AIGAC published its annual MBA Applicant Survey, which evaluates the experiences and preferences of recent MBA applicants in the U.S. and abroad. Highlights from the survey include:
• In terms of sources of information applicants utilized during the admissions process, school/program websites ranked the highest, followed by school rankings, communication with school alumni/current students, school visits, and MBA resource websites. (These were the top 5 sources of information.)
• When choosing a program, men placed more importance on rankings than did women.
• In general, U.S. News was ranked as the most popular b-school ranking source, but among international applicants, Financial Times was ranked highest.
• 38% of U.S. applicants who completed at least one video essay/component felt that their final video represented them well. For international applicants, on the other hand, 50% felt that the video did not represent them well.
• 20% of this year’s applicants plan on starting their own businesses after graduating from b-school. (According to U.S. News, only 7% of recent graduates from top 10 U.S. b-schools are actually self-employed.)
• 51% of applicants showed an interest in going into consulting after receiving their MBAs. About 80% of foreign students want to work in the U.S. after graduating (that is, 20% want to work in the U.S. while 60% are open to numerous options, including working in the U.S.).
• Only 40% of U.S. students consider working outside of the U.S.
• Applicants reports that of all the b-schools, Dartmouth Tuck and Duke Fuqua “got to know them best” during the application process. (These were the top two schools in this category last year as well.). The schools that showed the greatest improvement in this category: Columbia and Kellogg.
Post-Conference Reflections on the 2014 AIGAC survey There were some interesting disconnects between student expectations, as revealed in this survey, and MBA behavior as reported in school employment reports and GMAC data.
1. More than 20% of applicants plan to start their own business or be self-employed after finishing their MBA. Yet of HBS, Stanford, Sloan, Wharton, LBS, Kellogg, Booth and NYU Stern grads, less than 7% were their own boss after earning their MBA.
2. 51% hope to work in consulting, but only 28% of grads from Stanford, Sloan, Wharton, HBS, Kellogg, Booth, and NYU Stern, Tuck, Haas, and Columbia went into consulting in 2013.
Do these disconnects reveal unrealistic expectation or very reasonable flexibility on the part of MBA students? Or perhaps a real change in what MBAs want to do – a trend in the offing? I suspect and hope it’s the reasonable flexibility. Time will tell.
The presentation of the survey results at last year’s conference at Wharton surprised many admissions directors because of the high percentage of applicants asked to write their own recommendation and the frustration applicants felt at asking their recommenders to write a separate letter for each school.
I am thrilled to report that several of the schools have cooperated and agreed to ask the same questions on their letter of recommendation forms. The grid may differ, but the questions that require writing are the same. Now there should be less and less reason for “You write it; I’ll sign it.” Your application will be stronger if your recommendations truly supplement – in voice, point of view and fact –the information you present about yourself.
I’m proud of AIGAC’s role in highlighting this issue to the schools and am pleased at the schools’ prompt response and attempt to lessen the burden on applicants. I can’t help but note with pride the results when consultants and schools work together to improve the admissions process. The survey also highlights the unpopularity of the video essay/interview among international applicants. I can certainly understand that it’s uncomfortable to talk to an inanimate camera with no affect or feedback. But the reality is that oral presentation is of growing importance, and so is YouTube.
My suggestion: Practice, practice, practice. Play back the practice videos to yourself in between rehearsals, and maybe for the first several shots have someone feeding the questions to you so there will be a human being to interact with. However, it is imperative that at some point you practice by yourself in front of the dumb webcam that you will be using for the real thing.
Finally, I must give a HUGE shout-out to Vince Ricci and Andrea Sparrey, who spearheaded the survey initiative this year for AIGAC, to Huron, which provided the statistical analysis, to the committee and to all members of AIGAC who helped to publicize the survey and ensure a statistically valid sample. Finally and most importantly, thank you to the applicants who took the time to share their experiences and thoughts.
More on the fantastic AIGAC conference that I attended last week will be forthcoming. I want to mull it over a little before I write.
See the 2014 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey for more details on the survey.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.