Posted by: Louis Lavelle on September 13, 2011
You wouldn’t know it from looking at MBA programs at schools such as Stanford, where selectivity is typically in the single digits, but this year may have been one of the easiest on record for getting into some business school programs.
According to new research published today by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) two-thirds of the two-year, full-time MBA programs surveyed saw a decrease in applications for 2011, while more than half of part-time and executive MBA programs reported application volume that was either up or flat.
In a press release, GMAC President and CEO Dave Wilson said economic uncertainty was the reason.
“The caution in this year’s survey for full-time MBA programs is unsurprising in the current economy as students weigh the financial and time commitments required to pursue a graduate business degree,” Wilson said.
I would tend to agree, except for two annoying little facts. First, the number of master's programs in accounting, management, and finance that reported an increase in applications was up by 51 percent, 69 percent, and 83 percent respectively. Last time I checked, all of them require a big time and financial commitment, too, yet only MBA applications are losing ground.
Second, applications to full-time MBA programs are counter-cyclical: they go up during bad times and down during good. When applications were being submitted earlier this year, the future looked anything but rosy--there was talk of a double-dip recession. By all rights, there should be an increase in MBA applications, not a decrease.
GMAC surveyed 649 programs from 331 business schools worldwide. It doesn't release the application figures for specific schools, but I would be surprised if any of the top MBA programs saw a decrease in applications. At first blush it appears that people who would normally apply to second- or third-tier programs to ride out the economic storm are opting instead for another graduate business degree. Any theories on why?
It's worth noting that GMAT registrations have surged in recent months--a leading indicator that b-school application volume is in for a surge of its own in 2012. That may be good news for GMAC, but it's probably a sign that folks who typically apply to business school don't have high hopes for a swift, painless recovery.