Graduate Management News
Data & Trends

Survey of Registrants Yields Insights into B-School Decision

Insights into what influences enrollment decisions come from GMAC’s latest survey of registrants for, the destination site where future MBAs turn for critical information about the GMAT exam and business schools. Because is the main access point for the GMAT exam, registrations for the site serve as a proxy for overall demand for graduate business and management education.

The time between completion of one’s first degree and registration on represents the formative years in deciding to go to business school. The 2009 GMAC Registrants Follow-Up Survey found that prospective graduate business and management students typically register on the website 40 months after completing their first university degree. Men tended to wait 46 months after completing their first degree before registering, vs. 32 months for women.

On average, respondents applied to three graduate business schools and four programs. The survey found that individuals who considered full-time, two-year MBA and MSc programs in business tended to consider only one of these program types, while those who considered full-time, one-year MBA, and executive MBA programs tended to consider different program categories, as well.

Nearly half of respondents enrolled in a program 25 months after registering on Matriculation yield rates varied from a high of 70 percent for full-time, two-year MBA programs, to a low of 37 percent for online/distance-learning MBA programs.

Where do potential students get the information they need to convert into a bona-fide program applicant? Conventional advertising is still an effective channel. Most respondents (94 percent) report having seen business schools advertisements (71 percent had seen online ads, 61 percent cited direct mailings, nearly a third had seen print ads; about one in 12 encountered a TV advertisement and one in 20 heard a radio advertisement).

Increasingly, though, prospective students are getting their information from college websites. Overall, 97 percent of students had visited the websites of schools to which they applied or planned to apply. In fact, 73 percent considered the school’s website to be extremely or very influential in their decision. Notably, too, the survey found that school websites had greater influence on prospective students’ decisions about which school to attend than published rankings did—but published rankings were more influential than traditional advertising.

Because rankings continue to influence school choice, business schools would do well to treat the collection of data for them as a necessary marketing investment.

Asked to rank other criteria that affect their decision about which school to attend, respondents indicated that school quality and reputation were most important, followed, in order, by career aspects, financial aspects, program specifics, curriculum aspects, and student class profile. Inside the findings, though, comparisons among respondent groups reveal some telling nuances:

  • Factors such as reputation in placing graduates in jobs and published rankings are more important to respondents age 30 and younger compared with older respondents.
  • Convenience and location are more important to respondents age 31 and older than they are to respondents age 24 and younger who, in turn, consider convenience and location more important compared with respondents age 25 to 30.
  • Cost and financial considerations are more important to younger respondents than older ones.
  • The classroom experience is more important to respondents 30 and younger compared with older respondents.
  • Accreditation and curriculum are more important to older respondents than younger ones.
  • In general, men considered quality and prestige and career aspects to be more important than did women. Women found such factors as convenience and location, costs and financial considerations, and accreditation and curriculum more important.
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