Where are MBA applicants applying?
Reputation of MBA programs is the most influential motivator across the US and international MBA applicants who participated in our study. Accordingly, demand for top 10 business schools in the US dominated survey results. Getting into a top US MBA program remains the main concern, reported by 85% of respondents, far surpassing concerns around MBA tuition costs and the current US political or immigration climate.
US MBA candidates are vying heavily for US MBA programs; 98% of US respondents are applying to US MBA programs. US MBA programs are more sought after than EU or international programs by a significant measure among all respondents. 57% of all respondents are applying for top 10 business schools in the US, the highest demand of all MBA program categories. The majority of the international MBA applicants, at 54%, favor US MBA programs only.
Does the US political climate matter?
Survey results revealed that the current US political and economic climate has a limited influence on MBA candidate mindset. Interestingly, 78% of total respondents are unswayed and/or more likely to apply to MBA programs given the current political climate, known as the “Trump effect.” Even among the 22% who reported they were less likely to apply because of the current US political climate, 82% of that group is still applying to US MBA programs. Hallmarks of the mindset of current MBA applicants include:
- Applicants prioritize US MBA programs because of their reputation, networks, career path potential, rankings and strong US economy, in that order.
- Internationals are applying to a broader range of MBA programs to include both EU and US programs, casting a wider net due to the competitive nature of the US top business programs known as m7 business schools. Indian Nationals are the largest international MBA applicant group, representing 26% of the demand for US MBA programs and 64% of the demand for EU MBA programs. The recent increase in EU MBA program applications is likely driven by Indian Nationals.
- Very few respondents are exclusively aiming for international MBA programs because of the greater prestige attributed to the US MBA experience. Only 2% of US applicants and 11% of internationals are applying to international programs exclusively.
- There is greater diligence and selectivity of MBA programs among MBA candidates this year. Use of resources such as MBA admissions consultants correlate with the more reputable MBA programs.
- Respondents predict that there will be a decrease in international student representation at US MBA programs and are comfortable with modest decreases without adversely changing the student experience. Others predict better career recruiting options due to strong economy, especially for US students.
What do MBA Applicants care about?
MBA applicant demand directly relates to MBA program reputation and brand. As a result, top MBA program brands, including Harvard (HBS) and Wharton, will see a smaller decrease in applicant volume, whereas less-regarded MBA programs will experience a greater decrease in applicant volume in this very strong US economy. Irrespective of the US political and economic climate, reputable MBA programs are highly coveted with strong preferences among all MBA candidates for the top 10 business schools in the US.
Addendum: Survey Demographics
Respondents surpassed 500 total and captured both international and US MBA applicants. As well, 37% of the respondents are female, 67% male, 2% unspecified.
Key geographic regions captured by the SBC Survey is shown here. International responses were dominated by Indian Nationals.