GMAC just released the results of its 2015 Application Trends Survey Report. Findings are based on survey responses gathered from representatives from 641 graduate management programs at 306 business schools in 35 countries around the world. Here are some highlights from the report:
• Application volume is up at the majority of global full-time MBA programs last year compared to 10 years ago.
• At full-time two-year MBA programs in the US, 59% report year-on-year domestic application growth for the first time since 2010.
• Application volumes increased at a majority of master’s programs in Finance, Management, and Marketing and Communications compared to last year. For master’s programs in Accounting, though, only 40% reported increases while 47% saw declines.
• 51% of full-time MBA programs saw an increase in the number of applications from women.
• Regionally, in the US, the South showed the greatest increases in application volume (68%), while the greatest declines were seen in the Northeast (52%).
• At MBA programs in the US, international applicants account for 55% of the applicant pool.
A Poets & Quants article on the report talks about MBA program closures in the last year (like Wake Forest University, Thunderbird School of Global Management, and Simmons College all shutting down their on-campus full-time MBA programs), but offers an overall rosy perspective: “There are 50% more MBA degrees earned today than just ten years ago, and a master’s in business has in recent years become the most popular graduate degree in the U.S., overtaking the master’s in education. One in four master’s students are now pursuing business degrees, and one in five undergraduates major in business. Some 60% of full-time MBA programs are receiving more applications this year when compared with ten years ago. Today’s GMAC report may well show that the party is far from over for business educators.”
What the Data Mean for Applicants: Increased Uncertainty
While yes, the trends are great news for business schools and evidence of the popularity of business education, they also mean uncertainty for applicants.
The most likely explanation for this data is an increasing number of people applying to full-time, 2-year U.S. MBA programs. Or they could simply mean the same or fewer applicants are sending applications to more schools, since it’s now easier to apply to a lot of schools. (Reduced number of essays, fewer school-specific letters of recommendation.)
Yield– the percentage of admitted students who accept the school’s offer of acceptance– is not reflected in these numbers. The GMAC stats are all about applications, not applicants, so it’s hard to tell if you are really seeing increased demand for two-year MBA education.
If an increase in applicants is the cause of the increased application volume and these trends continue, it will be harder to get accepted this year. This report implies increased competition. You can also expect the average GMAT scores at elite schools to continue their relentless climb.
If it’s simply application volume that has increased and not the number of applicants, then yield will decline. In that situation, you will see the MBA market begin to resemble more the med school or elite undergrad application market, where applicants feel compelled to send more and more applications just to increase their odds of getting in somewhere. In that case, application volume goes up and acceptance rates decline.
When school starts, only one person can attend one business school at one time.