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AIGAC Survey Sheds Light on MBA Application Experience

Where do students turn for information about MBA programs? Which programs have the best rapport with applicants? Answers to these questions and several others come from survey results just released by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC).

This year’s AIGAC survey gathered responses from almost 2,000 MBA candidates over the course of a month. The survey asked about candidates’ expectations for the admissions process, where those expectations came from, and whether they were met.

For business schools themselves, the first takeaway from the survey is probably that it pays to have a good site. As it turns out, school websites remain the go-to resource for school information, used by the vast majority of applicants.

The next most popular resource offered by schools was online information sessions, used by slightly over half of candidates. Twenty-six percent of applicants found that school websites were the most valuable school resource, followed by current student referrals (19 percent).

Of course, applicants get information from independent channels too. Chief among those appears to be MBA rankings, read by 83 percent of candidates.

Students were split on whether they found value in these rankings. Twenty-two percent described rankings as the most valuable independent source of information they used, but 24 percent disagreed and cited rankings as the least valuable source.

Online communities were also a common source of information, used by 59 percent of applicants. Opinions on this source tended to lean more positive, with 24 percent of all applicants saying forums were their most valuable source of information in the admissions process.

About a quarter of applicants hired admissions consultants. Those who did tended to find value in the experience. Half of these applicants, or 12 percent of the overall pool of applicants, cited admissions consultants as their most valuable source of information.

Of the 697 applicants who used consultants, 449 reported being very satisfied with the experience. A further 144 were neutral, and 104 were dissatisfied.

In their comments, applicants said that good admissions consultants helped them clarify their goals, gave them a perspective that would have been difficult to get from other sources, and were brutally honest when necessary.

Just like applicants had better experiences with some consultants than others, applicants also found that B-schools themselves were not equal in how they handled the admissions process.

In the survey, candidates felt that some schools did a better job of getting to know applicants than others. Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business, Virginia’s Darden School of Business and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business were three that stood out in this regard.

For all schools involved, applicants continued to wish that a negative admissions result came with some sort of feedback. As one candidate put it, “At least some indication of what portion of an application was below expectation would be helpful even just for personal development.”

This lack of feedback, and the communication gap that continues to exist between schools and applicants, makes MBA admissions a black box where it’s hard to know what’s happening behind the scenes.

Filling in the unknowns of the admissions process is an area where having a consultant who has years of experience on both sides of the admissions process can give you an edge. If you have questions about how your application will fare once it’s handed over to adcoms, ask us for a free assessment!