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Harvard | Mr. Harvard 2+2, Chances?
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Columbia | Mr. Developing Social Enterprises
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Stanford GSB | Mr. Startup Guy
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Harvard | Mr. Overrepresented MBB Consultant (2+2)
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Rice Jones | Mr. Tech Firm Product Manager
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Harvard | Mr. Billion Dollar Startup
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Johnson, Darden & Tuck Win Applicant Praise

Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management in a virtual die with UVA Darden for getting to know its MBA applicants best

When MBA admission consultants recently encouraged their cliens to fill our a questionnaire on their journey to business school, they never could have imagined that so many of the MBA applicants were less happy with their experiences. Afterall, it stands likely that few consultants would ask dissatisfied clients to complete a survey that could reflect badly on the consulting biz.

But slightly over a third of their own clients said they were either dissatisfied or felt no particular loyalty to them after forking over thousands of dollars for their advice and help to get into a business school.

Some 104 responding MBA applicants, 15% of the sample, were labelled detractors because they were so unhappy that they told the survey firm they would spread their negative feelings about MBA admissions consulting. Another 144, or 21%, were dubbed neutral, meaning they were not dissatisfied but felt no loyalty to these services.


The finding was among a wide range of results in the annual survey of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). Each year, AIGAC asks applicants to rate how well individual schools got to know them. This year’s winner was Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management in a virtual dead tie with the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (see below). Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, which often own the prize outright in the past, was third followed by Carnegie Mellon, Emory Goizueta, Duke Fuqua, and Michigan Ross.

On the other end of the scale, perhaps due to the number of rejections the schools send out annually, were Harvard Business School, which was dead last, with Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Columbia Business School. MIT Sloan and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School rounded out the bottom five schools.

Harvard alone turned down 9,330 MBA candidates for admission last year. All told, the five schools rejected 32,406 applicants to their MBA programs. It is any wonder why those candidates wouldn’t have cozy feelings about those schools? In comparison, the top five schools on the list dinged 7,516 candidates. Bottom line: The bottom five schools turn down more than four times as many applicants as the top five. It also should be noted that all four of the top scoring schools participated in the survey, encouraging their candidates to fill out the web-based form.


Source: AIGAC 2018 survey of MBA applicants

There were some notable gender differences in the responses of applicants who were asked how well schools got to know them. The most female friendly admissions office? Emory University’s Goizueta School, though the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Cambridge’s Judge School also scored well in the survey results (see below).


Source: 2018 AIGAC survey of MBA applicants

While the AIGAC results are not based on a carefully drawn sample and it’s even possible for some candidates to complete the survey numerous times, the survey often comes up with some helpful insights about the MBA admissions process. Some of the results, however, need to be treated with a big grain of salt, given the obvious bias of respondents who are clients of MBA consultants and the open sample size that allows anyone to fill out the questionnaire.

This year, the survey also found that MBA candidates are eager for more transparency throughout the application process from schools and they badly want feedback after being rejected. The most used independent source of information about business schools, according to responding applicants,  were MBA rankings, cited by 83%, followed by online communities and forums (59%), family friends or work colleagues (55%), and news articles (50%).

Candidates also placed high value on business school websites as a source of information. More than 80% of the applicants used school websites during the application process, while more than 50% took advantage of info sessions online.

One surprise: For MBA applicants at least, Facebook is not nearly as influential as a source of business school information than one might think. The number one social media channel for MBA candidates was LinkedIn, followed by YouTube and then Facebook. Quora, the question-and-answer platform, did better than Instagram or Twitter, particularly for international applicants (see below). Few would have expected Quora to be more popular than Instagram or Twitter (see below).


Source: 2018 AIGAC survey of MBA applicants

But perhaps the most surprising discovery was that more than 100 respondents to the relatively small sample were disatisfied about their experience with an MBA admissions consultant (see below table). Some of the negative comments were telling. “I didn’t feel much of a personal connection with my consultant which would have heped through the stress. It was mostly transactional and formal,” wrote one. “I feel like they were too much of a cheerleader at times, and weren’t totally honest with me about how much stronger (my) application would be if I took a supplemental quantitative course,” added another.


Source: AIGAC 2018 MBA applicant survey

The remaining majority, 64% of the respondents, were found to be very satisifed with their service and experience and will highly praise MBA admission consulting services to others. That latter finding is not all that surprising because of the direct involvement by consulting firms in getting their clients to complete the open survey on the Internet. Roughly two dozen firms distributed the survey to their clients.

If one were calculating a Net Promoter Score, a popular business way to keep track of customer loyalty and satisfaction, MBA admission consultants would rate a score of 49, solidly good and in the range of a Honda and just below excellent (which would require a score of 50 or above).