GMAC Reports European Business Schools Are on the Rise

European MBA ProgramsThe Graduate Management Admission Council recently released its statistics for GMAT exams taken through June, 2010, and the data show that applicants are sending GMAT scores to European schools in numbers never before seen. According to the GMAC report, European MBA programs received 85,000 GMAT scores in the one-year period ending June 30, 2010, compared to about 45,000 in the year ending five years earlier. That 90% growth compares to global growth of just 30% in the number of times the GMAT was taken, over the same period.

Have that many more Europeans recently decided to apply to business school? Actually, nearly two-thirds of the scores sent to these schools came from applicants outside of Europe, with India and China leading the way. It seems that the wave of Indian and Chinese applicants that hit the U.S. in the early and middle part of the last decade (and has since softened a bit) is now washing over Europe.

At the same time, the percentage of European test takers who send their GMAT scores to U.S. schools is dropping. In the one-year period ending on June 30, just 37% of GMAT examinees in Europe sent their scores to American MBA programs, compared to more than 60% a decade ago.

Clearly, the pendulum is swinging away from U.S. schools right now, but why? GMAC offers one possible explanation:

Because one-year programs dominate the European marketplace, they may be especially attractive to both students motivated to get the most they can for their money, time and energy, and those trying to time their studies strategically, [Alex Chisholm, GMAC senior research analyst,] said. Graduate school may have provided a safe harbor in the weak global economy for the past two years, but today a one-year program may offer more flexibility for jumping back into the job market as employment conditions gradually improve.

Is the increased appetite for one-year programs a signal of optimism in the market, with applicants not wanting to leave the job market for more than a year? Or is there something more permanent taking place, with one-year programs set to become a more widely considered alternative vs. two-year programs in the coming decade. Only time will tell, although we’ve seen the MBA pendulum swing back and forth enough to know that everything is a short-term trend until proven otherwise.

If you’re targeting U.S. business schools this year, is this good news for you? Could your chances dramatically improve as the pendulum swings towards European schools and applicants lose interest in U.S. schools? (On the flip side, if you’re targeting European MBA programs, has your job suddenly gotten a lot harder?) As we’ve written before, the number of applicants affects your chances far less than you might think. You’re still much better off being a great applicant applying to HBS along with 9,000 others than a good applicant competing against 8,000 others.

Yes, on the fringes, in a few “with everything else being the same” cases, it hurts to have more competition, but at the end of the day the things you can do to help your chances the most are the same: target the right schools, create a compelling application story, max out your GMAT score, and submit terrific essays and letter of recommendation.

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