Adam Hoff of Amerasia Consulting is seeing a slightly different context. “Tuck seems to be the school gaining the most steam amongst my clients,” he says. “I’m working with a lot of people who are just kind of looking to escape the rat race a bit. I think the appeal of being out in the middle of nowhere, with a small class, at a fun and friendly and still elite school, is at an all-time high. Maybe it’s just fatigue with having to be so present at all times, at work, online, socially.
“I think schools that offer a feeling of a reprieve are scoring well among this crowd,” adds Hoff. “Kellogg fits the bill here, and also been a big gainer from what I am seeing. My bold prediction is that we’ll see a shift over the next few years, as schools start promoting campus life and theoretical learning and a slower pace instead of the “go, go, go” model right now of global everything, action-based everything, and flexible everything. I honestly think a lot of MBA candidates just want to go to school for two years to escape a bit.”
Applicants interests tend to mirror economic trends. “A few years ago, applicants wrote about Goldman and KKR,” recalls Jeremy Shinewald of mbaMission. “Now, more are writing about Twitter, Google, Facebook and Dropbox. Stanford, Berkeley and MIT are the potential beneficiaries from these trends, but I am not sure that is playing out right now. For now, applicants are just looking at their schools’ career reports to see if the tech companies are coming to campus. Amazon, for example, is at a dozen different schools, so applicants don’t need to be in a hub if they want to end up at a tech giant. This is a trend that we are watching and might develop as we see the next year of career reports.”
Forster says he is also seeing increased interest in a couple of Top 20 programs such as Emory University’s Goizueta School and the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business. “Some candidates are waking up to the fact that, if you’re interested in a specialty area like Latin America business or entrepreneurship, the ‘top’ program overall isn’t necessarily the top for you,” he adds.
GREATER INTEREST IN DUAL-DEGREE PROGRAMS
And despite the formidable costs of attending a dual-degree program, many admission consultants say their clients are showing renewed interest in them. “While applications to most JD/MBA programs have declined, we’ve seen in bump in demand for MBA/MPP and MPA programs, especially at Harvard,” adds Bauer of The MBA Exchange. “Other programs with increased appeal this past year include Kellogg’s 1-Year Full-Time and accelerated part-time MBA.”
Forster of Forster-Thomas believes that the dual-degree programs are also part of a growing trend. “Due to the economy, people are realizing that they will need stronger business skills to succeed in their field, no matter what it is,” he says. “So you see aspiring lawyers and healthcare professionals who want an MBA with their other professional degree so they can effectively run their own business. You see aspiring film producers who want to complement their MFA with an MBA because they realize the importance of management and finance skills. B-school is becoming more of an assist—the thing you need in order to be an amazing gallery owner, lawyer, or healthcare professional. People aren’t just looking to make more money, they want to have more of an impact—they want to be more disruptive. The MBA provides you with the framework to succeed in any industry.”
APPLICANTS RETAKING GMAT IF IT IS 30 POINTS BELOW THE MEDIAN FOR A TARGET SCHOOL
Other trends in this year’s MBA application season? Abraham of Accepted.com says she is seeing more applicants with experience in and goals related to social entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurship and clean tech seem to be more popular,” she says. “I’m also seeing more interest in SCM. The perennial favorite is still strategy consulting as a post-MBA goal. That obviously isn’t new, but it hasn’t lost any luster.”
Applicants have become more pragmatic about the GMAT, believes Bauer. “Those with scores below the “middle 80%” for admits at a given school often choose less selective programs rather than hoping for a miracle,” he says. “Individuals with respectable but not stellar GMAT scores, say 30 points below the median for a targeted school, are re-testing, even if that means applying in a later round. Relatively few are considering the GRE as a viable option, feeling that it lacks the perceived rigor of the GMAT.”