What Motivates Applicants to Enrol for the MBA?


What are the factors that motivate people to enrol for the MBA? How do they choose a particular program or business school? Recently, the Consulting team at Fortuna Admissions conducted a survey of more than 2,000 professionals on these aspects.

The survey looked at how far the reputation of the school, ROI, rankings, along with the skills and networks the candidates wanted to develop influenced their decision. It turns out that what motivates someone to pursue a graduate management education fits into one of seven well-defined candidate segments as detailed in a white paper, “Beyond Demographics: Connecting With the Core Motivations of Business School Candidates” brought out by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in 2016.

GMAC, along with Ipsos, a global market research firm, had carried out an online segmentation study of the applicants examining their motivations to pursue a graduate management education and applying to a specific school.

The result was the establishment of seven global candidate segments that business schools around the world could use to identify the candidate segments they currently attract to their programs, target specific segments for improved outreach and more effectively market to segments with motivation-based messaging.

The global strivers seeking an international career make up the majority of 34% followed by respect seekers who want the recognition and respect the MBA degree commands at 17%.  Then comes skill upgraders are motivated to improve their skill sets so they can be viewed as experts in their field at 13%.

The socio-economic climbers at 11% seek a better future for themselves and their children. The balanced careerists at 8% are driven to advance their careers but need to integrate general management education with their busy lives. Career revitalizers at 5% are seasoned professionals driven by a desire to reinvent themselves and advance their career.

At another level, the quality of business programs around the world has been growing. In 2000, 38 of the top 50 global MBA programs rated by the Financial Times were in the US and none were in Asia. In 2018, the US has 24 and Asia has 10.

Deborah Somers, Director, Client Services, EMEA, GMAC, in an interview published in Forbes says the survey outcome is significant as schools could use the knowledge to highlight features of their programs, curriculum and other activities.

The candidates, on their part, could learn more about themselves, which provides them with an opportunity to highlight their motivations as well as understand what is important to them in their program selection.

Somers said while demand for graduate management education is stable around the world, significant regional shifts are seen, including gains in Europe and some other parts of the world.

She points to the sharp rise in applicants at several of the European, Canadian and Asian b-schools in the last 18 months. Cost and length play an important role in the selection of a program.

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At another level, the quality of business programs around the world has been growing. In 2000, 38 of the top 50 global MBA programs rated by the Financial Times were in the US and none were in Asia. In 2018, the US has 24 and Asia has 10.

New programs provide more choices and recently launched programs in countries like Germany, Japan, Singapore, and Spain provide candidates with broader opportunities, she says

Sangeet Chowfla, President and CEO of GMAC, says it should become possible for people from all different regions and backgrounds to study and work in the location of their choice. Otherwise, it would not only limit the possibility of an individual, but also innovation and economic prosperity around the world.

Meanwhile, despite the political rhetoric and concerns about H1B visas leading to a fall in the demand, the US remains the most sought-after destination. The schools are also trying to increase their international recruitment efforts by entering into partnerships with foreign institutions and multi-national organizations. New scholarship programs are also being instituted.

How does the segmentation of candidates affect your chances as an applicant? Former INSEAD Admissions Director Caroline Diarte Edwards says while impactful innovators look very interesting while a career revitalizer may have plateaued in his or her career and is looking to the MBA to propel them forward. They should be careful how they frame this situation in their application.

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