P&Q Editor John A. Byrne Answers Reader Questions About The MBA



Are executive MBA programs selective in admissions?

Not very, especially compared to full-time MBA programs at the same schools. The toughest programs to get into will be Wharton, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, and Columbia Business School, probably in that order. Acceptance rates for these programs are less revealing because in many cases there is a conversation that occurs between would-be applicants and schools that makes a good number of potential candidates not apply.

Still, acceptance rates remain significantly higher than full-time MBA programs. At Wharton, for example, the schools accepts more than twice as many EMBA applicants as it does candidates for its full-time MBA program—and Wharton is the toughest EMBA program to get into.

Nonetheless, don’t mistake the higher acceptance rates or the lack of a requirement for a GMAT as indications that these programs are inferior to the full-time, on-campus programs. EMBA students bring a wealth of important experience into a program and schools usually put their best faculty into the classroom for them. If you want to keep tabs on EMBA programs, we have a website specifically devoted to executive MBA offerings. Go to:

Poets & Quants for Executives – Business education for executives and managers, including Executive MBA programs


What has been your experience of traveling to another city for MBA every weekend?

Road warriors are a common part of the student population in the best Executive MBA programs. Your commute to Kellogg (a superb program by the way) is actually pretty tame compared to what many EMBA students have to deal with. It’s not uncommon for students to commute from different countries or entirely different regions of the U.S. to programs that meet every other week. We have even written about one student who traveled to and from Dubai to the Kellogg EMBA program.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to a good many of these students and while it can be somewhat hard to balance family and work with an EMBA schedule, they often like the travel time because it gives them the chance to do work and prepare for class. Of course, if you drive—you’ll have to keep your eyes on the road. But you might drive half the time and fly the rest of the time to mix it up.

We have done a bunch of stories on students who have done this. You might not only get a kick out of them. They might put your unease to rest and make you look forward to getting away for your EMBA:

George Clooney Has Nothing On These EMBA Road Warriors – Poets & Quants for Executives

EMBA Road Warrior: Stephanie Carlton – Poets & Quants for Executives

EMBA Road Warrior: Chris Bouck – Poets & Quants for Executives

EMBA Road Warrior: Christopher Min – Poets & Quants for Executives

EMBA Road Warrior: Harsh Gupta – Poets & Quants for Executives


Should I enroll in the UW-Madison EMBA program or the Northwestern EMBA program?

Frankly, this is a no-brainer. You need to get on that shuttle flight and go to Northwestern’s Kellogg School and it’s not only because the Kellogg brand kills the Wisconsin brand. In our latest ranking published earlier this year, Kellogg is No. 2 in the world. Wisconsin doesn’t even make the Top 50 cut. This is a clear-cut case where rankings DO matter. When one school is No. 5 and another is No. 10, a ranking may not tell you much of anything. The Kellogg program is ranked best in the world by The Economist, third by U.S. News, and fourth by The Financial Times. Rankings aside, here’s the big reason this is a simple decision.

It’s largely because the quality of people in your cohort, the experience they have and the companies they come from will be significantly above the students in a Wisconsin class. The dirty little secret of every business school is that most of the learning comes from each other. The smarter and more accomplished the students, the more willing they are to share their experiences, the more valuable your education will be. It doesn’t end there. After your two years in a program, you will take those relationships with you for the rest of your professional and personal life. That reason alone makes this a very easy decision. Whatever the additional costs are for the Kellogg program doesn’t matter because the payback will be greater.

Then, there are all the other reasons, from the quality of the faculty teaching in the program to the infrastructure support to make the experience the best it could possibly be. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in an Executive MBA program when you have very busy students who are balancing demanding jobs, family life and a rigorous academic program. You want to make sure the school has heavily invested in the backend of the program to make it go smoothly for you. Kellogg has far greater resources here and has been among the handful of EMBA players at the top of the game. So you will not only get better support throughout the two years of the program. You can also expect higher degree of support once you leave the program with direct access to career management advice, extended coaching and the broader, larger, and more influential Kellogg alumni network that reaches far beyond your classmates.

This is a choice between a good regional program and a world-class experience that truly opens the door to deeper, more profound learning. It’s the difference between a perfectly fine EMBA program and truly transformative experience. If you take the Wisconsin program, you probably won’t be disappointed. My guess is that your ambitions and horizons are more limited—which is why you might make that choice. That’s perfectly okay. I know what my choice would be, without a moment’s hesitation.

If you’re still not entirely convinced, check out our 2016 EMBA ranking.

P&Q’s 2016 Ranking Of The Best American EMBA Programs