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Is MIT the Hardest U.S. EMBA Program To Access?

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Is MIT the hardest U.S. EMBA program to access? Many observers would say yes, for multiple reasons.

No standardized test – broader pool. MIT's EMBA program does not require any standardized test for admission, therefore it attracts a broader range of applicants than it might otherwise; its pool is not limited to techies. Since the next most highly-ranked business schools that do not require any standardized test are Kellogg, NYU and Cornell, some people prefer the MIT brand and will therefore try their odds at MIT first.

• Preference for the more seasoned applicant. MIT also prefers an older candidate/ candidate with higher professional rank. So, a candidate with less than 10 years of work experience may be less viable in that pool. To underscore this preference, MIT asks applicants to submit an organizational chart (so they can see how far you are from executive decision-making), and MIT admissions interviewers have been known to inform applicants than only approximately 15% of their admitted candidates have between 10-13 years of work experience. The average number of work experience years for matriculated students is 17; the average age is 41. So, many candidates in their early thirties will face stiff odds for admission, if only because of the small percentage of the class who are relatively young. If you are simply too far away from a meaningful management role, you may be a less attractive candidate for MIT.

• High academic bar. MIT also keeps a relatively high academic bar, so even if your undergraduate experience was 15 years ago or more, the school still cares about how you performed, and a poor academic record may make admission harder if you have not taken steps since college to acquire credentials that testify to your strong intellect and strong analytical abilities.

• Very rigorous interview. MIT has one of the toughest EMBA interviews around. Candidates typically go through not one, but two back-to-back interviews (with two separate interviewers). Additionally, MIT emphasizes “behavioral questions,” which are designed to determine how much leadership experience you really have, the quality of your work experience, whether you can convey best practices, and whether you will communicate well in class. Behavioral questions typically ask you to recall a time when specified circumstances occurred and how you acted. For example, you might be asked, “Tell me about a time you dealt with a very difficult client and how you turned the situation around.” MIT will try to ask questions you would not have thought of before-hand, so they can truly assess how you think and whether you seem to have deep managerial/leadership experience.

• Difficult essay questions. Like the interview, MIT’s essays are designed in part to assess how much leadership experience you have and the quality of your work experience. Its Question #2, in particular, can be hard for younger candidates to answer excellently. It reads, “Please tell us about a time when you introduced an idea that changed the way in which your organization approached a business challenge or opportunity. Comment on the factors considered, and the barriers or obstacles faced.” For example, a consultant who works for a large consulting company and is not very advanced in their career can talk about introducing ideas to impact their client, but they might have a harder time discussing an idea that impacted their employer, which is what the question asks. So, some younger candidates, if they do not brainstorm and identify a winning response, may present an application that does not allow them to advance to the admissions interview, which is offered on an invitation-only basis.

Should these factors discourage you from applying to MIT? Of course not! But, you should apply with your eyes open to the many challenges and prepare an outstanding application in all of its facets – especially in your essays, recommendations, and resume. It is also imperative that you rehearse excellently for the very rigorous admissions interview.

Do you need assistance in preparing an outstanding application to an EMBA program? Feel free to reach out to us!

Best wishes,
Dr. Shel (Shelly Watts)
President, MBA