Why I’m Not Getting Either A Part-Time MBA Or An Executive MBA

by MBA Over 30 on

One of the first questions that I get from people when either A) I mention my age/years of work experience while talking about my MBA candidacy or B) I mention my candidacy and they already know my age is “Have you considered a Part-Time MBA or EMBA?”

The answer to that question is yes, I have; and that is exactly what makes me so certain that I want neither.

I become slightly irritated when people ask me that question without knowing anything about my goals. The source of my irritation is not the nature of the question itself, but rather the logic behind asking it in the first place.

“Canned answers” annoy me to no end; but I am even more annoyed by canned questions. What’s a canned question, you ask? A canned question (in my personal dictionary of self-defined terms) is one that is asked as a knee jerk reaction to partial data.

In all fairness, there is usually a reasonable expectation that the supposed conclusion of a canned question is likely to be true; nevertheless, the intellectual laziness that encourages people to just blurt out an ill-supported assumption without qualifying it first rakes my nerves just a bit.

This “reasonable expectation” creates a general level of agreement among a particular group of people that the presence of said partial data is enough to conclude that the canned question is appropriate (aka a stereotype). Ah, group think. I hate group think. I wish I could ding people like the GMAT does for making assumptions without sufficient data; but I digress.


(to a muscular black man)…. “Do/did you play pro football?” [as if that is the only thing for fit black men to do]

(to an overweight woman with a severe hormonal imbalance)…”Have you tried a low carb diet?” [hasn't everyone?]

(to a 4th generation Asian woman)…”Do you speak Chinese?” [she's Japanese and Ukranian]

(to an MBA applicant who is 30+ years old)…”Why don’t you just get an EMBA/Part Time MBA?” [more on this in a few secs]

I’m sure you get the idea at this point (and if you haven’t, well, I just don’t know what to say about that).


*You are looking to move up in the same company you already work for.

*You are looking to promote into a new position (most likely within your current field) in the same city you already live in.

*You have a family, a mortgage, or other responsibilities that would make A) quitting your job to live on loans for 2 years and/or B) moving to a different city to attend school an unwise life decision.

Note to canned questioners: None of the above circumstances describe me–mostly because I’ve put off A) becoming attached to any job or employer B) starting a family C) buying a home because they all tend to conflict with early-stage entrepreneurship.


* You are looking to change careers.

* You have weighed the risk of quitting your current job, living off of loans for 2 years and possibly leaving your current city and have determined that it is a good risk in lieu of the likely return.

*A full-time MBA experience is necessary for you to achieve your goals.

2nd note to canned questioners: Bingo x 3 on all of the above for me.

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  • http://www.michaelmusgrove.com/about/ Michael Musgrove, MBA

    I went back to get my full-time MBA at age 38, and even worked in the graduate business school 20 hours a week, because I came up with the same group of reasons as you. And, aside from people asking if I am a black pro athlete, I got the same questions.

    My experience was great. I was in a class of around 100 and although we had several 30-somethings, I was as close to 40 as they were 30, and I was the oldest in the class. 

    Being the oldest in the class carries some implied responsibility, I believed at least. I ended up winning a mentorship award for helping other first and second year students, since I had significant work experience and volunteered quite a bit of my time to help anyone who needed it in the program, however I could.

    A few eye-openers for me was that I had forgotten a lot of stuff I learned in undergrad as a business minor, such as stats and finance equations. Also, I needed to become an expert at the MS suite, fast. I was pretty good, but I spent a lot of time mastering excel and powerpoint very quickly. My classmates were already very proficient. Not having been in a classroom in so long was strange at first as well. Much more modern, of course. 

    Although I’ve run businesses that required for me to manage younger generations, it’s different working with them as colleagues in teams. Invariably, they looked to me to lead every group project, which I’ll bet you experience as well. I would recommend accepting different group roles, instead being the “natural” leader because of a few grey hairs every time. 

