width=300Sylvain Daudel, Program Director of the INSEAD Executive MBA explains that competition for places on the program is just as competitive as for the prestigious full-time program: The school has seen huge demand in applicant numbers, with tremendous quality of the applications. This is primarily driven by the opportunity cost of taking a year away from your professional career to gain an MBA.

The ideal time to apply to school

If you have done your research, attended the MBA Fairs, spoken to your employer to ensure company support, and visited the campuses, you may now have a shortlist of Executive MBA programs. So when should you apply to business school? Once you have taken the decision to do an Executive MBA, and drawn up your shortlist, you are then confronted with the deadlines used by the schools in the application process. Many Executive MBA programs use what they call a rolling admission process. This means that they are constantly receiving and reviewing dossiers throughout the academic year. They accept or reject the dossiers as they are reviewed (including a waiting list option for borderline applications), and provide a response within four to six weeks of reception.

Schools recognize that the need for company support adds an often lengthy component for application, and final deadlines can run as little as two months before the program is due to start, compared to five or six months for a full-time program. Before the Admissions Committee gets to decide between the Swedish furniture designer, the Brazilian financier and the Austrian engineer, applications are checked over to make sure that they are complete (GPA, test scores, essays, letters of recommendation etc.). If any elements of your file are missing you can expect the file to sit on a desk and start to collect dust - or at least get overlooked. Being organised at this stage is crucial, to make sure that both you and your recommenders have provided the school with all that they need to make a decision. The bottom line has to be to apply to a school when you have a great dossier ready. The explanation lies in the numbers game - a school may typically receive applications from two or three times the number of places available in the program.

So what exactly are you trying to pull together to complete the application? 

Clearly the emphasis for admissions to an Executive MBA is about a candidate's experience and achievements. Schools are looking for high achievers with significant managerial responsibility, and identified by their companies as having very high potential. They should be highly motivated to build on their rich professional experience and strong analytical skills, and want to further your career in an international context, learning how to manage a wide range of people and processes. Sure they use tests like the GMAT to evaluate basic quantitative and verbal skills, but the GMAT is the reassurance for schools that you have the basic quantitative and verbal skills to handle the academic rigour of the course. Throughout the process, there are these common threads of leadership, or high-potential, but there is no magic formula for getting into a school. To get a better sense of the abilities and characteristics of a candidate, schools look at three areas.

Professional Experience 

The majority of Exec MBA programs require a minimum of five to eight years professional experience, of which at least three years with managerial responsibilities.

You need to provide:

  • a CV of your career to date
  • essays that provide examples of professional achievements
  • letters of recommendation
  • interviews to share goals and objectives.

Academic Ability

The M in MBA is for Masters. Do you have the academic aptitude to get you through school?

You need to provide:

  • transcript of grades (GPA from bachelors), degrees and diplomas GMAT score (and TOEFL score for international students)


All those mountains you have climbed, pianos you have played, winning goals you have scored.

You need to provide:

  • essays that provide examples of personal achievements interviews to convey your values and sense of self.

Schools are looking for high achievers with significant managerial responsibility, and identified by their companies as having very high potential.

Pulling the different pieces of the dossier together requires for you to be on top of things from the beginning. However long the initial process of selecting schools, certain candidates spend months, sometimes even years, nurturing and refining their profile and subsequent application, whilst others complete the entire process in a frenzy of essay writing and test taking. Whether you are applying to one school or several, you will need to devote time and energy to produce a polished marketing document that features you as the product. As you prepare your application to business school, pay particular attention to the elements of the dossier on which you can still have an impact.