GMAC Survey Reveals New Trends

The Graduate Management Admissions Council’s annual Application Trends Survey reveals up-and-down admissions trends in specialized master’s programs in finance and management, as well as MBA programs. While the economy remains shaky and applications are down at full-time MBA programs, graduate business schools continue to receive strong applications from highly qualified applicants. Schools also report an increasing number of applications from international candidates.

Important survey findings include:

  • 67% of full-time, two-year MBA programs report a decline in application volume in 2011. Down approximately 10% from 2010, according to the WSJ.
  • 83% of masters in finance programs report an increase in application volume, as did 69% of masters in management programs.
  • Most schools claim that “applicant quality” has increased or remained the same in 2011.
  • For all degree types covered in this survey, schools report an increase in applications from foreign students, with India and China leading the way.
  • Part-time MBA programs report fairly flat application volume.
  • Executive MBA programs were down from 2010, but up from 2009.
  • Almost 75% of two-year full-time MBA applicants in 2011 were from outside a school’s local area. 45% of applicants come from outside the US.
  • 57% of one-year full-time MBA programs reported a decline in application volume.

So what’s your take on these numbers? Can you explain the sudden attraction of Masters in Finance programs? My guess is that it correlates with an increase in applications from India and China, two areas of the world where applicants tend to excel in number crunching. Many MiFs are also one-year programs, which makes them less costly, although that fact hasn’t saved the one-year MBA programs.

My main take-away: there is opportunity in these numbers, specifically the decline in MBA applications. And while the elite schools may not be hurting for applicants, I strongly suspect that the decline is affecting all programs at least somewhat.

If you are a borderline applicant or even a competitive but not stellar MBA applicant, you will have a slightly better chance of acceptance this year than last.  And maybe even a better chance this year than next year. GMAT volume for the first half of 2011 is up.

“Ah,” you say, “but the economy!” Valid concern.  (See “Look at the Economy! Is Now the Right Time to Apply to Business School?”)

I can’t tell you what the economy will be like in 2014. And I certainly don’t recommend applying if you aren’t ready. I can tell you that those intrepid souls who applied to b-school in 2002 and 2003 when applications were way down, graduated into a growing economy in 2005 and 2006. They had plenty of job offers.

So if you know you need an MBA to achieve your professional goals, this year could be a great year to apply. At least that’s my take. What’s yours?

Linda Abraham By Linda Abraham, president and founder of