Graduate Management News

May 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

GMAC Research Sheds Light on the Next Generation of Business School Applicants

New survey report provides timely insights into the mindsets of candidates entering the admissions pipeline.

Viewpoints Undergraduates

This past week, GMAC Research Services released the 2016 Prospective Students Survey Report, which analyzes the motivations, career goals, school selection criteria, and program choices of more than 10,000 recent registrants.

Conducted annually, the study aims to provide relevant, timely, and actionable information about the prospective student pipeline to help schools better connect with candidates from around the world.


prospective student surveyToday’s Candidates Have a Clearer Vision for their Future

Business school candidates surveyed in 2015 consider applying to fewer program types and are more focused on a particular postgraduate career path than in the past. 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 recent post-recession years.

Candidates Seek a Blend of Classroom and Online Learning

Most candidates considering graduate management education want a blend of classroom instruction and online learning, regardless of their preferred program type. 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.

Virtually All Prospective Students Are On Social Media

Ninety-six percent of 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.

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).

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.

The full report is publicly available for download. Schools that accept the GMAT exam for admissions have exclusive access to the Prospective Students Survey Interactive Report, a tool that allows users to examine the mindsets and motivations of particular segments of the student pipeline by filtering the data by a variety of variables, including gender, age, generation, undergraduate major, self-reported GMAT score, program type considered, and career goals. Also be on the lookout for related information and additional data analysis about prospective students on the Research Insights webpage.