MBA Admissions

Reduced International Demand for U.S. Business Schools and a Robust Economy Create a Beneficial Environment for Applicants

New data released this month from the General Management Admissions Council (GMAC) shows that U.S. graduate business schools are still suffering from a decrease in international applicants. Just under half, 48 percent, of U.S. programs reported in the GMAC Preliminary Application Trends Survey that they had received fewer international applications at this point compared to the same time last year. This survey, which collects mid-cycle application data from graduate business schools, includes data from over 700 graduate business programs around the world. Among full-time two-year MBA programs in the U.S., about 68 percent reported application declines from international students, while another 9 percent reported that applications were flat. Fewer than a quarter of the programs reported that applications were up. Among the 68 percent reporting declines, almost one-third of respondents reported that the applications were significantly down, 17 percent reported moderate declines, and 19 percent reported slight declines.

This report coincides with data that GMAC released last week from the Prospective Students’ Survey. While prospective students’ plans to apply to international programs have stayed relatively flat over the last few years, hovering around 58 percent, there have been changes in students’ location preferences. Among applicants who plan to apply to international programs (not within their country of residence), 62 percent plan to apply in Western Europe, with U.S. programs following at 61 percent. While the percentages are close, this is a switch from 2017 when the U.S. was the most named location at 63 percent followed by Western Europe at 58 percent. Prospective students were also asked to select their one most preferred location. Both the U.S. and Western Europe received equal proportions of respondents at 40 percent each. The longer-term trend, however, shows a gradual decline in preference for the U.S. between 2009 and 2016, with a sharper downturn in the last two years to 40 percent; the exact opposite trend occurs for Western Europe, which shows a gradual increase in preference with a more marked uptick to 40 percent since 2016.

Among all candidates, those applying domestically and internationally, the U.S. is still the most popular destination to apply for an MBA. However, the percentage of all applicants planning to apply to U.S. programs declined from 2017 to 2018 by three percentage points, from 68 to 65 percent, while interest in Western Europe increased from 37 percent to 42 percent. Interest in Canadian programs increased just one point, to 20 percent.

The decrease in international student applications, combined with the strong economy, and the rising cost of MBA programs, appears to be impacting overall application volume to U.S. business schools. Poets and Quants published an article last week declaring it a “buyer’s market” for admitted students. Though acknowledging that official numbers have yet to be released, according to admissions officers, there have been lower application volumes again this year, even among the top ten schools. This makes for the second year of decreasing applications, even amongst the highly competitive programs. Admitted students are reportedly receiving higher than normal numbers of acceptances from rival schools, as well as generous scholarship offers. The Poets and Quants article quotes an unnamed admissions officer from a top-ten ranked business school as saying, “When you have this many schools down and many are down for two years in a row, yield is going to be a nightmare because everyone has had to dig deeper in the pool. I would not be surprised if schools had to go deep into their waitlists or have to shrink their classes. It’s the collective impact of so many schools being down that is unique.“ Yield, which is the total number of admitted students who matriculate into a program, is important for balancing both the selectivity and revenue components of the program. 

Application Volume Drops at Top MBA Programs in US

The Financial Times reported this week that four of the most prestigious business schools in the US saw a drop in MBA application volume for 2018 matriculation. Harvard, NYU Stern, Duke Fuqua, and Berkeley Haas each reported a decrease in applications from 2017 that ranged from 4 percent to 7.5 percent.

According to Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) data, in the US full-time two-year MBA programs’ application volumes have been in decline since 2014. However, this is not consistent across programs. In 2017, those with larger classes (201 or more students) accounted for 6 percent of MBA programs, but 55 percent of applications and 32 percent of enrollments. Larger schools were more likely to report application volume increases in 2017, while smaller were more likely to have experienced decreases. This decrease now appears to have expanded to the large, prestigious MBA programs.

While the decline in applications has not yet affected Harvard’s 11 percent acceptance rate or median GMAT score of 730, it was fairly significant at 4.5 percent. Similarly, NYU Stern reported a nearly 4 percent drop, while Duke Fuqua and Berkeley Haas were at about 6 percent and 7.5 percent respectively.

In contrast, MBA application numbers globally continue to increase. “When looked at internationally, graduate business education is a growth stock. Applications to Canadian, European, and Asian schools are increasing at an enormous rate,” said Bill Boulding, Dean of Duke Fuqua. Other admissions representatives who spoke with the Financial Times pointed out a multi-faceted cause for the lower application rates in the US:

  • Decreasing numbers of international applicants to US schools, due to a less welcoming political climate, as well as increasingly rigid immigration requirements.

  • Increasingly competitive European and Asian MBAs, offered in English, for those wanting a global experience. Some of these well-ranked programs also offer expedited timelines.

  • Increasing tuition and a robust economic climate in the US, which increases the cost of an MBA in both direct costs and wages-lost.

  • Increasing interest in part-time, online, and/or one-year MBA programs.

Take-aways for prospective MBA students

  • If you have dual-citizenship, don’t forget to note this on your application. It could be advantageous for you in the admissions process.

  • Be sure to highlight your international experiences and interests in your application. Admissions officers want to create a diverse student body and, with fewer international applicants, these experiences are likely to stand out more.

  • Consider that in strong economic climates, with low unemployment, schools are likely to receive fewer applicants. While this may not significantly change acceptance rates at all of the most prestigious programs, it can provide some benefit with regard to both admissions likelihood, as well as the possibility for substantial merit-based scholarships.

  • Choose your MBA program carefully, rather than automatically selecting a full-time, two-year program. Learn from these trends, by thinking carefully about the type of MBA that will benefit you most. International programs, one-year or expedited programs, and part-time cohort-based programs can all be worthwhile for you and your career.

The MBA Tour US: MBA & Business Master's Conferences

Meet Columbia, MIT Sloan, UCLA, Chicago Booth, Kellogg, Stanford, and more top business programs!

Join us in a city near you:

Seattle: Thursday, July 12
Los Angeles: Saturday, July 14
San Francisco: Sunday, July 15
Houston: Tuesday, July 17
Atlanta: Thursday, July 19
NYC: Saturday, July 21
Chicago: Monday, July 23
DC: Wednesday, July 25
Boston: Thursday, July 2


Why should I attend The MBA Tour?

The world's top business schools, all in one place.

Stand out from the competition and meet with Admissions Directors from top domestic and international business schools. Connect in-person to ask your MBA questions, learn about program offerings, and discover how a graduate business degree can help you boost your career.

  • Small group meetings
  • Admissions panels
  • GMAT strategy sessions
  • School presentations
  • Networking fair
  • & much more!

 

Who will I meet?

Connect with admissions decision makers.

  • You'll have the unique opportunity to meet with admissions decision makers to increase your chances of acceptance.
  • Learn in-depth program information and ask your MBA questions during MeetUp discussions (invite only, small group meetings).
  • Discover admissions tips from industry leaders.
  • Network with the people that matter when it comes to getting accepted to your dream school.

 

How should I prepare?

Complete your online profile to be matched with top schools.

  • Provide helpful information during registration to let schools learn about you and your goals and have them invite you to meet with them during MeetUps or School Presentations.
  • Use The MBA Tour's Research Schools platform to learn more about program offerings and options.
  • Log into The MBA Tour's online portal to easily confirm MeetUps and build your schedule to make the most of your event.

 

Great, sign me up!

Register free today to reserve your spot. Space is limited!


Business Schools Attending

*Schools vary by city; check event pages for individual listings. More schools to come.

Insights from Last Year’s Applicants: The 2018 AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants) MBA Applicant Survey

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:

AIGAC.jpg

 

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.