GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) recently released its 2016 mba.com Prospective Students Survey Report. The survey, conducted throughout 2015, analyzes the motivations, planned career paths, and program choices of more than 10,000 business school candidates worldwide.
Here are some highlights of the report.
• Applicants are becoming more purposeful and directed. Yay! On average, potential students considered 2.8 programs in 2015, down from 3.1 in 2014. 71% of those surveyed named a single industry of interest for post-graduation employment, as compared to 58% in 2014. Furthermore, 61% of prospective students mentioned a single job function, up from 46% in 2014.
• Worldwide, 50% of prospective students are considering only MBA programs, with 28% considering both MBA and specialized master’s programs. 23% are contemplating only specialized business master’s programs, such as Master of Accounting or Master of Finance. This is an increase from 2009, when merely 15% were considering only specialized master’s programs. There has been a shift in Western Europe toward specialized business master’s programs. In 2009, 49% of probable students were considering only an MBA program with 22% thinking about only specialized business master’s programs. These numbers changed in 2015, with 36% considering only an MBA program and 46% considering only specialized master’s programs. This change probably reflects the greater clarity of purpose that applicants are bringing to their application effort.
• Most potential students looking at graduate management education are pursuing a combination of classroom and online learning. Even those who prefer to enroll in an online MBA program still anticipate spending 10% of their time in the classroom to enable opportunities for networking and experiential learning. Those considering a full-time MBA program expect to have 86% of their coursework in a classroom and desire 14% of their courses to be given online.
• On average, prospective students begin formulating their short list of schools one year before submitting their applications. Often a specific event or situation triggers a student’s interest in getting a graduate management degree. Possible triggers are looking for a new job but lacking competitive skills (27%), reaching a work plateau (17%), and lacking knowledge to do a job (17%).
• Nearly all (96%) prospective students use social media. Of these, 67% use it to research topics related to their graduate management degree education. Facebook and LinkedIn are the most popular sites globally except in China, where Tencent QQ (an instant messaging platform) is most popular.
The study reveals that business school applicants are now contemplating applying to fewer types of programs and are more focused on a specific postgrad career path. They are interested in combining online and experiential learning. Prospective students often experience a trigger to propel them towards higher education and are starting to put together their short lists of schools approximately a year before application submission. Social media plays a huge role in these students’ lives, and assists in the research for grad school programs.