Graduate Management News

April 2014

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Insights from 12,000 Prospective Students for Your Targeted Outreach

Imagine what insights you could gain for admissions, marketing, recruiting, and outreach efforts of your school with the feedback of 12,000 prospects who are considering business school for their future?

Prospective Student Survey

What if you were able to customize your view by different demographic characteristics from this massive database? 

GMAC researchers have done it for you with the 2014 results of the annual GMAC Prospective Students Survey. The new report gives schools a look into the decision-making of today’s potential applicants as they contemplate degree and program options for MBA and specialized master’s in business, as well as study destinations they may choose for business school. The survey is conducted among those who register on, the official website of the GMAT exam. 

You may be surprised to learn that this year’s results show that even though the MBA is still the most sought-after degree among prospects surveyed, close to half the candidates are considering non-MBA master’s programs in business, and one in five isn’t thinking about an MBA at all. 

“Business schools are drawing more diverse students overall, but they are finding the applicant pools becoming more distinct,” said Gregg Schoenfeld, GMAC director of Survey Research and lead author of the report. 

The data also provide schools with a better understanding of different types of candidates and when they develop a “short list,” what the top marketing channels are to reach them, and reasons for their school selection. Beyond seeing a candidate’s selection decisions, GMAT accepting schools have exclusive insights into what’s important to these candidates in a more personal way, like particular aspects of their personal life, or their ideal school culture characteristics. 

Explore the Interactive Tool 

GMAC is helping schools navigate their own understanding of the complex and dynamic applicant landscape, which may translate to developing more nuanced strategies and approaches with different talent pools. The customized data views available in the companion interactive tool to the survey report are designed to help schools examine all the smaller communities and prospective students segments by gender, age range, undergraduate major, future industry, and more. 

Key Findings 

  • In the past five years, prospects focusing exclusively on specialized master’s degrees increased from 13 percent to 20 percent, as candidates exclusively considering MBAs declined from 55 percent to 53 percent. Meanwhile, crossover demand — prospects considering both MBA and non-MBA specialized master’s programs in business — declined from about a third to a quarter. 
  • Candidate interest in program types varies by gender and age:
    • Men are more likely than women to focus on MBA programs, seen in the 60 percent of the men and 45 percent of the women considered pursuing only MBA programs.
    • Women are more likely than men to focus on specialized master’s in business programs. Twenty-seven percent of women and 15 percent of men considered these specialty degrees.
    • Candidates 24 and younger of both genders (31 percent of the women and 29 percent of the men) are more likely than older candidates (26 percent of women and 19 percent of men) to think about both types of programs. Overall, women (29 percent) are more likely than men (24 percent) to keep study options open. 
  • Wide regional variations in prospective student demographics, motivations, and intentions are seen, as students pursue graduate management degrees to further careers in a variety of fields, from finance/accounting to healthcare to government/non-profit and entrepreneurship. Nonetheless, there are some persistent commonalities among prospective students worldwide as primary motivations for pursuing a graduate management degree include increasing job opportunities, developing business knowledge, and increasing salary potential. 
  • No matter where students preferred to study, the quality of the educational system in that country or location was a key factor. 
  • The top 10 study destinations prospective students identified include (in rank order): the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, India, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore, Australia, and the Netherlands. 

“Despite the diversity of candidates, demographically, geographically, and in their program orientation, prospects tend to seek quality education to improve their career prospects,” Schoenfeld said.