App Declines At Two-Thirds Of U.S. Schools

Master of Accounting programs also experienced robust growth in application volume. Some 74% of these programs reported increased applicants, up from 51% in 2011. “Not only did three out of four programs report increased application volume,” GMAC said, “but nearly half (49%) of programs reported growth levers that were ‘up significantly’ (21% or more).”

The majority (68%) of Master of Finance programs reported increased (57%) or stable (11%) application volumes for the incoming class of 2012–2013, but there is a decrease in application volume growth this year compared with recent years. Some 57% of Master of Finance programs reported an increase in application volume in 2012, down from 83% of programs that reported an increase in 2011. Despite slower growth, 78% of programs expect to increase their target class size for 2012

In 2012, GMAC said all MBA program formats saw an increase in the percentage of programs reporting growth compared with findings from 2011. Fueled by application gains among online/distance offerings, 46% of all MBA programs saw improved volumes in 2012, while 45% saw declines and 10% reported no change. By comparison, in 2011 just over a third of all MBA programs (36%) reported increases in application volume


In 2012, GMAC said, women accounted for 39% of the applicant pool for full-time two-year MBA programs, up from 35% in 2011. The largest shift was seen among applicants to executive MBA programs. In 2012, 37% of executive MBA applicants were women, in contrast to 2011, when women accounted for only 27% of executive MBA applicants. The numbers are even higher, however, when you count other master’s programs in business. GMAC said that 41% of the applicants to part-time programs were women, while 44% of the applicants to flexible programs and 43% of the applicants to online/distance programs were women.


Foreign candidates represent 33 percent of the application volume for all MBA programs in 2012. GMAC said that programs in Europe boast the greatest showing of foreign candidates (61%), largely a consequence of the relatively small domestic applicant pool in any one European nation.


The full-time one-year MBA applicant pool has the greatest proportion of foreign applicants of all program types; 61% of candidates to these programs are foreign citizens. That’s largely the result of the number of one-year MBA programs in Europe. Online/distance and part-time programs have a much lower 13% of candidates, but the lowest is part-time lock- step MBA programs at 10% of applicants.

Worldwide, Indian, Chinese, and US citizens accounted for the greatest number of foreign applicants to MBA programs for 43%, 27%, and 6% of MBA programs, respectively. Chinese citizens also accounted for the greatest increase in application volume for MBA programs globally, as reported by 31% of MBA programs, followed by Indian and Saudi Arabian citizens, reported by 16% and 8% of MBA programs, respectively.

MBA programs in the U.S. reported that citizens of India (44% of programs), China (35% of programs), and Saudi Arabia (7% of programs) accounted for the greatest number of foreign applications in 2012. They also told GMAT that the greatest increase in foreign applications volume came from China (40% of programs), India (16%), and Saudi Arabia (12%).

Most business schools are working hard to increase their applicant flow, GMAC found. The study discovered that the vast majority of all MBA programs (88%) conducted special outreach efforts in 2012 to attract more candidates (Figure 11). Working professionals were the most commonly recruited candidate type, targeted by 55 percent of MBA programs, followed by foreign candidates (43% of programs), and women (40%). Recruitment trends vary by program type. Full-time two-year MBA programs (70%) and full-time one-year programs (60%) reach out most often to foreign candidates. Women were highly recruited by more than half (54%) of full-time two-year MBA programs and 47 percent of executive MBA programs.