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Data & Trends

Application Volume Trends Still Send Mixed Signals

Are you looking for an indication of which way the MBA application tide is going? After all, applicants are the lifeblood of our industry, and the more quality people who want in, the better.

That said, we may not be at high tide, but application levels at all types of MBA programs are holding steady or showing signs of improvement, according to the latest GMAC survey of application trends.

The percentage of full-time MBA programs reporting a year-over-year increase in application volume increased slightly, from 19% in 2004 to 20% in 2005. Meanwhile, the percentage of part-time programs with increased application volume surged from 27% in 2004 to 46% this year. And executive programs continue to report relatively stable year-over-year increases.

Full-time programs have particularly benefited from international applications, which appear to have stabilized after across-the-board declines. Also, female applicant volume appears to be on the rise across the industry, with continued small increases for executive and part-time programs and fewer reported declines for full-time programs.

The positive trend for part-time MBA programs represents the first such increase since 2002, when interest in business school set all-time records.

Application volume to all programs continues to be influenced by a number of factors, including how long prospective students take to decide to pursue an MBA; the number of schools the typical applicant applies to; the market dynamics such as school location and where applicants live; and general demographic trends among 25–34 year olds, who represent the target age group. Increasingly, it appears that prospective students are focusing on programs where they believe they have a competitive edge.

The Application Trends Survey results include responses from 210 MBA programs from 129 schools; 20% of the responding programs are non-U.S. programs and 80% are U.S. programs. Keep in mind that the survey measures the percentage of programs reporting increases or decreases in application volume. The survey does not collect data about the number of applications b-schools receive.

Visit to learn more about this survey and the GMAC survey research program.

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