Graduate Management News

November 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

GMAC Viewpoints: Beyond Demographics – Understanding What Motivates Business School Candidates

Candidates across the globe considering business school have many options for their graduate management education (GME). And today more than ever, they have a plethora of information to help them make decisions.

Segmentation Webinar

From offering online courses to global immersion programs, schools are actively looking for ways to connect with and attract the right mix of candidates to build diverse classes that are primed for success in the classroom and beyond. To accomplish this, business schools are seeking new data-driven approaches to break down and understand the global market.

In line with our mission to enhance the art and science of admission, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) seeks to help business schools reach these goals by understanding more about what drives students to pursue a graduate management degree and how they approach the decision-making process.

In 2016, GMAC, an association of leading business schools worldwide, partnered with Ipsos, a leading global market research firm, to conduct a Global Segmentation Study of GME candidates. Nearly 6,000 GME applicants were surveyed in interviews conducted in 11 languages across 15 countries. The study established a common segmentation model and vocabulary for the industry to enhance schools’ understanding of the global marketplace and provide them with additional insights to shape admissions and recruitment operations, as well as help enhance the student experience.

Meet the Segments

The outcome of the study is seven well-defined, mutually exclusive global candidate segments based on a segmentation analysis across two dimensions of motivation: What motivates candidates to pursue GME and what motivates them to apply to a specific school.

Respect Seekers

Respect Seekers (27% of global candidates) are uniquely motivated to pursue GME because of the respect and recognition it brings. Specifically, they want to enhance their standing among their colleagues, be seen as a role model, and make their parents proud.



Global Strivers

Global Strivers (14% of global candidates) are committed to exploring the world of opportunities that awaits them. They have two distinguishing characteristics: a high achievement orientation and an international focus.



Balanced CareeristBalanced Careerists

Balanced Careerists (10% of global candidates) are driven to GME by motivations related to financial improvement and career advancement, tempered by a need to achieve their goals in a way that causes as little disruption to their lives as possible.



Career Revitalizers

Career Revitalizers (13% of GME candidates) are driven by a desire to reinvent themselves and advance in their career because they fear being left behind. They are more likely to be motivated to obtain a graduate business degree because of a work-related issue.



Socioeconomic Climbers

Socioeconomic Climbers (11% of GME candidates) are primarily driven to pursue a graduate business degree by the chance to improve their socioeconomic status, and so provide themselves and their children a better future.


Skill Upgraders

Skill Upgraders (13% of GME candidates) are motivated by a desire to improve their skill sets so they can be considered experts in their field. They place a premium on assurance that they will receive a high-quality education from any school they attend.



Impactful Innovators

To an even greater degree than Skill Upgraders, Impactful Innovators (12% of GME candidates) are motivated to obtain a graduate management degree to develop their skills. But, unlike Skill Upgraders, they seek to develop these skills to fulfill their entrepreneurial spirit and bring their dreams to life.



Benefits to Business Schools

As the first study of its kind designed to enhance recruitment and outreach to GME candidates, the value of GMAC’s segmentation study lies not only in its global breadth, but also in its in-depth focus on attitudes and related candidate behaviors. The study specifically sought to reveal candidates’ career aspirations, information gathering behaviors, and educational motivations.

This intelligence offers new ways for schools to reach prospective students by understanding the motivations behind their choices. Messaging driven by motivations builds the emotional connection between schools and their prospective students, furthering opportunities for schools to inspire action, increase the effectiveness of their outreach and enhance the student experience.

The segmentation model will also allow schools to attract students to their programs through customized messaging and marketing activities that speak to specific candidate segments based on their motivations. Targeted messages are more likely to resonate with individual candidates than messaging based on demographics alone.

In addition, business schools will be able to apply the segmentation model to their existing applicant pipelines, giving them a deeper understanding of the candidates they currently attract to their programs, as well as insight into how they might adjust their recruitment strategies to calibrate their candidate mix for future classes.

For more information about how to use the Global Segmentation Study model to build your candidate pipeline and build more diverse classrooms, join GMAC for a webinar on November 17. Registration is open now.

Visit for additional information—including videos, infographics and an in-depth white paper that offers ideas to connect with candidates based on their motivations—and to engage with other tools and resources from GMAC.

About the Author

Matt HazenbushMatt Hazenbush is Research Communications Manager at the Graduate Management Admission Council.