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Are International MBA Applicants Avoiding U.S. Business Schools?

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Based on data from the most recently Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) monthly survey, interest in U.S. business schools among international MBA candidates is still below pre-2016 election levels. In fact, it’s below the previous five-year average for each month since the election. And in each of the last three months—between September and November 2017—international application volume has decreased.

Image via GMAC report.

Just before Donald Trump’s election victory, approximately 46 percent of international MBA applicants surveyed by GMAC responded that they would prefer to study in the United States—above the 45-percent, five-year, pre-election average. But not once since November 2016 has that been the case. The percentage of international applicants indicating a preference for U.S. business schools plunged at the beginning of 2017, to below 40 percent in January and just over 30 percent in February. Summer 2017 saw a bit of a rebound—though never reaching 45 percent—but international interest has again declined this fall.

Of 1,992 non-U.S. candidates surveyed between September and November 2017, 23 percent shared that they had previously thought about applying to a U.S. program but have since changed their mind. As for the reasons behind applicant reluctance:

  • 54 percent cited concerns about obtaining a job in the U.S. post-graduation
  • 51 percent admitted concerns about gaining a student visa
  • 47 percent cited safety and security concerns
  • 42 percent talked about the political environment
  • 39 percent admitted racism and discrimination fears

In addition, when GMAC surveyed nearly 700 U.S. MBA programs, about half admitted that they had received fewer international applications than in the previous year. Only 31 percent reported an increase in international applications. Another 20 percent reported no significant change.

For additional insights from GMAC as well as continued tracking of international candidate interest, visit the GMAC research website.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.