Almost always, the thinking goes, MBA applicants first focus on business school rankings when narrowing down the schools on their target list. But a new survey shows that the most influential data point is more focused on outcomes.
The new survey, published today (May 10) by the Graduate Management Admission Council, found that the single most important factor is the percentage of the latest graduating class with job offers (see table below). That is also true of applicants who are pursuing specialized master’s degrees in business.
After job offers, the quality of faculty came second, the availability of scholarships third, and total tuition and required fees came in fourth. Graduates’ starting base salary and other compensation rounded out the top five. Surprisingly, rankings, according to the survey, came in ninth or next to last for full-time MBA applicants.
QUALITY & REPUTATION OF SCHOOL MOST IMPORTANT IN CHOOSING A SCHOOL
Don’t take that finding too seriously, though. Another section of the survey appears to contradict that notion. When applicants were asked to name the most important selection criteria in choosing a school, the highest percentage of full-time MBA applicants–slight more than 40%–named “quality and reputation,” which are largely a function of the rankings. Only 11% identified “program aspects.” None of the full-time MBA applicants name the curriculum, the school’s culture, or the program’s class profile. “Career aspects” came in second, with about 20% of the respondents checking off that factor in the survey.
The survey, however, was not a controlled sample but a poll of applicants who went to GMAC’s website and filled out its Prospective Students Survey. The organization said that more than 10,000 individuals responded throughout the 2015 calendar year.
Prospective students begin forming their short lists of schools one year prior to application submission, on average, the survey found. A specific event or circumstance often triggers a prospective student’s consideration of earning a graduate management degree. Most common events include seeking a new job but lacking skills to be competitive for the positions (27%), reaching a plateau at work (17%), and lacking knowledge to do a job (17%).
TWO-THIRDS FEEL IT IS IMPORTANT TO GET INTO THE BEST PROGRAM POSSIBLE
Two-thirds of prospective students (65%) feel it is important to get into the best program possible. Only 59% say they have thoroughly researched the programs where they intend to apply. But, no matter where students are in their deliberation process of applying to business school, the vast majority (90% overall) have identified a preferred school from which they want to earn their degree. The survey found that this is true for 94% of those already applying, for the 89% who are still planning to apply, and for the 79% of those still deciding whether or not to pursue a graduate management education.
PROGRAM INFORMATION RANKED AS “MOST INFLUENTIAL” IN APPLICATION DECISIONS