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April 2013

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

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Prospective Students Focus on Different Types of Business Programs

Meeting applicants’ expectations at the start of the process may be the most critical step of engagement that business schools encounter today.

Gregg Schoenfeld, GMAC Director of Management Education Research

Graduate programs in business and management are drawing a wider range of applicants, and these aspiring students are more likely to have a single program type in mind, either an MBA or non-MBA master’s degree, according to GMAC’s 2013 Prospective Students Survey.

Over the past four years, the percentage of student candidates considering both types of programs has declined from 33 percent in 2009 to 25 percent in 2012.

The worldwide survey of prospective management students includes data from more than 31,000 individuals who registered on, the GMAC web portal for those interested in graduate management education and the GMAT exam, surveyed over the past two years. Survey results provide data on a wide range of topics including program demand, recruitment planning, school appeal, and student financing.

Students simultaneously considering MBA and non-MBA business master's

Where business school aspirants get their information

Program Demand
As more millennials consider management education, the proportion of potential students interested in specialized master’s programs in business continues to rise, from 42 percent in 2011 to 44 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the proportion of aspiring students interested in full-time two-year MBA programs is up one percentage point and the proportion interested in part-time programs is down one percentage point.

Recruitment Planning
Insights into the resources prospects use to gather information about business school (and how they go about making decisions) can assist schools in recruiting efforts. Prospective students identified their top information sources and the influence each resource had on their decision to apply to a business school or program. Globally, school websites and friends/family had the greatest impact in the decision-making process.

School Appeal

Criteria for school selection vary greatly by program type and student demographics, but quality and reputation continue to be the top factor, ranked most important by 39 percent of potential students.

Student Financing
On average, prospective students worldwide expect to finance 23 percent of their graduate management education with loans and 19 percent by parental support. But the financing mix varies by program type and region. Prospective students in the Asia Pacific region expect 9 percent of their financing from loans and 38 percent from parental support. 

Data about what motivates student segments to apply for various types of programs or what employment outcome they have in mind can give admissions and career services or program directors a better pulse on different applicants.

“In addition to the brief narratives, I wanted to design an interactive data tool that gives business schools the ability to customize their view to the applicant segment they’re targeting, as well as offer a match to the information they can extract from the Graduate Management Admission Search Service (GMASS) database. These insights can assist in the process of developing strategies and tactics to recruit the best candidates.”

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