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Slight Decline In MBA Program Interest

TOP FIVE MOTIVATIONS BY UNDERGRADUATE MAJOR

The finding is among a vast amount of data released today by GMAC in its annual “prospective students survey.” More than 16,000 respondents students shared their opinions, preferences, and experiences as they navigated through the process of considering a graduate business education over the course of 2011. This GMAC report provides a portrait of these individuals in their endeavors to assess, prepare, and apply to graduate business school.

Interestingly, only 16% of prospective students reported having no reservations about pursuing a graduate business education. Among the majority that did have some doubts, most cited economic concerns, GMAC said. Nearly half (49%) indicated that earning a graduate business degree would require more money than they have available, which continues to be the most common reservation, followed by concerns that it would require large financial debts (47%). Yet, economic reservations have lessened slightly over the past three years.

Among other things, the study found that prospective business school students are showing increased interest in specialized master’s degree programs. The administrator of the GMAC exam said that 18% of its surveyed group of would-be graduate students last year were only considering non-MBA programs, up five full percentage points from 2009.

Nevertheless, GMAC added, a majority of prospective students–some 55%–were only interested in pursuing an MBA degree, a figure that has remained steady since 2009. Even so, 28 percent of prospects simultaneously consider both MBA and master’s (non-MBA) programs. Demand for master’s programs is greatest among the youngest cohort of prospects, where more than 50% of applicants to management, accounting, and finance programs are younger than 24 years of age.

Two out of five survey respondents (41%) reported that they consulted school rankings when choosing a program, GMAC found, and nearly one-third (31%) of these individuals generally considered published rankings extremely influential. School websites, however, were surprisingly considered about 50 percent more influential than the most highly regarded ranking publication specified, namely The Financial Times (the table below shows the percentage of prospective students who consider school websites and various ranking publications as extremely influential in their decision to apply to a particular school or program.

INFLUENCE OF A SCHOOL’S WEBSITE COMPARED WITH RANKINGS 

The FT’s strong showing is largely the result of GMAC’s sample. Only 38.6% of the 16,358 respondents were based in the U.S., which rankings by U.S. News and World Report as well as Bloomberg BusinessWeek loom larger. The FT tends to have a greater following in Europe and in Asia where the majority of the respondents were based.

When asked to rank which sources of school information they deemed most influential in their decision-making overall, respondents ranked several sources equal to or higher than school websites  (24%), namely: word-of-mouth resources, including current students and alumni (28%), friends and family (24%), and college professors (24%). They also rated employers (23%) nearly as influential as school websites.

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