Graduate Business Admissions Leaders Share Strategies for Success 

Liaison recently hosted a panel discussion featuring experts in graduate management admissions and enrollment. The group shared their perspectives on some of the challenges currently facing the industry, along with creative ways they’re responding to help their institutions succeed. See how your school’s challenges compare.

The challenge: Declining international applications

Dee Steinle, executive director for MBA and MSB programs at the University of Kansas School of Business, said, “It’s difficult in the Midwest to get students from outside the U.S. to look at us. We need to learn how to make some inroads there.” Erin O’Brien, assistant dean and director of graduate programs at the University of Buffalo School of Management, pointed out that for state schools like hers, when international enrollment falls, diversity and budgets suffer.

The solution: Leveraging technology to forge relationships

The University of Miami has managed to maintain steady international enrollment numbers, thanks in large part to increased outreach to foreign students. Director of Graduate Business Admissions Loubna Bouamane said her school focuses on creating a sense of community with prospective students early on, often through the use of technology. “We’re holding virtual info sessions so students can get personal attention without having to come to campus,” she said. The school has also shifted from phone interviews to more interactive technologies that allow students to get face time. “What we’re seeing here definitely does not reflect the trend most schools are experiencing in declining international enrollment,” she said.

The challenge: Decreased interest in traditional MBA programs

Many schools have discontinued their full-time MBA programs due to reduced demand; others have had to rethink their curriculum. While the University of Miami has stable enrollment for the one-year MBA, Bouamane said there’s been a 30% decline in applications for the two-year program.

The solution: Adapting program offerings to meet shifting market demands

“New business schools and programs look totally different than what we’ve been doing for the last hundred years,” said O’Brien. She emphasized the importance of developing new programs that reflect market needs. “We’re offering collaborative degrees with partners across campus — we need to teach business principles to people in all fields to have viable leaders,” she said.

The University of Kansas has adopted a similar focus on cross-campus collaboration. “We’re welcoming a younger audience as well,” said Steinle. The University of Miami has launched new specialized business programs, such as a master’s in business analytics and emphasized that its master’s programs are flexible to target working professionals.

The challenge: Doing more with less

Today’s students have heightened expectations — they want immediate, relevant, personalized communication. They want flexible programs packed with interactive and experiential learning. Demands from prospective employers and school leaders are increasing as well, leaving many admissions professionals struggling to keep up.

The solution: Focusing on high-yield activities

To succeed in a highly competitive marketplace, some schools are automating or outsourcing certain admissions tasks to let their staff focus on more strategic, higher-return activities. For example, participating in BusinessCAS™, the Centralized Application Service (CAS™) for graduate management programs, allows the University of Kansas to be part of a global marketplace for business programs, while automating tasks such as transcript verification and GPA calculation.

At Buffalo, O’Brien said her team is focused on building flexible, adaptable processes. “We’re only considering solutions that drive flexibility — we need ease of use across our operations, and we’re investigating opportunities to leverage other people’s competencies,” she explained.

For the University of Miami, those opportunities include faculty. “Our faculty are always bringing us ideas and new technology we can use in recruiting,” Bouamane said.

The take a deeper dive into the strategies these leaders are using to compete in the rapidly changing graduate management education marketplace, watch the on-demand webinar, New Insights from Admissions Leaders to Drive Next Year’s Strategy.

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