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Survey Reveals Adcoms’ Take on Decline in Applications

At top MBA programs, applications have been down across the board this year. Even the most selective MBA programs received fewer applications than in previous years.

So Kaplan decided to get to the source and survey admissions officers, asking their thoughts on the recent decline in MBA applications. After all, admissions officers are in a unique position to observe the dynamics of how admissions cycles fluctuate from one year to the next.

One of the paradoxes in the drop in MBA applications at top schools is that it comes at a time when MBA graduates are earning record high incomes and doing very well on the job market.

The Kaplan survey revealed why this might be the case: by far the most common factor in declining MBA applications, cited by 42 percent of survey participants, was a strong economy incentivizing people to stay in the workforce instead of go to school.

In other words, the apparent contradiction of declining MBA applications and record-high MBA earnings isn’t such a contradiction when you realize that a strong economy likely factors into both trends.

The Kaplan survey included 156 B-schools, 35 of which were in U.S. News’s top 100, and was conducted between August and November.

After a strong economy, the most common reasons posited by adcoms for the drop in applications were doubts about the value of an MBA (22 percent), and a US political climate that was deterring international students (18 percent).

Only 5 percent of survey participants thought that students were applying at lower rates because of expectations that fewer jobs now require MBAs than in the past.

Of course, admission to top MBA programs remains highly competitive, as a quick glance at the latest round of class profiles will show.

Still, Jeff Thomas, Kaplan’s executive director of graduate programs, said a lower volume of applications could work in applicants’ favor.

Thomas said that while “top-ranked programs are never hurting for top talent,” students who are “on the fence about going to business school” should be aware that “this is one of the best times in recent memory to enroll and earn your MBA.”

That’s the case, he added, because “lower application volume means less competition to get in” while “starting salaries and bonuses for newly minted graduates from some business schools have hit record levels, which shows us that the ROI for an MBA is still strong.”

As Thomas points out, it’s all relative to say that competition is lower. Elite B-schools aren’t exactly desperate yet for interested applicants.

But given that even small factors can make the difference in putting an application over the finish line, the decline in applications could benefit some applicants.

At EXPARTUS, we can help you capitalize on small advantages like these and assess where you stand in the constantly changing climate of business school admissions.

We’ll tell you what schools are a good fit, and how you can put together a compelling personal brand. Sign up to receive a free MBA application assessment!