MBA Still Top Choice for Prospective B-School Students

The growing popularity of specialized master’s programs has not diminished interest in MBA programs; rather, a new segment in the prospective student population has emerged, based on findings in a new report from the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Among all prospective students surveyed, 55 percent still report exclusive interest in attending an MBA program (this has remained steady over the last three years), while 18 percent of prospective students have their sights set only on a specialized master’s program, up from 13 percent in 2009.

The Prospective Students Survey results for the first time offer insight into the reasons why prospects choose study destinations. Similar to GMAT score sending patterns, the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada came in as the top three preferred destinations. Those surveyed cited the reputation of a country’s educational system as the most compelling reason for choosing a specific destination.

Prospective students intending to study in the U.S. cited better career preparation, whereas improved chances for an international career was cited for non-U.S. destinations. Notably, respondents selecting Canada, Singapore, and India cited affordability as a key factor.

“Prospective students have more information and more options with program choice than ever before,” says Dave Wilson, president and CEO of GMAC. “But as the dark economic clouds continue to dissipate, the challenge of meeting the financial costs of a graduate management program is very much on their minds.”

Fewer respondents cited economic reservations as a constraint to pursuing a graduate management degree compared with three years ago. Yet, when choosing a specific program to apply to, financial considerations have become more important. Potential students say they will rely more on personal savings and family support than on loans, grants and other aid.

The Prospective Students Survey includes responses from 16,000 people who registered on in 2011. With more than 56,000 aspiring management students providing feedback about their motivations, behaviors, program choices, and intended career outcomes over the past three years, it is one of the largest surveys of its kind.

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