MBA Admissions: How Full-Time Stats Differ From Part-Time & Executive MBAs

Psst…Want to know a secret?

You’re working too hard to get into a top MBA program.

Are you crazy? That’s a fair question. How about this: You don’t need to sacrifice your evenings and weekends to score a 740 on the GMAT. And you don’t need to pour your soul into your essay, either. Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated by those 20% acceptance rates. You have other options to get into your target schools.

They are the part-time and executive MBA programs. Forget safety schools. Think of these programs as a back door into an elite MBA education. You’ll enjoy the same caliber of classes and professors. You can still pursue the same passions and build the same peer relationships. Best of all, you’ll still be associated with the brand of your dreams. What’s not to like?


You probably have your heart set on a full-time MBA program. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the traditional way to go. You have the time to safely test out roles and take risks to discover who you are and where you want to go. Before you jump in head first, take a moment to fully consider these two alternatives.

Chicago Booth students in class. Courtesy photo

Let’s start with entrance requirements. Thinking about Chicago Booth? The full-time cohort averaged a 726 GMAT. Pretty impressive, right?  You could make the part-time cohort with a 678 GMAT — or roughly the average score accepted by Georgia Tech’s Scheller School of Business for its full-time MBA program. In other words, don’t sweat your 700 or so GMAT score. You can gain the same access to Booth resources with a GMAT that’s nearly 50 points lower than your full-time counterparts — in theory, at least.

Booth is hardly alone. At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, there is a 54-point spread in GMAT averages between the full-time and part-time cohorts (728 vs. 674). At Ross, the gap is 58 points (708 vs. 650). Out west, you have even bigger differences at USC Marshall (692 vs. 614) and Arizona State Carey (682 vs. 585). However, the disparity comes into full view when you average the Top 50 MBA programs, as ranked by U.S. News last spring. Just weigh the average GMATs against the enrollments at each of the full-time and part-time MBA programs. The result: full-time MBAs sported a 706 GMAT average, 83 points better than the part-time cohort which manage an average score of 623.


The same dynamic crops up when comparing full-time and executive MBA programs, too. At Wharton, for example, full-time entrants outperform their executive peers by a 730-to-700 average on GMATs. At Emory Goizueta and Vanderbilt Owen, the difference shows up at more than 100 points — (683 vs. 571) and (691 vs. 586), respectively. Overall, full-time MBAs scored far higher than their executive brethren by a 706-to-631 margin. The executive MBA average was also eight points higher than their part-time peers (631 vs. 623).

When it comes to test-taking — at least where quantitative problem-solving, interpreting readings, and managing time and pressure — full-time MBAs hold the high ground over part-time and executive MBAs. Of course, that also means less is expected from them in getting into their target schools.

This data does come with a caveat. Among the top 50 MBA executive programs, just nine reported their GMAT averages to U.S. News & World Report. A hard-boiled cynic might say that these schools are hiding something. In fairness, many top EMBA programs have either opted out of requiring a GMAT score, or will waive the requirement, if you have a sufficient amount of management experience. Variables such as the diversity of advanced degrees, job functions and industries tend to get the most play on their class profiles — a nod to what truly appeals to adcoms in the EMBA space. This also stands in stark contrast to part-time MBA programs, where you’ll find a GMAT average attached to every applicable program.


How do the programs match up in undergraduate GPAs, a marker of consistency and success over time? Alas, this trend re-plays itself here, too. Like before, every full-time and part-time MBA program publicized average GPAs for incoming students. In contrast, EMBA programs collected or released GPAs for 24 of the 45 programs…a rate that is, in fairness, nearly three times better than GMAT scores. Looking deeper, among the top name business schools that carry executive MBA programs, few divulged their undergraduate GPAs, including Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, Wharton, Northwestern Kellogg, and Berkeley Haas. At the same time, public EMBA programs with strong regional footprints — think Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona — tended to be more transparent.

The UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business

Overall, incoming full-time MBAs — at least among U.S. News’ top 50 American programs — brandished a 3.51 average GPA in 2016. Here, part-time and executive MBAs again trailed behind their full-time counterparts — but not to the extent they did with GMATs. Part-time MBA students came to campus with a 3.30 GPA on average, with EMBAs closing in at 3.20 collectively. Bottom line: GPAs still matter to adcoms, regardless of program — with part-time and executive MBA candidates expected to meet a threshold normally reserved for their full-time peers. But they matter less, largely because work experience in these programs is given greater weight.

Those weren’t the only intriguing data points when it comes to comparing MBA programs by the numbers. How much easier is it to get accepted into a part-time or executive MBA program? Look no further than Michigan Ross. Full-time MBAs are just a year younger, on average, than their part-time counterparts. Despite this, the part-time acceptance rate is nearly 50 points higher — 26.3% vs. 74.4% (with the rate being 72.6% for EMBA candidates at Ross). Traditionally, Berkeley Haas ranks among the most exclusive full-time MBA programs, with just a 12% acceptance rate for the Class of 2018. If you take the part-time route, your acceptance odds nearly quadruple to 47.4% for the same MBA education and degree at Haas. Even more, among part-time applicants, the chances of being accepted rise to over 75% at name programs like Georgetown McDonough, Washington University’s Olin School, and USC Marshall.

More than that, part-time MBAs can remain with peers of a similar age. On average, the age of first years entering full-time MBA programs is 27.8, barely two years younger than their part-time counterparts (30.1). That said, the full-time students are nearly a decade younger than their executive peers, who average 37.7 years of age in Top 50 American MBA programs that also include an EMBA offering.


Of course, this analysis hinges strictly on data. It doesn’t account for the intangibles inherent to full-time MBA programs. Most notably, there is the network, with full-time MBA programs averaging 228 students per class, compared to 147 students for part-time MBAs and 71 students for executive programs. In other words, full-time MBAs can naturally build wider and deeper networks.

In theory, this size means full-time programs tend to carry more clout. This advantage, however, can be negated (to an extent) since most students in executive and part-time MBA programs are paying full sticker price. This gives them a pretty loud microphone when push comes to shove. That power center is even more pronounced at programs like Washington Foster, USC Marshall, Georgia Tech Scheller, Rice Jones, and Maryland Smith, where the part-time and executive MBA cohorts — combined — far outnumber their full-time sidekicks.

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