How I chose to pursue an Executive MBA and learned to love the application process

05 December 2022

Executive MBA participant, Rose Whelan, shares what she considered when choosing an MBA programme and her experience in the application process for Warwick Business School. 

My Warwick journey started about three months before I applied. While I had been in industry research for over eight years, I had no formal business training and felt I was lacking the tools to reach my goals to take science off the bench and into the market. This led me to consider an Executive MBA.

As there are financial and time costs to pursuing another degree, I didn’t want to make the decision lightly. I contacted several senior businesspeople I know and admire, and asked for coffee meetings with each. I described the reasons I was considering an MBA and asked their opinions. Half were in favour of me pursuing an MBA, while the other half suggested I might be able to gain the knowledge I was after via less formal training and on the job experience.

While my survey did not reveal an obvious answer, it did help me better understand how I felt about pursuing another degree. After taking all comments on board and completing a pro-con list, I decided that an Executive MBA was the right choice for me.

I then started considering the type of programme I might want to enrol in. Did I want the ease of a fully virtual programme or the connections and comradery of an in-person cohort? What kind of electives did I want to pursue? What other factors about a programme would make it more enticing to me (e.g. a high percentage of women and degree of diversity in the teaching staff)? Did global rankings matter and how much of a tuition hike would I be willing to pay for a top ranked school?

I personally love data, so I made an excel sheet comparing a list of five-10 programmes I might be interested in. Three schools were quickly highlighted, two of which had open admissions for programmes starting in the next two months, so I decided to apply to those first.

I started putting together all the necessary documents. Luckily, I keep an updated CV and my degree copies at hand.  I reached out to my boss and one of the senior managers I had had coffee with and asked them to be references.

I then got to work on the essays. This part, while daunting at first, was also valuable in my final decision. The types of essay questions asked highlight the type of programme you will receive. I loved the Warwick Business School (WBS) CORE values of Curiosity, Openness, Restlessness and Excellence and used them as my inspiration when answering the essay questions. I also ensured that I was passionate about the topics and examples I was giving in my essays, hoping that would show in the writing. Where applicable I cited articles to show evidence to support my opinions and to highlight my aptitude for academic writing.

As I wrote the essays, I had to remind myself that applications are not the time to be humble! It is necessary to step outside your comfort zone to really highlight your achievements and the qualities you bring to a cohort.  Finally, I injected as much of myself and my personality into the application as possible. I wanted an MBA programme that truly wanted me, not just a flat, polished version of me.

When I was invited for an interview, I was told not to overly prepare but to ‘come as you are’ so the recruitment team could get to know me. I told myself it was just any other meeting. The interviewer I received was warm and easy to talk to, so I quickly fell into ‘chat’ mode and forgot it was an interview. This allowed me to answer honestly and openly without nerves taking over.

Finally, I received my acceptance letters from WBS and the other school I had applied to. Through the application and interview I had already decided that WBS was my top choice, so I was thrilled to accept my offer to join the Executive MBA Cohort 49.

I hope sharing my journey may help some of you as you consider an MBA and/or prepare for the application process. My biggest piece of advice is to trust the process and allow yourself to enjoy this phase of your journey. The right timing and programme for you will elucidate itself through the process.

Find out more about the Executive MBA programmes

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