Most applicants, meantime, said that the biggest reason to apply to an MBA program was to acquire new information, skills and/or knowledge. Fully 57% of the sample cited this reason as the most influential in their decision to go to business school (see below). Next was the access to job prospects (49%) and access to a strong network (48%).
Ultimately, the survey found that many candidates continue to rely on reputation and ranking as indicators of future success. The three top factors that influenced applicants’ target list of schools were reputation, ranking and culture (see below). The two least influential: The quality of the faculty and the GMAT score a candidate was able to achieve.
What came through loud and clear was a frustration with the MBA admissions process. The survey found numerous applicants who complained about the lack of feedback, regular status updates on their applications, getting rejected without knowing why, and being placed on waitlists for long periods of time.
‘NO EFFORT WAS MADE TO GET TO KNOW ME OUTSIDE OF MY PAPER APPLICATION’
Wrote one respondent: “Business schools should have at least a simple feedback about the denied applicants. Seriously. I would prefer to pay a higher application fee but a one line feedback: e.g. “GMAT slightly below average”, or “career goals not clear”, or “too many applicants from your region/industry.” Anything. I know it would be hard, but the school that starts doing it will have a great differential factor in increasing number of applicants.”
Other random comments:
“I felt absolutely no effort was made to get to know me outside of my paper application and that without using a consultant of some kind I effectively had little chance of succeeding…”
“Though I fell in love with [school] during my campus visit, I felt that their application process was very impersonal, and I didn’t feel like I had enough of an opportunity to show the school who I was with a video and a [short essay]…”
“Feedback on the application and reasons for rejection would be helpful. Diplomatic rejection mail left me confused.”
“Feedback at some point would be fantastic. At least some indication of what portion of an application was below expectation would be helpful even just for personal development.”
“I wish I knew how close to admissions I was. This would help me gauge re-applying or not.”
“I think [School]’s inability to keep applicants updated on the status of their admissions process is suggestive of the greater culture, regardless of the collaborative and inclusive culture they claim to promote.”
MOST USED INDEPENDENT SOURCES OF INFORMATION ON BUSINESS SCHOOLS
Arguably, the most predictable survey outcome was the dominance of MBA rankings as a key information source on business schools and their MBA programs. Again and again, over numbers surveys from different sources, MBA rankings and a school’s reputation–largely based on those rankings–has a big impact on applicant behavior (see below). This year, 83% of the candidates said they consulted rankings, far greater than the next category of 59% for online communities and forums.
And yet, when it came to admitting what source was most influential, MBA rankings narrowly lost out to online sites (see below).
HOW CONSULTANTS CHANGED WHAT APPLICANTS THOUGHT THEY WOULD DO
When candidates worked with MBA admission consultants, the two most followed recommendations from their advisers was to apply to a school that they had not previously considered (38%) and to retake the GMAT to earn a higher score (37%). Slightly more than one in five applicants (22%) said they applied to more schools than planned as a result of using an MBA consultant. Only 16% said they completed applications for schools ranked higher than they had planned (see below).
The web-based survey, open to any MBA applicant who wanted to complete it, was in the field between March 13th and April 8th of this year. AIGAC said that 31 of its members or affiliates along with four business schools—Darden, Johnson, Tepper and Tuck—encouraged candidates to complete the survey.
Percept Research, which fielded the survey for AIGAC, said it received responses from 1,377 candidates who had applied to at least one school.