Caroline Diarte Edwards is co-founder and director of Fortuna Admissions. She says when the job market is strong — as it is right now — there is usually a downturn in application volume for full time programs, and an increase in application volume for EMBA-type programs. “That’s because there is less incentive right now to quit the workforce, as potential MBA/EMBA candidates are getting promotions, job offers, salary increases, etc. When the job market is weaker,” Edwards adds, “there is less of a disincentive to take time out of the workforce. So yes, more people are thinking carefully about timing right now — probably more in the U.S. than in some international markets where the job market hasn’t bounced back quite as strongly.
“Of course this can be quite ironic because when the job market is strong, job offers literally rain down on MBA graduates!” Edwards says.
She adds that no one can predict what the job market will look like in two or three years, and that’s the key: If you are looking at a full-time, two-year program, that’s when you would be coming out onto the job market.
“I personally think that candidates spend too much time trying to second-guess when is the best time to apply in terms of market conditions — ‘When is application volume down a bit so it’s going to be less competitive in the applicant pool?'” Edwards says. “‘When will be a good time to be graduating so I’ll land my dream job?’ They should spend more time figuring out when is the right time for THEM to go to business school.”
MBA VERSUS EMBA: THE FACTS
Edwards says there are lots of considerations when considering MBA versus EMBA — among them, cost, duration, and network.
“EMBAs are often more expensive, but the fact that you can work during the program may well offset this,” she says. “Juggling work with study isn’t always easy; however the upside is that EMBA students talk about how they are able to use what the learn in the classroom straight away and apply their learning almost in real time — which means that they often absorb their learning in a more meaningful way than might be the case for someone studying full-time in what can sometimes be a more ‘abstract’ context.”
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the network you plug into, Edwards says. “Full-time programs are typically more social than part-time/modular EMBA formats, and so you may forge stronger friendships,” she says, adding that MBA classes are usually bigger, “so you may come away with a bigger network of classmate friends. However, the upside of the EMBA experience is that your peer group will be more advanced in their careers, already at a more senior level, and this can mean a relative small but very powerful network.”
Most full-time MBA students are looking to make some sort of career switch, “while it is more common for EMBA students to be focusing more on career acceleration — which is often why their employer is supportive,” Edwards says, “although definitely more EMBA students are looking to change careers these days than was the case 15 or 20 years ago, when employer sponsorship was more common, and business schools have ramped up career support in response to this.” In the past, there was relatively little support for EMBA students looking to switch careers — very different from the set up for MBA students.”
Finally, there’s a big one: tests.
“Testing requirements are typically more flexible, and scoring thresholds are lower, on EMBA programs,” Edwards says, “so if you are not a great test taker, this might be a consideration.”
DON’T LET YOURSELF EXPIRE
Her advice: Candidates should try to figure out which experience and program best suits them and their needs. But be aware: From the point of view adcoms, candidates also have “Best By” dates.
“Generally, it is better to start applying earlier rather than later, because it’s not uncommon for candidates to go through more than one application cycle before they get into a program that they are really excited about, so it’s better to err on the side of starting early,” Edwards says.
“Otherwise you could find yourself as a reapplicant at a point when you are ‘past your best’ from the viewpoint of the adcom at your dream program.”
‘A FANTASTIC TIME TO APPLY’
Linda Abraham is founder of Los Angeles-based Accepted. She says the Great Resignation is a reflection of the economic boom that has followed the Covid recession and unemployment spike, part and parcel of the U.S. economy returning to its pre-pandemic levels.
“Right before that recession and spike, the economy was also booming, unemployment sank to record lows, and application volume slumped,” she notes. “I think that the Great Resignation means people are seeking employment opportunities and finding them. And just like in any boom or economic expansion, potential MBA applicants figure, ‘Why should I spend the money on business school when there are all these opportunities where I can make money as opposed to spending it? Maybe I can advance equally well professionally without the out-of-pocket and opportunity cost of an MBA?’
“The Great Resignation is one of those times. We are seeing and hearing this. Is it overblown? Probably.”
She says it’s also short-sighted.
“The irony is that an economic expansion and the related drop in applications present a fantastic time to apply because it’s easier to get into a top-ranked program and add a glittering brand to one’s resume,” Abraham says. “And that brand and acquired network is for life, not just for this uptick or that downturn. Furthermore, in times of economic boom and application bust, schools tend to compete for the students they really want, and they compete with scholarships.”
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