Prospective Students Survey Report 2016

2016-Prospective Student Cover, small thumbnail

December 21, 2016

This summary report presents findings from the Prospective Students Survey 2016, which represent responses from more than 10,000 prospective business school students who registered on, the portal to the GMAT exam, between October 2014 and September 2015. The findings explore the motivations, career goals, preferred program types, and intended study destinations of individuals interested in pursuing graduate management education.


The Prospective Students Survey Report 2016 explores the graduate business school pipeline from the prospective student's point of view, analyzing motivations, intended career outcomes, and program choices shared by 10,017 prospective students in 2015. Their responses are compared with data collected from more than 105,000 individuals who have responded to the registrants’ surveys since 2009. With analysis of survey responses available for all world regions, including 16 specific countries of citizenship and 14 countries of residence, this is the largest data source of its kind.

Topics include:

  • Timelines for considering graduate management education, the need for early branding efforts by schools to get on a candidate's short list of schools, and trigger events that motivate candidates to apply to business school;
  • Increased selectivity about potential career outcomes after graduation and continued interest in international study and employment, and;
  • Differences in information sources that have the greatest influence on candidates' program choices.

Quick Facts

  • Candidate interest in non-MBA business master's degrees is on the rise across world regions (considered by 23% of registrants), but MBAs remain the most considered program type (50% of registrants).
  • Prospective students are very deliberate about their career paths: 71% have a single industry in mind for postgraduate employment and 61% are considering just one job function. 
  • 57% of prospective students seek to study outside their country of citizenship. The United States still remains the top international study destination for prospective students.
  •  A specific event or circumstance often triggers the decision to apply to graduate business school, most commonly the initiation of a job search that reveals a candidate lacks the knowledge, skills, or abilities to be competitive for the desired job.