What GMAC's Annual Conference Revealed About the 8 Types of B-School Prospects

Posted by Andrew Walker
Andrew Walker is the Director of Research Analysis and Communications at GMAC. In this role, he works to disseminate actionable and relevant research findings about the global graduate management education industry. Andrew holds a Master's Degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University.

Posted on Jun 27, 2024 1:10:04 PM

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GMAC's latest segmentation study that features responses from 10,000 prospective student across 21 countries highlights motivations for graduate study, how they conduct their research, and the differing archetypes globally. 

Following the release of GMAC’s white paper, Profiles in the Pipeline: Global Graduate Management Education Segmentation Study, attendees at GMAC’s Annual Conference in New Orleans were able to convene for a conversation about the eight segments identified in the study. 

Participants had the opportunity to discuss the segments at a session that introduced the archetypes, distilled through which communication channels they can be reached, and suggested how the underlying preferences of the candidate pipeline have evolved since GMAC’s previous segmentation study in 2016.  

See some of the highlights from conversations you might have missed from the 2024 conference.  

1. A survey of 10,000 prospective students in 21 countries revealed 8 unique candidate archetypes interested in business school.

To supplement the insights of GMAC’s annual survey research series and assessment data, GMAC partnered with Hanover Research to study the decision-making processes of potential candidates for business education.  

Ultimately, the analysis revealed eight well-defined, mutually exclusive segments of candidates with some degree of interest in GME: 

  • Social Impact Champions want to contribute positively to society.   
  • Aspiring Entrepreneurs want to own their own business.  
  • Family-Focused Achievers want to support their family and make them proud.   
  • Wealth Builders want to earn more money.  
  • Career Advancers want career options and technical skills.   
  • Career Agnostics want to figure out their ideal career.   
  • Global Careerists want to study and work abroad.  
  • Lifelong Learners want personal growth and development through digital means. 

2. YouTube is the number one social media platform used by all segments to research GME.

Participants in the Annual Conference session were most surprised by each segment’s prolific usage of YouTube when researching graduate management education programs. It was the top social media platform for research among each segment, ranging from 58 percent of Career Agnostics to 85 percent of Lifelong Learners. Facebook and Instagram were the next-most common social media platforms used for actively researching GME. Several segments—including Career Agnostics, Global Careerists, and Lifelong Learners—reported being especially influenced by the information they see on LinkedIn as well.  

Indeed, YouTube is an important platform for business schools to actively engage with prospective students—according to a Morning Consult poll, it’s the top social media platform used by 80 percent of U.S. Gen Zers. However, the segmentation survey distinguished between personal and professional social media usage—and YouTube was the most popular platform among each segment for personal use, too. But it is important to distinguish in any social media strategy how users spend time on each platform. Candidates who are actively searching for information about your program may be more willing to engage with your content than if you try to connect with them while they are scrolling for entertainment purposes.  

3. A segmentation study complements what we know about candidate geography and demography—and provides complementary insights to other GMAC research.

The idea of a segmentation study is that each archetype is mutually exclusive—that is, any one person applying to business school will of course have qualities of multiple profiles, though mathematically will be most aligned with just one segment. At the conference, we clarified that each segment exists in each of the countries we surveyed, though not at the same rate. For example, Career Advancers are the most prominent segment in the most markets, while Social Impact Champions do not make up the largest share of candidates in any of the 21 countries we surveyed. 

Across multiple Annual Conference sessions, we suggested how the segmentation results can be used in tandem with other GMAC research. For instance, GME recruiters looking to break into new markets could reference the GMAT Geographic Trend Report to identify where test taking has increased and where these candidates are sending their scores. When actually connecting with these candidates, they can filter the GMAC Prospective Students Survey interactive report by country to refine their messaging. They can further supplement their storytelling strategy in this new market by checking the segmentation study to see which segments are most prominent.  

4. Some candidate motivations are similar to our previous segmentation study, while others are new.

Some of the differences between the 2016 and 2024 studies are explained by changes to the methodology, while others are indicative of important shifts—as well as consistencies—in who wants to attend business school. 

For example, Global Strivers, who appeared in our 2016 study, and 2024’s Global Careerists are both motivated to pursue GME to advance careers abroad. Today’s Family-Focused Achievers share similar desires as 2016’s Socio-Economic Climbers to provide for their families and study close to home. Aspiring Entrepreneurs and 2016’s Impactful Innovators both share the motivation to start their own businesses. 

Still, new segments have emerged while the motivations that defined older segments are no longer as prominent in the pipeline. Though social and environmental impact was one consideration of 2016’s Impactful Innovators, today’s Social Impact Champions are defined first and foremost by their desire to make a positive difference in the world. Lifelong Learners in particular are defined largely by their desire to understand GME better through digital means—something made possible by the developments of our digital ecosystem over the past eight years. Career Advancers have taken over the interest in status that defined 2016’s Respect Seekers, but also the passion for building new capabilities of 2016’s Skill Upgraders and the seasoned experience of 2016’s Career Revitalizers. Consistent with new trends in the workplace, the desire for work-life balance that previously defined Balanced Careerists has grown to be an expectation across segments. 

To learn more about each segment—including the best channels for connecting with each—read the full white paper available at gmac.com/segmentation.

Topics: Recruitment & Marketing, Research Insights, graduate management education, GME, MBA, candidate insights, candidate research, survey

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