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More Underrepresented Candidates Applying To Business School In 2023

Business schools in the US are reporting increasing numbers of applications from individuals who hail from underrepresented communities, according to a new GMAC survey

Fri Oct 27 2023

US-based professionals from underrepresented communities* are increasingly applying to business school to achieve their career goals, according to a new GMAC study. 

The Application Trends Survey, which quizzed representatives from 893 business school programs across 247 different business schools, found 47% of US-based programs saw an uptick in applications from underrepresented communities in 2023. 

This is a substantially larger portion than in 2022, when just 29% of programs reported growth, and in 2021 when the figure was 36%. In both of those years, business schools were more likely to report that underrepresented candidate applications were declining than growing. 

In fact, in the past nine years, there has only been one year when business schools have reported that applications from underrepresented communities saw higher growth than in 2023. 

That was in 2020 when the Covid pandemic saw a large spike in all business school applications as uncertainty forced many professionals to turn to academia to future proof their careers.

% Change In Share Of Applications From Underrepresented Candidates

Underrepresented candidate applications vary between program types 

Most of the major degrees taught at business schools were more likely to report an increase in applications from underrepresented communities than a decline. 

MBA programs led the way, with US-based MBAs more likely to report growth than masters degrees taught at business schools. 

Part-time MBAs were the most popular among underrepresented applicants, with 63% of programs reporting growth in applications versus just 19% reporting a fall. 

Next was the full-time MBA, where 59% of schools reported an increase, and finally the online MBA with 49% of schools seeing applications rise. 

Among business masters degrees, the Master of Accounting was the most likely program type to see an application uptick, with 49% of programs reporting growth in applications from underrepresented communities. At the same time, 37% of Accounting masters programs reported a decline in applications from this group. 

The Master of Finance saw 43% of programs receiving an increased number of applications while 35% reported that applications were shrinking. 

Masters of Business Analytics were the only programs for which business schools saw applications from underrepresented communities decline more than grow in 2023. While 33% of programs saw growth, 35% saw applications shrink. 

When compared with total business school applications across the US, underrepresented candidates made up around one in 10 MBA applicants and around 8% of those sent to business masters programs. 

For flexible degree types, the proportion of applicants from these groups was higher. Among professional MBA programs—including hybrid, part-time, and online options—19% of applications were from underrepresented communities. The share was larger still for more experience executive MBA (EMBA) applicants, which totalled 23%. 

Share Of Applications From Underrepresented Candidates By Program Type

*Candidates who self-identified as Black or African American, Hispanic, or Native American were classified as underrepresented U.S. candidates. Respondents who self-identified as white or Caucasian, Asian, or another race/ ethnicity were classified as non-underrepresented U.S. populations.