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.

  • Great points

    All great points, but let me ask you something as someone going through the same considerations: Were you originally from the Chicago or neighboring Mid-West U.S. area? If not, how did you deal with the bi-weekly stop and go and after class cohort group discussions?

  • ted

    what you ranted has zero relevance to your original goal of “comparing numbers”.

  • ted

    OK, so you met a small sample of people that aren’t typical of the programs they applied to – but what’s your point?

  • tendar

    Many top EMBA programs uses the new product of GMAC called the Executive Assessment (EA), can P&Q investigate it to know more about it?


    Where were you able to get such comprehensive admission %s for the EMBA programs listed? I’ve never seen a list published before. Usually programs are guarded about the admission rates.

  • Ferman

    Hello John,
    Why there is little, if any, of the Sloan Fellows programs in P&Q websites? Why this program doesn’t get any attention by the business education publications? It is somehow strange giving that it is offered by top schools of Stanford and MIT.

  • Yes and no. In many cases, especially where an applicant has a highly desired job he or she very much doesn’t want to give up, a part-time MBA program can directly compete with a full-time job. In fact, only recently at an admissions event in San Francisco, I met several would-be applicants who smack in the middle of that dilemma. They were the ideal age for a full-time elite program with great stats and profiles but were seriously considering Berkeley’s part-time offering. And not all that long ago, when I was hanging out at Wharton’s Executive MBA program in San Francisco, I met a student who was in her late 20s and working in a great job at Google. She wanted an MBA but also didn’t want to give up her job and decided to get an Executive MBA. She clearly was among the youngest students in her graduating class this year. Both examples show that while there are general differences in these populations, there is often more overlap than you might think.

  • halo

    GMAT disparity at each school single-handedly destroys the argument that high GMAT is needed in order to handle the “academic rigour” of an MBA program at elite programs. GMAT is used as a signaling effect to the school(s) single biggest buyer of MBA talent-consulting shops. If the consulting shops went away from hiring MBA graduates, or at the very least scaled it back significantly, GMAT would follow suit.

    MBA is not an academic degree.

  • Graham

    these programs are not for everyone. other EMBAs may be more convenient. These sloan fellows draw little attention and many question their value.


    I wonder if there’s a salary comparison between PT and FTs. Even though FTs rake up more debt, I wonder what is the payback period is compared to PTs

  • BeenThereDoneThat

    I largely agree. I am an alum of the Chicago Booth EMBA program. 730GMAT, 3.9GPA, BS, MS fwiw. Anyway, I had wanted an MBA for years, but took my time in deciding when to go, and, more importantly, in deciding where to go. I evaluated, in person, what I considered to be the top 12 programs, originally full-time only. After a number these visits, I attended, almost by mistake, an EMBA session at one school or another, and was blown away by the level of discussion in the room. Thereafter, I had an internal Freudian slip and started calling the full-time programs “undergraduate” programs. It was an easy decision in what was best for me after that.

    My 2cents? Attend full-time if you’re a 20something and you want an entry to an analyst job at an IB/Consultant/Tech/Etc queued up for a lucrative and logical career arc. The school’s career services are built for it. Attend an EMBA if you are anything else – career services won’t help you, but the networks are stronger and far superior (IF you cultivate them).

    Incidentally, some of the Booth stats in the article are misleading. Booth EMBA has 3 campuses running concurrent class cohorts: Chicago, London, and formerly Singapore now HK. Students comingle and often change campuses/cohorts. All that means is that the International numbers are closer to 66% there. If this is the case in this instance, there may be other details that matter to you that only emerge on closer inspection. In short, do your own digging and analysis. P&Q is great, but you have to define and build your own metrics.

  • MBA-and-MBA

    Thank you for such informative response. I’d highly appreciate it to have your thought on the unique offering of full time executive programs such as Stanford MSx, MIT Sloan Fellow, London Sloan Fellow, and USC IBEAR. Who should consider them? and do you think they prepare for career change for a mid-career professional.

  • Jeff Schmitt

    Thanks for your input. I agree with your points. Our goal with this article was to provide a “by the numbers” contrast between FT, PT, and EMBA programs while alluding to their various constituencies and benefits (which would’ve required a whole separate article — or two — to do the subject justice). One motivation behind the piece was how so many applicants zero in on the full-time option without bothering to look at the part-time offering, which has a lower admissions threshold and still enables students to hold a job. As far as the FT-EMBA question you cite, I believe one question to ask is whether you intend to stay in the same role, industry, region, and company. The full-time experience is designed to cater to professionals in career transition. The EMBA is more geared towards individuals looking to round out their skill sets to prep them take the big next step forward in their careers — generally with the same firm. The EMBA also caters to the schedule of someone with heavy responsibilities and unforgiving schedules (FT schedules are crazy too…but they tend to create their own crazy with their campus activities). While EMBA students can participate in clubs and campus activities, the FT program is more conducive to both. At the same time, your network will be slightly different. If you want a network that is “already there” in terms of rank and accomplishment, the EMBA is your best bet. If you are looking for peers with high ceilings who can go anywhere and do anything in the coming years, a FT program might be a better place. It is all contingent, as you said, on what you want to get out of the program and who you want to be around. Of course, there is the issue of cultural fit too — particularly with a FT program. Having the right people around you who fit your values and interests at a lower-ranked program is more apt to bring out your best than just being a number at a higher-ranked program that doesn’t tug at your heart.

  • MBA-and-MBA

    It is misleading to compare part time to full time programs of the same school, simply because every program is targeting different group of applicants. In general: if you are early in your career (0 ~ 5 years of experience), then the full time is much better and serve you in the job market, it makes a lot of sense that the admission of early career applicants will depend heavily on the stats, GPAs, test scores, etc. because they are the obvious measures, while in the executive programs, the experience and leadership are the critical factors. Now, the question: if you are in the upper limit of early career people (6 ~ 8 Ys experience ) is it better to attend a top ranked EMBA or lower ranked full time, it depends on you and what are you looking for, career wise?,