Darden | Mr. Military Vet
GMAT 680, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Ms. ELS
GRE 318, GPA 3.8
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Musician To Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 1.6
Wharton | Mr. Investment Banking
GMAT 750, GPA 3.1
MIT Sloan | Mr. International Impact
GRE 326, GPA 3.5
Wharton | Ms. Product Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Chicago Booth | Mr. Indian O&G EPC
GMAT 730, GPA 3.75
Chicago Booth | Mr. US Army Veteran
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Techie Teacher
GMAT 760, GPA 3.80
Ross | Mr. NCAA to MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 3.2
Ross | Mr. Operational Finance
GMAT 710, taking again, GPA 3
Stanford GSB | Ms. S & H
GMAT 750, GPA 3.47
Columbia | Ms. Cybersecurity
GRE 322, GPA 3.7
Kellogg | Mr. Multinational Strategy
GRE 305, GPA 3.80
Kellogg | Mr. Defense Contractor
GMAT 730, GPA 3.2
Duke Fuqua | Mr. O&G Geoscientist
GRE 327, GPA 2.9
Kenan-Flagler | Ms. Big Pharma
GRE 318, GPA 3.3
INSEAD | Mr. Jumbo GMAT
GMAT 770, GPA 3.7
Duke Fuqua | Mr. 911 System
GMAT 690, GPA 3.02
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Agribusiness
GRE 308, GPA 3.04
Stanford GSB | Mr. 750
GMAT 750, GPA 3.43
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Tech Evangelist
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
NYU Stern | Mr. Bioinformatics
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Investment Banker
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Bangladeshi Analyst
GMAT 690, GPA 3.31
INSEAD | Mr. Indian In Cambodia
GMAT 730, GPA 3.33
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Consulting Analyst
GMAT 700, GPA 7.7/10

How Applicants Select Target B-Schools

Harvard Business School on a beautiful spring day in 2016

Harvard Business School on a beautiful spring day in 2016

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

Source: GMAC 2016 Prospective Students' Survey

Source: GMAC 2016 Prospective Students’ Survey

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.