The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) recently released the results of its annual survey, which found that—perhaps unsurprisingly—millennials are not an easy group to pin down.
The newest AIGAC survey, results of which can be seen in full here, found that millennial graduate students wanted both easy access to information and a personal touch to guide them along their academic paths.
Candidates reported that the most-relied-on source of information about graduate schools was program websites, followed by personal networking with MBA students, per the graph below. However, certain online methods of outreach—such as social media channels and school blogs—failed to generate nearly as much use among potential students.
While websites were the most popular source of information, applicants’ experiences with them varied.. While some praised certain schools’ sites as easy-to-use, others were left confused and wanting more.
“If you look at MBA schools’ websites, you get the impression that [students] are all the same: ready to change the world, transform your career and offer a life changing experience,” said one anonymous student. “But when you dig deeper, you understand one school is the best fit for finance, for example. So, why not state it clearly from the beginning?!”
Survey respondents were also asked to indicate the five most influential factors when ultimately choosing which school to attend. Leading the way was school reputation, followed by ranking, the school’s culture, location, and career impact. When students were asked which school-provided resource they found the most valuable, connecting with current MBA students was by far the highest-ranked, followed by school websites and on-campus information sessions.
Consultant Advice Changes Perceptions
A significant shift from the 2016 AIGAC survey was seen among applicants who sought advice from admissions consultants. Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents reported that they ended up applying to schools they had not initially been considering—up from just 29% a year ago. Consultants had an even bigger impact on international students, 44% of whom applied to a school they had not previously considered because of a consultant’s advice. These figures correlated with the overall number of schools that applicants targeted. Among those who only applied to one school, only 23% utilized consultant advice. The number of schools applied to climbs with the percentage of students who ended up working with a consultant.
While rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report and The Economist were found to be important among MBA applicants, those who used the help of consultants appeared to value rankings less than those who didn’t. The survey revealed that 31 percent of applicants found rankings to be a very important determining factor when choosing a school, as compared to just 21 percent those who worked directly with a consultant.
Finances Are A Big Concern, But Applicants Are Willing To Apply First Before Assessing Funding
Rising costs are impossible to ignore when considering an MBA—a reality all-too familiar for millennial applicants. In the survey, one anonymous applicant noted, “This process was extremely difficult for someone coming from limited means and it could have been made easier … the nature of the application process may deter qualified candidates who come from lower income brackets and are first generation.”
Another suggested that business schools need to “offer more hub interviews and inform applicants of the timing of admitted student weekends earlier to avoid high airfare costs and conflicting weekends.” This respondent continued, saying, “as someone who is about to take on a large loan, finances need to be considered at all times.”
However, a majority of applicants address financing their degree after getting accepted into graduate school. This is especially true of female applicants, 43 percent of whom reported that they only began exploring financing options after acceptance, as compared to 32 percent of their male counterparts. More male applicants, on the other hand, considered financing options before started the application process. On average, a fifth of those in the survey did not consider how to finance their degree.
Other Key Findings
In the survey, applicants reported that admissions officers had an important role in the decision-making process. These ten schools were found to offer the most personable, friendly approach to the process, allowing students “to express their unique selves, either through effective applications or admissions offices that leave applicants feeling as though they’ve been listened to.”
- Vanderbilt (Owen)
- Dartmouth (Tuck)
- Duke (Fuqua)
- University of Michigan (Ross)
- Cambridge (Judge)
- Harvard (HBS)
This group was quite different from last year’s top 10 crop, which was as follows:
- Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College
- IE Business School
- Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
- Fuqua School of Business, Duke University
- Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University
- The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
- IESE Business School, The University of Navarra
- Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
- Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
- INSEAD; Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin (tied)
Nearly 3,000 prospective students responded to the survey between early March and the end of April 2017. Around 61 percent of respondents identified as male, while 39% identified as female. A slight majority—around 57%—of those who took the survey were living in the United States, with 43% international applicants from 72 other countries. Half of the nearly 3,000 applicants had already decided which business school they will be attending at the time they responded to the survey.