Posted on June 21, 2017

AIGAC Releases 2017 MBA Applicant Survey: The Millennial Paradox

The 2017 MBA Applicant Survey  released  early this week by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), confirms the values that Millennials bring to the business school admissions process.

It also reveals an interesting paradox.On one hand, Millennials love the immediacy of information available in today’s digital world, yet they also place a high importance on personal attention and human connection.

Likewise, the application pool continues to include candidates with divergent professional and personal backgrounds, yet there is a commonality of concerns and preferences regarding the admissions process.

Millennials Love Information:

The survey reveals that candidates continue to use websites most frequently (86%) for school-related information sources. However, MBA rankings (79%) are the most influential for external sources of information. Indeed, reputation continues to drive candidates’ initial b-school list.

The accessibility of online information also means that applicants respond well to innovation in the admissions process. For example, as information about video essays has appeared online, candidates’ comfort level has increased.

Millennials Value Deep Connections:

At the same time, Millennials demonstrate that more and more information at their fingertips doesn’t satisfy their need for personal understanding and a personal touch.

Once applicants have a baseline of knowledge, they seek out trusted advisors to gain additional perspectives. Applicants routinely seek the advice of current students, and 45% of those who do say that current students are the most valuable information source. They also welcome advice from friends, family members, and admissions consultants.

In fact applicants who used a consultant find rankings less important—while 31% of all applicants surveyed considered rankings to be their most valuable source of independent information, only 21% of those who worked with admissions consultants thought so.

Admissions officers also play an important role in the decision-making process and earn high marks for friendliness, responsiveness, and personal attention. This year, the ten schools that ranked highest in getting to know applicants well were those that gave applicants a change to express their unique selves, either through effective applications or admissions offices that leave applicants feeling as though they’ve been listened to. Applicants praised admissions officers who treated them as a person rather than a number.

The ten schools ranked highest in getting to know applicants well include, in order:

  1. ESADE
  2. Vanderbilt (Owen)
  3. Dartmouth (Tuck)
  4. IE
  5. Duke (Fuqua)
  7. University of Michigan (Ross)
  8. Cambridge (Judge)
  9. Harvard (HBS)
  10. IESE

Millennials are Willing to Act on Advice

This year, 39% of survey participants indicated that their admissions consultant encouraged them to apply to a school they had not previously considered. In 2016, 29% of survey participants said that their admissions consultant suggested the same.

Applicants outside the U.S. were more likely to say their consultant suggested schools that the applicant hadn’t previously considered compared to those who live in the U.S. (44% vs. 35%, respectively).

In addition, the greater the number of programs to which candidates applied, the more likely they are to have used a consultant, indicating the supportive role that consultants play in encouraging applicants to apply to schools not previously considered. For example, 49% of applicants who used a consultant applied to 4-6 schools compared to 31% of all applicants surveyed.

Millennials have Divergent Career Interests/Concerns about Costs

Slightly more than half of applicants (52%) said they applied to MBA programs to acquire new information, skills, or knowledge. The second highest reason for applying for an MBA was to access job prospects/change careers (48%). Of note, a similar percentage of applicants indicate wanting to make a positive difference in society (36%) or increasing their salary (37%).

Regardless of intended career, candidates are aware of the significant cost of an MBA. However, the survey revealed that many hold off until later in the process to explore funding. An analysis by gender revealed that 43% of women figure out how to finance their MBA after acceptance compared to 32% of men.

Since 2009, the AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey has solicited feedback on the business school admissions process from MBA applicants around the world. The survey covers each stage of the admissions process, ranging from resources applicants first use to research programs, what factors are important to their decision-making,  to career and salary expectations.

AIGAC 2017 Survey Chair Scott Shrum of Veritas Prep  presented the survey data and insights at this year’s annual conference in Berkeley, California on June 19, along with committee members Scott Edinburgh of Personal MBA Coach and Barbara Coward of Enrollment Strategies. Mike Hanus of Constituent Research, which helped design and execute the survey, and provided all survey analyses,  also presented the findings.

Additionally, Andrea Sparrey of The Sparrey Consulting Group and Vince Ricci of Agos Japan will present the survey findings alongside Mike Hanus at the 2017 Annual Conference of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in San Francisco, California, on June 23.

Thank you to committee member Stephen Round of Round One Admissions Consulting for his valuable contributions as well.

Survey participants represent 73 countries

More than 2,800 applicants completed the survey between March 2 and April 30, 2017. They include 750 respondents who intend to enroll by January 2018 or sooner. The majority are male (61%) and 57% live in the U.S.  At the time they completed the survey 50% of these applicants had already decided where they will attend.

Download a copy of the 2017 MBA Applicant Survey.

Scott Shrum – Veritas Prep
Barbara Coward – Enrollment Strategies
Scott Edinburgh – Personal MBA Coach
Stephen Round – Round One Admissions
Andrea Sparrey – Sparrey Consulting

Research Partner Company:
Mike Hanus – Constituent Research Group

Since 2009, the AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey has solicited the perspective of MBA applicants on the admissions process. Schools and members utilize AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey data to gain insights into applicant perceptions of each stage of the admissions process, from tools they first use to research programs and the reasons that they select programs to career and salary expectations.


Founded in 2006, the non-profit Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) exists to define ethical standards for graduate admissions consultants, contribute to their professional development, educate the public about the admissions consulting industry, and strengthen relationships with related service providers (e.g., test prep) and business schools. AIGAC is the standard bearer for best practices and excellence in advising graduate school applicants around the world.

AIGAC is committed to helping applicants educate themselves about their options and optimize their candidacy as they make high-stakes decisions and investments in their higher education. Members of AIGAC include former admissions officers from top universities, graduates of leading programs, widely-read authors, and subject-matter experts who are frequently quoted in the international media including the Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times, Forbes, Poets & Quants, and The Wall Street Journal.