Kaplan Test Prep has been surveying business admissions officers for more than 10 years. These surveys provide MBA-hopefuls, as well as those involved in business school education, with the most current information about admissions.
2018 survey highlights
The 2018 survey reveals something that top U.S. b-schools haven’t experienced in years – a substantial drop in applicants. The 2018 survey of more than 150 business schools throughout the U.S. makes note of this decline and offers the following explanations for it:
- 31% state that the decline in applications is caused by the concerns of many international students about the current U.S. political climate and who are therefore going elsewhere for their education.
- 30% say that the drop is caused by the strong U.S. job market which is keeping possible students in the workforce.
- 17% state that it’s caused by the high cost of obtaining an MBA.
- 13% see the cause as the question of the value of an MBA.
- 7% state that it’s the lack of 1-year programs in the U.S.
- 3% say it’s due to an opinion that fewer jobs require an MBA than they did in the past.
The decline in international applicants seems to have long-term consequences: 74% of the schools surveyed are concerned that the current political climate in the U.S. will hurt the number of international students in the future. This is an increase of 6% (from 68%) in the 2017 Kaplan survey.
According to Jeff Thomas, executive director of admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep, “Trends in MBA applications are almost always cyclical. When the job market is soft, you see an increase in applicants, as prospective students see the value in becoming more marketable and waiting out a weak economy. When the job market is robust, as it has been for the past two years, applications tend to be down. But even if the economy does take a downturn, an American political climate that discourages international students from coming may erode any normal application increase. We’ll continue to track this trend.”
See the full Kaplan report here.
What this means for applicants:
In a word, opportunity.
While you shouldn’t expect dramatic changes in application standards (at least not yet), a small drop in application volume means less competition. Furthermore, since the drop is most pronounced among international applicants, then if you happen to be an international applicant, your chance for serious consideration at schools previously just outside your reach has increased.
The survey asked admissions officers to name the biggest factor in the application drop. In reality, all the factors mentioned probably played a role. The strong job market most affects U.S. applicants. Whenever the job market is strong, application volume declines; when the job market is weak, two years spent earning a graduate degree that will increase one’s employability becomes more attractive.
The cost and value factors, which together total 30%, are flip sides of the same coin. As tuition continues its inexorable rise, value becomes more of a question for prospective applicants. GMAC data reveals that MBAs are overwhelmingly happy with their decision to pursue an MBA and feel that it paid off. However, for applicants staring at those intimidating tuition and loan figures, the cost is a real and discouraging factor in deciding whether to apply. At the same time, a decline in application volume may also make it easier for some to get grants and scholarships.
Again, for those of you committed to earning an MBA, this trend spells O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y.
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