    At the same time, I was REALLY impressed with how smart, talented and driven my classmates were. It was so much fun to interact with them and be surrounded by so many amazing people. And, if you are still a single man, the co-ed factor is nice to be a part of as well.You’ll be back in a very large pool of educated, very intelligent and attractive young ladies. 

    In short, I will bet you love going back full-time. It’s rewarding and exciting to collaborate with so many great minds and will give you a very new and different perspective on business and yourself. You may also think much more globally and in integrated systems upon graduation.

    Good luck!

  • Sherry

    Bravo! I, too, am over 30 and got the executive/part-time MBA question over and over. I was so scared by the comments that anyone over 30 had such a bad chance of getting into a good program that I was in a near panic. My reasons for choosing a full time program were very much the same as yours (though I am not an entrepreneur) with the added reason that I didn’t want to take the extra time that is required for part-time education. I held my breath and submitted applications to a range of schools, always keeping in mind that if the over 30 prejudice was true, I could go part-time if necessary.

    I am happy to report that I got in my first choice school and got a nice scholarship, too. So, a big bronx cheer to the naysayers who told me that my age was going to hurt me and I should lower my expectations 

  • Guest

    Congrats!!!  People need to realize that everyone’s situation is different and using 30 as the over/under line is asinine.

  • http://www.mbaover30.com/ MBA Over 30

    Thanks for the encouragement everyone.

  • Guest

    Can one report fraud on an MBA application?  I know somebody who made up things on his application, lied about his job experience and got an admit from one of the top schools!

  • Anonymous

    Where can one report fraud on an MBA application?  I know somebody who made up things on his application, lied about his job experience and got an admit from one of the top schools!

  • BennyJH

     It should be as easy as emailing or calling the admissions office of the school.  I am sure they would be interested in what you have to say. 

  • Guest

    I wish to remain anonymous, will that be alright?

  • Smi_josepha

    As somebody who is getting a part-time MBA, I love the idea.  It has nothing to do with being over 30.  If people focus on age, they’re focusing on the wrong thing.  Here’s why I love it:
    1.  My network is simply more valuable.  My classmates all have a lot more experience and the maturity that goes with it.  And they all are working right now in a diverse set of industries.  We’re no longer competing for jobs, we’re trying to leverage each other’s jobs.
    2.  I apply what I learn as I learn it.  Imagine studying something in semester 2 and then not using it until 2 years later.  Compare that to studying something on Saturday and using it on Monday.
    3.  I won’t be broke when I graduate.  This means that I don’t have to accept a job I don’t like just because I’m neck deep in debt.  It means I can launch a company at any point I want to.  It means I’m not desperate when I get out of school.

    Thinking back, if I could travel back in time for my engineering degree, I’d do it part-time as well.  There are things that only school can teach you and there are other things that only a real job can teach you.  Part-time education gives you both. 

  • Guest

    I wish you the best of luck. I applied to two of the best Canadian schools for full-time MBA. One accepted me without hesitation (and with some money, too), while the other put me on the wait list, then got back to me and said I’d be accepted into their part-time program, but not full-time, as I had too much “experience” (read: too old for them). I’m 42. Glad to be going to where I’m wanted.

  • http://www.mbaover30.com/ MBA Over 30


  • http://www.mbaover30.com/ MBA Over 30

    You have a valuable perspective on this issue. And I agree that it is not age, but personal fit that matters most. There is a case to be made for full time, part time and executive MBAs for different people with different circumstances. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  • http://cheetarah1980.blogspot.com/ cheetarah1980

     Congrats Sherry! I’ve seen your comments around the site and I was hoping you’d block out the naysayers and apply anyways.  I’m so happy to see that you were admitted to your 1st choice school.  Where will you be heading in the fall?

  • pjordan29

    Ditto the reasons from Smi_josepha. However, my reasoning is much, much more simple: I wanted an MBA from a top tier school and I just happen to live right down the street from one (literally) and they have an EMBA program, of which my company will pay 25%. I am very lucky to be in this spot.

  • Bub

    I am white and when I lifted heavy weights I always got asked if I played football or told that I should play football.

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