GMAC Surveys 2010 MBA Application Trends

Business school applications, often considered counter-cyclical to the economy, typically attract more MBA applicants as economies begin to weaken. But the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2010 Application Trends Survey presents a more complex picture.

Between June 2 and July 9, 2010, 665 programs worldwide participated in the annual GMAC survey of admission professionals. The survey aims to:

  • Gauge demand for various program types
  • Provide information on applicant pool composition
  • Assess acceptance and enrollment rates
  • Document enrollment structure and incoming class size

Overall, out of the 665 graduate management programs at 327 business schools in 39 countries surveyed, half show an increase in applications and about 40% show a decrease for the incoming 2010-2011 class, as compared with last year.

But breaking down the big picture, economic impact on application volume varies substantially by program type:

  • As more senior managers seek new knowledge and skills, the biggest volume increases among all MBA programs came from executive MBA programs.
  • Just 44% of full-time MBA programs reported an increase in applications, down from 66% last year and 70% in 2008.
  • Roughly equal percentages of part-time programs reported application increases (43%) as declines (44%), similar to 2009, though the figures vary greatly by region.
  • More than 60% of master-level programs in finance, accounting, and management, which traditionally draw younger students than MBA programs, reported application increases, with the average volume increasing last year by 20% or more.
  • In Canada and Europe, where one-year full-time programs predominate, 62% and 53% of full-time programs, respectively, saw application gains.

Application volume fluctuates as the economy and personal factors change the opportunity cost equation, notes Dave Wilson, GMAC president and chief executive officer in response to the survey results.

“People can always derive great value from going to business school; our surveys attest to this fact. But many changing factors affect the kinds of programs that best meet their needs. Applicants need to find the very best fit for their own game plan.”

For more on the topic of trends, check out Vault’s piece from yesterday, Graduate School Applications Rose During the Recession: Is Anyone Surprised?, which references the recent study of graduate school admissions by the Council of Graduate Schools.

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