Many of the best MBA programs are highly competitive and will require more than just a strong GMAT score to land a coveted spot. On average, Harvard receives a whopping 9,773 applications and enrolls around 1,000 students, while Stanford receives around 7,370 applications and enrolls roughly 426 students each year.
We spoke to MBA consultants and experts from business schools around the world to find out their predictions for the upcoming MBA admissions cycle.
MBA admissions in the US
US MBA programs are likely to experience a downturn in domestic applications this admissions cycle, according to a QS survey that received responses from over 70 admissions officers.
52% of responses from North American admissions officers predicted US applications will be lower in 2022.
One of the possible causes of this decrease in US applicants is the ‘great resignation’, which is opening up more job opportunities within companies and lessening the need to gain an MBA or business master’s to climb the ranks.
"When the economy is booming, the opportunity cost of attending an MBA is higher, which results in fewer applicants by the numbers," says Susan Berishaj (pictured), founder of Sia Admissions Consulting.
Round one and two in the MBA admissions cycle will be ones to watch, with eager candidates looking to take full advantage of the application decline from US candidates in these earlier rounds.
“For many MBA hopefuls, this is a welcome change from the very competitive market the last couple of years. While this type of environment doesn’t mean that a weaker candidacy will have a great shot, it means that some strong candidates will see their odds increase at their top schools of choice,” says Petia Whitmore, founder of My MBA Path.
To increase your chances of getting into some of the best business schools, make sure to stay clued up on average GMAT scores at top business schools. Average GMAT scores at Wharton have increased by 11 points since 2021, for example.
While domestic applications for US business schools may experience a decrease, applications from international students are likely to stay the same or increase, according to the survey.
MBA admissions in Europe
In Europe, the MBA application cycle is forecast to be a little different than the US.
Almost 90% of European admissions teams expect MBA applications from European candidates to remain at around the same level as 2021
“For us, the application numbers have stayed close to the same level the past few years—however, we’ve seen an increase in the applicants’ seniority including, for example, work experience years, which has made applying to the MBA program more competitive,” says Kerttu Kuokkanen, degree programs director at Aalto University Executive Education in Finland.
Similarly to the US, there’s expected to be an increase in international applications to European business schools this cycle.
With a strong labor market in Central European countries such as Germany, less people seem to be willing to take time away from their full-time careers for a year to pursue a business education.
“Online and part-time MBAs are alternatives that provide more flexibility and are, therefore, gaining ground. This, of course, works in favor of applicants for full-time programs,” says Kai Stenzel (pictured), chief marketing officer at Mannheim Business School in Germany.
US candidates are increasingly attracted to Online MBAs in Europe due to the affordability and shorter length of programs compared to the two-year MBA.
“Other factors impacting the MBA market include the geopolitical situation and the increasing availability of online MBAs. It’s only to be expected that more and more people will do their MBA seated at their home computer in future,” Kai adds.
MBA admissions in Asia
With many countries across Asia bouncing back after the pandemic, MBA hopefuls are looking towards the region as an attractive base to learn about the everchanging business world.
“Singapore has done well coping with the pandemic and on the economic front, many businesses continue to thrive despite what has happened,” says Damon Hon, head of admissions at Nanyang Business School’s Graduate Studies Office.
This is not to suggest that Covid is no longer impacting the MBA admissions cycle in Asia. In China, where Covid restrictions have been particularly stringent, top business schools in China have experienced a drop in applications from international applicants due to the country’s curbs on entry from foreign nationals.
Those international applicants still drawn to the bright lights and bustling business industry of China have instead had to study their MBA in China from their home country.
“The job opportunities in Hong Kong are a tremendous attraction along with the growth potential of the Greater Bay Area, which is set to become the next growth engine for the region,” says Sachin Tipnis (pictured), executive director for taught postgraduate programs at HKU Business School.
“Hong Kong will play a leading role in GBA, and this will have positive impact on our future admission cycles.”
Students applying to business schools in Asia are likely to prioritize business schools that are in locations with more relaxed Covid rules.
“MBA applicants will likely be looking to start on their programs with a renewed vigor for face-to-face interaction and networking opportunities,” says Ser-Keng Ang, director of the MBA at Singapore Management University.
Business schools based in Southeast Asia that are starting to offer more face-to-face learning are likely to see an increase in applications from international applicants who cannot easily travel to China for an MBA.
“There’s increasing awareness in Europe and North America of the attractiveness of Southeast Asia. I think competitiveness will increase with many more applicants seeking places in top-class Southeast Asian business schools,” says Ian Fenwick, professor at Sasin School of Management in Thailand.
It’s still yet to be seen how the MBA admissions cycle in the US will pan out. While domestic applications are on the decline, economic downturn in the States may fuel an increase in domestic applications. If you’re planning to land a place on some of the best business schools in the US, it’s a good idea to apply as early as you can in round one or two.
Across Europe, applications from internationals are likely to increase as students begin to favor the more affordable one-year MBA. Again, get preparing your MBA application early if you’re a foreign national with dreams of joining a top MBA in Europe.
Regardless of the country you’re applying for, preparation will be key. Find out everything you need to know to ace your business school application in our MBA Application Guide 2022 – 2023.