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MBA Applicants Say Fuqua, Chicago Booth Get to Know Them Best, Survey Finds

aigacApplicants who applied to leading business schools in the 2014-15 admissions cycle felt that Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business got to know them better than others, according to survey results released today by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). Notably, scores for how well schools got to know applicants fell this year over last for every school except Chicago Booth—and more so at schools that reduced the number of essays applicants could reply to in the 2014-15 application cycle.

AIGAC, which was co-founded in 2006 to set and promote high ethical standards and professional development among graduation admissions consultants, has been conducting an annual survey of MBA applicants for the past six years. Survey questions are designed to solicit feedback from applicants on everything from the tools they use to research programs to where and why they ultimately enroll to how they expect an MBA will impact their future careers and salaries.  

Applicants Select Schools Based on Reputation, Career Impact
AIGAC found this year, as in past years’ surveys, that applicants are most influenced by a school’s reputation when deciding where to apply. Asked to allocate points out of 100 to each of 15 considerations, respondents allocated an average of 16 points to a school’s reputation, more than any other category. Career impact was second, at 11 points, followed by career placement stats at 9, and location, alumni network and school culture, which all received an average of 8 points each. Less important to applicants were considerations such as academic focus, net cost of program, quality of faculty, global opportunities and program facilities, the survey found.

AIGAC graphic
Source: AIGAC 2015 MBA Applicant Survey

Among the other interesting findings this year was growing interest by female applicants in entrepreneurship, compared to a slight decline among male applicants. This year, approximately 18 percent of both female and male applicants indicated an interest in entrepreneurship.

As in past years, consulting proved a main priority, with almost 45 percent of male and female candidates expressing an interest in working in that industry after finishing an MBA. Candidates continue to expect the MBA to have a significant impact on their earnings potential, with both male and female respondents anticipating a roughly 45 percent salary increase within the first six months of graduating.

Almost half (46 percent) of survey respondents indicated that they used admissions consultants as part of the application process, although male applicants were significantly more likely than female applicants (52 percent versus 37 percent) to do so. Female applicants who did use admissions consultants were more likely to also pay for test prep support, the AIGAC survey found.

The vast majority of applicants (87 percent) reported submitting GMAT scores, although significantly more female applicants (14 percent) than male applicants (6 percent) submitted GRE scores.  Of the female applicants who chose to take the GRE, more than 60 percent cited the benefits of the test format and outcomes as their reason why.

AIGAC Launches Initiative to Improve Recommendation Process
Last year, 43 percent of applicants reported that one or more of their recommenders asked them to write letters of recommendation for themselves. Many respondents felt that the recommendation process was onerous for recommenders and called for schools to adopt a shared, standard set of questions, AIGAC reports.

This year, in response to some of these concerns, AIGAC has launched a new initiative to make the recommendation process easier to navigate. It has created an informational document explaining the letter or recommendation process, discussing what schools are hoping to read and offering tips on how applicants can guide recommenders in ways that are consistent with what schools have advised on their own websites. Working drafts of this document are currently available on the AIGAC website in English, Spanish, German, Japanese and Hindi, and Mandarin, French and Portuguese versions will be available soon.

The survey results reflected responses from 821 applicants gathered online between September 2014 and April 2015.