What expertise do the academics bring? What are the school’s values and priorities when it comes to business and leadership? What are the course leaders looking for in the next student cohort? Who is represented in the student and staff population? How will the school’s location immerse you in different cultural experiences and business markets?  

The ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA allows students to study at the Asia-Pacific campus in Singapore, understanding cultural behaviours and new business models being implemented across the continent. The programme's comprehensive curriculum covers everything from geopolitics to the business fundamentals necessary  to understand the Asian  market.  

"At ESSEC, we don’t look at Asia from the prism of just one country or area. Instead, when discussing the latest business trends, professors curate examples that are Asia-specific and drawn from a variety of countries, so participants gain a complete understanding of how a scenario can play out in different contexts," said Prof Cèdomir Nestorovic, the academic director of the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA Asia-Pacific. 

Do build strong examples of leadership, innovation, teamwork, and resilience 

Schools will have varying ideas of what the perfect EMBA candidate looks like, but most will be looking for strong examples of leadership, creativity and innovation, effective teamwork, and resilience to unexpected challenges.  

Before applying for an executive MBA, make sure you have a strong set of examples that give an honest look at your leadership approach and the lessons you’ve learned from your professional  

experiences. This will become the meat of your application essay and will show whether you’re ready to begin executive education.  

Do speak honestly about your story 

You can only come to an EMBA with your lived experiences and professional background, so trying to be anything else will only hinder your learning.  

Being able to speak honestly about where you’ve come from, missteps you may have taken and challenges you’ve faced will give schools a clearer view of who you are, what you’ve learned so far and how the school can support you during your studies. The world needs more open, honest and empathetic leaders. Start with your application.  

Do establish your position on EDI and sustainability issues 

Most EMBA interview panels will now ask questions about equity, diversity and inclusion and social and environmental sustainability.  

As businesses and organisations begin to understand the positive impact of embracing different perspectives and lived experiences when it comes to effective leadership, and the responsibility of creating sustainable services and products, schools will want to know how you’re already thinking about these challenges.  

ESSEC Business School is dedicated to training responsible leaders. Vincenzo Esposito Vinzi, dean and president, said: “Being a responsible leader means being able to see beyond business as usual. To prepare its students for the world of tomorrow, ESSEC’s pedagogy seeks to awaken and develop creative and critical thinking.” 

Don’t be reactive 

If you’re unsuccessful in your application or realise you need further evidence of your experience, don’t react and pull something together last minute or apply again immediately in round two. Nor should you look at the next best school you could apply to. 

Take your time to really consider what will be the best move for you, whether that’s waiting until the next intake to apply, or gaining more experience or insight before applying to the same schools again.  

Don’t be long winded 

The top business schools will have hundreds of quality applications to work through. For the best chances, regardless of your suitability for the programme, get straight to the point.  

Show the school who you are and why you’re here as concisely as you can. You’ll have the opportunity to connect in more depth at the interview stage. 

Don’t take yourself too seriously 

While applying to the top business schools can feel daunting, remember that we’re all human. As a leader, the admissions team will want to see that you’re human and how you interact with other humans in a professional capacity. 

Bringing your whole self to the table and embracing the parts of you that make you who you are will make you shine brighter than acting as corporate or professional as possible.  

Don’t expect an EMBA to give you all the answers 

As ESSEC Business School states, an EMBA is about ‘information synergy, not information download.’ As a student, you’ll gain what you bring to the programme. You’ll be expected to take ownership of your learning and networking opportunities and while you’ll be supported by the school, an EMBA won’t give you all the answers. 

It’s about more than gaining a qualification. It’s about embedding yourself in advanced leadership development, learning from the diverse perspectives in your cohort, the expertise of your teachers and trialling changes in your own organisation.  

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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