The 2018 AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants) MBA Applicant Survey emphasized the “great expectations” last year’s applicants had during the admissions process. The survey data includes 1,979 interviews with 1,377 respondents who applied to at least one school. Data was collected during the Spring of 2018.
Like the 2017 responses, this wave of applicants relied heavily on online and technology-based resources to learn about MBA programs, but mentioned the importance of combining these resources with a personalized experience with school representatives.
Students used both school supplied resources, as well as information from independent sources. Over 80 percent of last year’s applicants used school websites for gathering program information. And over 50 percent relied on online information sessions hosted by schools and interactions with current students. When asked about the most valuable school specific resource, the most common response was school website, followed by current student referrals, and on-campus information sessions.
While most applicants, 86 percent, used MBA rankings for school research, responses on the value of the rankings were mixed. Twenty-two percent of respondents selected MBA rankings as the most valuable independent resource, yet it was also the most commonly selected response for least valuable resource at 24 percent. Respondents named online communities/forums as the most valuable independent resource (24 percent), though only 59 percent of survey respondents used this resource in their research.
The majority reported an expectation schools would proactively get to know them through various initiatives, including formal visit programs, diversity and women’s events, and interviews. Respondents spoke to the importance of these face-to-face interactions, noting instances where a positive or negative encounter changed their personal ranking of the program.
The following schools were rated in the top and bottom quartiles for how well they got to know applicants:
Furthermore, when it came to finalizing their school lists, over 60 percent of prospective students named reputation (66 percent) and ranking (61 percent) as top factors to consider, followed by school culture (53 percent). Others, however, named geographic proximity to their desired work as the predominant concern as networking is critical, particularly in finding employment with small firms and start-ups.
Take-aways for current applicants
The survey emphasized the critical and personal nature of the school selection and application process. While school and independent online resources can provide comprehensive and useful information, nothing can replace interpersonal interactions. Ideally, applicants will be able to visit the schools they are most interested in, but if not, they should look for opportunities to attend school-hosted events in the city where they live.