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Why Emotional Intelligence Is Key To MBA Admissions Success

A concept born in the 90s, b-school admissions teams are now reinforcing the importance of a high EQ among MBA candidates


Wed Oct 25 2017

Anyone who’s ever taken a cursory glance at MBA admissions literature has probably noticed one thing: candidates with serious quantitative skills are in high demand.

If you’re applying to business school, you’ve got to demonstrate how accurate and efficient your number-crunching powers are, whether by GMAT scores, previous work experience, or some other metric.

Historically, what often gets played down or overlooked among applicants are less quantifiable skills, like emotional intelligence.

EQ is the latest b-school buzzword making the rounds. This is part of an industry-wide effort to “make MBA students more…interpersonally savvy,” believes Paul Bodine, of Paul Bodine Consulting/Admitify.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management’s 'how have you grown' essay prompt is an example of how “all top schools now encourage candidates to be authentic about their personal growth in their applications,” says Paul, “partly because they want students who have the self-honesty and self-knowledge to be able to admit to and learn from mistakes and setbacks.”

Recent studies correlate EQ with personal and professional success. Indeed, Aarti Ramaswami, academic director of the ESSEC Global MBA, published a paper exploring the topic, drawing connections between EQ and salary.

Emotional intelligence is a loosely defined skillset that people use to interpret the emotions of others, manage their own emotions, and inspire teams, which is where the true value of EQ arises.

“Inasmuch as emotional intelligence is the key currency in team-driven workplaces, business school really does set students up for success,” says Break into Tech’s Jeremy Schifeling. 

If business school is valuable for any reason, it’s for developing your ability to work with others. Many MBA programs have found innovative ways to help sculpt emotionally intelligent graduates while they’re still malleable.

“[Business schools try to] screen out nerds, nutjobs, and nincompoops before they are admitted via interviews and essays,” says HBS guru Sanford Kreisberg.

“No school that I know of will ever admit a jerk knowingly,” adds Accepted's Linda Abraham. “If an applicant comes across as arrogant or rude, they’re toast. They can be condescending to a janitor; if somebody sees it or reports it, they’re finished.”

New York University Stern School of Business is one leading figure when it comes to assessing and recruiting EQ talent—the school recently added an “EQ Endorsement” section to its application.

“EQ differentiates Stern MBA students in their ability to solve problems and tackle challenges,” writes Isser Gallogly, associate dean for MBA admissions and program innovation.

“We seek students who possess a combination of strong intellectual and interpersonal strengths—what we call IQ plus EQ. If you don’t have the EQ to drive your ideas through an organization, you can't create impact.”

Since the 1990s, schools have slowly designed their MBA curricula to reinforce the importance of EQ.

“Within the classroom, MBA programs are offering more courses on soft leadership that help students better understand the importance of EQ and the self-awareness required to improve it,”  says Jeff Thomas, CEO of Stratus Admissions Counseling.

Another way schools cultivate graduates with high EQs is to intentionally mix up the teams, so students are forced to understand and implement ideas from a variety of perspectives.

“In some instances, these teams of 5-6 first-year students work together for all their core curricula, and must develop EQ skills to navigate assignments across multiple classes and functions,” explains Jeff.

Stanford Graduate Business School's highly popular Interpersonal Dynamics course and Harvard Business School's FIELD Foundations, which "engages small teams in interactive workshops,” are two EQ-centric offerings that come to mind.

“There are many courses and experiences that help students develop self-awareness and team skills,” says Karen Marks of North Star Admissions.

“This part of the curriculum is infused into leadership courses, study group, and cohort structures, and as part of enrichment opportunities like board participation and conference leadership.”

Student Reviews

ESSEC Business School




On Campus

The best intercultural university

There are more than 50 nationality in the grade, so there are opportunities to interact with people from all around the world. In terms of academics, the BBA course offers diverse courses for the 1st




On Campus

Creativity, adaptability and entrepreneurship

The Master in Management program at the ESSEC Business School allows the students to choose their courses accordingly to their preferences and their professional targets. We can also go through international exchange and take part in internships with companies that are also partners with the school. The school is also next to the city of Paris.




On Campus

Top business school in France

Doing PhD in essec took some time, to be precise about five years. But the experience was very good and cost effective too. There are opportunities for the student for teaching assistantship and that helps both financially and in career. In the final year I could manage to teach marketing to M1 students and this helped shape my career




On Campus

Great college

The program is well suited for early professionals with an engineering degree preferably or a degree in economics. I would suggest taking the ceasure irrespective of the experience level as it helps you take your time to adjust to the job market.





Good school in France

I am currently enrolled in M2 in Essec business school. I am specialising in marketing management. The Grande Ecole programme is valued in France and my school ranks very high up. There are a lot of opportunities for internships and CDD.




The program curriculum

BBA program. The program is really practical and useful, provide us many international opportunities. Like internship and humanitarian experience, and the flexibility is also really cool, we can choose different campus and tracks as we want.




International Course

This school is very international and business oriented. Highly recognized by the companies The campus has been renovated and is very functional and modern from now on. Excellent atmosphere. Reputation of essec is a plus




Friends, Career opportunities.

The program I did gave me the opportunity to start in Singapore. I got the chance to know all the students that started there and we bonded and made some friends for life. The career opportunities that ESSEC also gave me were unbelievable.




Practical and useful

I think the best thing about Essec is that it's not focusing on academics rather it emphasizes on future job mindset and professional experiences.. The classes are interesting and we have plenty of workshops attributing to different sectors.. The campus is very nice with a good cafe and wonderful library. The only problem is the location of the campus. It's quite far from Paris.




On Campus

Amazing experience! Must try

I think its a very amazing school with great and experienced faculty. Also the alumni network is very solid and useful. The school has a great balance of studies and work experience which is really essential for a student.




On Campus

GBBA: Diverse, Enriching, and Career-Boosting

My experience at ESSEC Business School has been outstanding. The Global BBA program offers a rich academic curriculum and diverse learning opportunities. I appreciated the chance to study on different campuses, including an international exchange, which broadened my perspective. The social environment is culturally diverse and vibrant, enhancing both my personal and professional growth. The administration is attentive, constantly offering new academic and student life opportunities. The campus facilities and classrooms are excellent. I highly recommend ESSEC for its excellence, global exposure, and career opportunities.




On Campus


The English track BBA program at ESSEC is simply exceptional. Courses are taught by internationally renowned professors who are experts in their field. The subjects taught cover a wide range of disciplines from marketing to finance, strategy and entrepreneurship. The English track is a major asset because it allows you to develop perfect mastery of professional English, essential in today's globalized business world. Some students love student life at Essec, which is one of the best in France, but it all depends on taste.




On Campus

Great program, incredible school

I love almost everything about this school, from the student life to the academic program and the opportunities it provides. I'm currently at the Paris campus, in Cergy, and I'm really enjoying it. The BBA program is very rich and diversified, you can start with geopolitics and then finance, what I mean is that there's a great balance between the subjects in this program. I was also lucky enough to spend a semester at the Singapore campus, and I loved that experience on the other side of the world. ESSEC is also known for its dynamic and rich student life, with access to several parties a week and the various associations within the school. If I could recommend just one school, it would be this one - I'm 100% satisfied.