The Official Blog of the Graduate Management Admission Council

How Schools Can Increase Their Graduate Business School Admissions During Economic Booms

Posted by Graduate Management Admission Council

Posted on Dec 18, 2019 11:00:00 AM

Maintaining high graduate business school admissions is tough during economic booms. Here’s why and what your school can do to still increase applications.


One irony of graduate management education is that when many businesses are booming, business schools themselves often struggle to attract applicants. Our latest Application Trends Survey Report shows that 52 percent of graduate management education programs experienced a dip in applications over the past year as many potential candidates focused on pursuing career opportunities rather than return to school.

But that’s not to say that a decrease in applications is inevitable for business schools when the economy is good. Some graduate management education programs have bucked the trend and increased enrollment. Let’s take a look at how a booming economy affects business school admissions, and how business schools can maintain and even increase applications no matter the economic climate.

Why business school applications decline when business is good

While it may sound odd that good economic times can be a challenge for graduate business school admissions, it is hardly surprising. With many companies experiencing strong growth, a lot of people who may otherwise consider business school instead decide that the best way to accelerate their career path is by focusing on their current employment.

Our research shows that 89 percent of business school candidates consider alternatives to business school that may also help them reach their professional, education, and personal goals. Among such alternatives, employment is the most popular. This makes economic booms an especially difficult time for attracting students. During a recession, business school becomes a safe haven for those who still want a way to increase their value to employers, but for whom employment opportunities and promotions may be lacking.

Business schools can buck the trend by offering more flexible, part-time options

Because potential applicants are likely working full-time during economic booms, business schools need to respond by offering increasingly flexible options. This can include MBA programs that are part-time, online, or shorter than the traditional 2-year MBA program. In fact, 2018 saw the preference for one-year full-time MBA programs exceed 2-year programs for only the second time in the last decade. Likewise, demand for Executive MBA programs, which offer a flexible study format designed for working professionals, continues to climb, with the EMBA Council reporting a 31.6 percent increase in EMBA applications since 2015.

Business schools can also offer flexibility when it comes to the admissions process. Many Executive MBA admissions, for example, have begun accepting the Executive Assessment, in part because it requires less preparation and can be completed in a short amount of time. While the Executive Assessment is  popular among EMBA programs, they also accept it for admissions to many Part-Time, Professional, and even Full-Time MBAs.

Interested in how else the Executive Assessment can help you attract candidates? Check out 3 Ways an Executive MBA Exam Helps Business Schools Find Their Dream Students.

Promoting the value of business schools in any economy

Responding to student demand is only one part of attracting more applicants. Another is ensuring that candidates understand that business schools hold value for them in any economy—and that they aren’t just a safe harbor for riding out turbulent economic times. The facts prove that among employers, business school graduates are highly sought after. In our latest Corporate Recruiters Survey, 86 percent of employers agreed or strongly agreed that business school graduates were well prepared to succeed at their companies.

Alumni highly value their graduate management education regardless of the year in which they graduated. Looking at what graduates from 1990 to 2017 say now when reflecting on their education, at least 91 percent from each graduation year say they would do business school again, showing that a business school’s value remains high through economic ups and downs. Promoting that fact can help potential candidates better appreciate how a graduate management education benefits their career progression regardless of the economic climate.

Want to help your school attract new candidates?

Find out how making the Executive Assessment part of your executive business masters requirements can help!

Topics: GMAC Assessments, Executive Assessment

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