What B-School Culture Do You Want?

Preferred Business School Culture

Source: GMAC 2014 Prospective Students Survey

Source: GMAC 2014 Prospective Students Survey

Prospective students in graduate management programs tend to prefer a collaborative and casual business school culture that is more teaching oriented and emphasizes critical discussion in the classroom. That’s according to a new survey of prospective students published today (April 14) by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

As reported earlier by Poets&Quants, interest in two-year MBA programs also has declined significantly, though GMAC’s numbers disguise the severity of the decline because they include part-time MBA, accelerated MBA and online MBA programs. The survey of more than 12,000 candidates found that finds that in the past five years, those focusing exclusively on specialized master’s degrees increased from 13% to 20%, as candidates exclusively considering MBAs declined from 55% to 53%. GMAC said that prospects considering both MBA and non-MBA specialized master’s programs in business declined from about a third to a quarter.

One of the more interesting pieces of information in the report is the preferred attributes of business school culture.  There are some surprises here, including the fact that slightly more than a third of the prospective students actually prefer a competitive culture to a collaborative one, or that 31% of the prospective students would rather have “authoritarian professors” in the classroom rather than egalitarian profs (see table above).


GMAC said that prospective students begin to develop a targeted list of programs where they plan to apply about eight months prior to sitting for the GMAT exam, on average (see chart below for differences among countries). Nearly all prospective students (93%) who responded to the survey in 2013 reported having a preferred school and tended to submit their first application two months after taking the exam. In addition, 53% of prospective students have a safety school and 50 percent have a stretch school to which they intend to apply.

The survey also showed that prospective students submit their first application to a graduate business program four years after completing their bachelor’s (or first university) degree program—typically four and a half years for those considering MBA programs and two and a half years for those considering specialized business, or non-MBA, master’s degree programs. This candidate timeline may be divided into four periods: “pre-contemplation (the time before the prospect considers graduate management education), followed by contemplation, preparation, and action. The pre-contemplation stage averages about two years, and can differ dramatically by prospective student characteristics, such as the type of business program considered,” the report concluded.

Prospects who only consider MBA programs, for example, tend to spend more than three years (38 months) after completing their first degree program in the pre-contemplation stage, in contrast to those who consider a specialized business master’s degree and transition out of the pre-contemplation stage three months before completing their bachelor’s degree program. From contemplation, an additional two years may elapse as the prospect explores and prepares before submitting his or her first application for a graduate management education. On average, those who only consider MBA programs spend 25 months in this phase, compared with 21 months for those who only consider non-MBA business master’s programs—only a slight difference.

Time Frame When Students Develop Short List of B-Schools

Source: GMAC 2014 Prospective Students Survey

Source: GMAC 2014 Prospective Students Survey

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