CONSULTANTS PUSH CLIENTS TO CAST A WIDER NET
In fact, the growing influence of MBA consultants on their clients represented another takeaway from the 2017 AIGAC study. In particular, consultants are increasingly pushing their clients to consider schools that they had previously neglected. Some 39% of respondents noted that they had widened their net to include a school they hadn’t considered after working with a consultant, up from 29% the year before. This was true of 44% of international applicants and 35% of Americans.
Indeed, consultants bucked the conventional wisdom for applicants to focus their energies on a couple of target schools. Instead, 49% of applicants using consultants applied to four to six schools compared to 31% of their peers. That ratio is 41%-to-29% for 2-3 schools and 62%-to-15% forseven or more schools. Is this a ploy to squeeze more dollars out of determined (or desperate) applicants? While AIGAC didn’t survey respondents on success rates with consultants, the numbers don’t bear out that consultants are taking advantage of clients. Just 24% of applicants reported that consultants asked them to apply to more schools than they had planned, down from 27% the year before. By the same token, 12% encouraged their clients to apply to fewer schools, up from 9% in 2016.
Such rates may be one reason why some respondents viewed their consultants as trusted partners as much as brush-clearing experts. “He really helped me focus on what exactly I wanted to do AFTER graduating and therefore was able to advise me on where to apply,” writes one thirtysomething American male.
APPLICANTS SKEPTICAL OF SCHOOL-SPONSORED EFFORTS
Although applicants tended to seek out independent sources, such as rankings and consultants, they didn’t entirely bypass school-provided resources. 86% of respondents viewed school websites, while 70% reached out to students and alumni supplied by the school. Another 51% attended online information sessions, a slightly higher rate than respondents who attended information sessions on-campus (45%) and off-campus (43%).
Alas, such resources weren’t deemed particularly valuable by MBA applicants surveyed. Among the students who gathered information through school websites, just 33% considered the information valuable. Off campus information sessions produced an even worse response, with just 15% of attendees deeming them worthwhile. Even talking to school-supplied MBA students gets short shrift among AIGAC respondents, with less than half of respondents considering them helpful.
That’s not to say schools should abandon such home-grown efforts, say surveyed applicants. “I had great experiences with current students from Ross and Kellogg,” writes a 28 year-old male from Panama. “In both cases, they were really helpful to show me the university and talk to me about their experiences. That’s what really helped me define if I can be part of the culture of the university.”
STUDENTS VALUE PEER INSIGHTS THE MOST IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS
CAREER AND COST MORE IMPORTANT THAN RESPONDENTS INITIALLY LET ON
Although MBA programs market themselves using themes like transformational experiences and social change, the career end remains central to why so many professionals flock to business schools. Although 52% of respondents peg acquiring new skills and knowledge as a key reason to apply to business school, most others are future career driven, including making a career change (48%), advancing a career (45%), building a strong network (45%), and increasing salary (37%).
Cognitive dissonance can also be found in student response to debt. Despite few respondents citing cost as a reason for choosing a program, several circled back to the issue when discussing how schools can gain a recruiting advantage. “Offer more hub interviews and inform applicants of the timing of admitted student weekends earlier to avoid high airfare costs and conflicting weekends,” counsels one 29 year-old American male. “As someone who is about to take on a large loan, finances need to be considered at all times.”
When it comes to financial support, it isn’t just the dollar amounts that MBA applicants noticed according to the AIGAC respondents. Instead, it comes down to listening and follow through. “The school I will be attending offered all options with scholarship information, and their continuous interaction with me led me to decide to attend a full time program even with the risk of not having an income for a year.”
This year’s survey sample was divided up between 61% men and 39%. 57% lived in the United States, with the 43% spread out across 72 countries. Their mean age is 27.7 years old, with 50% of the sample having already chosen a program by the time they completed the survey.
To read the complete survey, click here.
DON’T MISS: 2017-2018 MBA Application Deadlines