When Applying to Business School, Today's Candidates Have a Clearer Vision for Their Future

Study Also Shows a Rise in Interest Among Those Considering Specialized Business Master's Programs

RESTON, VA--(Marketwired - May 10, 2016) - The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) today released its 2016 mba.com Prospective Students Survey Report, which shows that business school candidates today consider applying to fewer program types and are more focused on a particular postgraduate career path.

On average, prospective students considered 2.8 program types in 2015, down from 3.1 in 2014. For their postgraduate careers, 71 percent of those surveyed cited a single industry of interest, compared with 58 percent in 2014. In addition, 61 percent of prospective students cited a single job function of interest, compared with 46 percent in 2014. The economy may play a role in this phenomenon as prospective students may perceive it to be easier to go after their "dream job" in this market compared with the post-recession years.

GMAC's mba.com Prospective Students Survey, conducted throughout 2015, explores the global business school pipeline from the candidates' points of view -- analyzing the motivations, intended career outcomes and program choices shared by more than 10,000 individuals worldwide who responded.

"Each year graduate business programs set admission goals to engage students from around the world who are the most likely to succeed in their classrooms," said Bob Alig, GMAC's executive vice president for school products. "The insights provided within this survey report are timely and actionable and a valuable resource to schools seeking to grow their candidate pipelines." 

Additional key findings within the report focus on preferred program types, school selection criteria, career aspirations, timing, and social media.

Greater Interest in Specialized Business Master's Programs

Globally, 50 percent of prospective students are considering only MBA programs, and slightly more than a quarter, or 28 percent, are considering both MBA and specialized business master's programs. One-fourth (23 percent) are considering only specialized business master's programs, such as Master of Accounting or Master of Finance, which represents an increase since 2009, when just 15 percent of candidates were considering only specialized master's programs.

In Western Europe, however, the pipeline has notably shifted toward specialized (pre-experience) business master's programs, especially within the past seven years. In 2009, 49 percent of prospective students were considering only MBA programs and 22 percent were considering only specialized business master's programs. In 2015, 36 percent were considering only MBA programs and 45 percent were considering only specialized master's programs.

Prospective Students Seek Blend of Classroom and Online Learning

Most candidates considering graduate management education seek a blend of classroom instruction and online learning, regardless of program type preferred. According to the survey results, even candidates who prefer to enroll in an online MBA program still expect 10 percent of their course instruction to be delivered in the classroom to allow for networking and experiential learning opportunities. Those contemplating a full-time two-year MBA expect to experience 86 percent of their coursework in a classroom setting and want 14 percent of their courses delivered online.

Timing of Application Submission

Prospective students begin forming their short lists of schools one year prior to application submission, on average. A specific event or circumstance often triggers a prospective student's consideration of earning a graduate management degree. Most common events include: seeking a new job but lacking skills to be competitive for the positions sought (27 percent), reaching a plateau at work (17 percent), and lacking knowledge to do a job (17 percent).

Social Media Use Is Pervasive

Almost all (96 percent) prospective students use social media. Of those that do, 67 percent use it for activities related to the pursuit of graduate management education, such as getting program information, learning about upcoming events, connecting with current students, alumni, or faculty, and researching graduate management education. Facebook and LinkedIn are the most popular social media sites used globally, with the exception of China, where the instant messaging platform Tencent QQ is most popular.

"For the first time, members of Generation Z are included in our analysis," said Alig. "We found that Millennial and Gen Z candidates are more likely than past generations to have 'stretch schools' on their short lists. All things considered, these candidates want to get into the best program possible -- an indication of their high level of aspiration."

To download GMAC's 2016 Prospective Students Survey Report, visit: gmac.com/prospectivestudents.
For supporting graphics, visit the GMAC News Center.

About GMAC: The Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®) is the nonprofit organization of 213 leading graduate business schools from around the world. GMAC is the owner of the Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®), used by more than 6,100 graduate programs worldwide -- along with other products designed to help students find, connect, and apply and gain admittance to business and management programs around the world. The Council is also the owner and administrator of the NMAT by GMAC™ exam, used for entrance into graduate business and management programs in India. GMAC is based in Reston, Va., with offices in London, New Delhi and Hong Kong. The GMAT exam -- designed expressly for graduate business and management programs -- is continuously available at 630 test centers in 115 countries. Additional information about the GMAT exam is posted on mba.com. For more information about GMAC, please visit gmac.com/newscenter.