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4 Things Prospective Students Want Most From Your Business School

By Benjamin Rhodes July 24, 2020

Email ranks highly and social media ranks poorly, according to 500 prospective students who were asked how they prefer to receive information during the graduate management admissions process.

This is one of many findings revealed in a new report, Marketing to Prospective Business Students, which offers insight into how graduate management programs can strengthen the program’s relationship with prospective students during the consideration phase. 

We asked leaders at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business to comment on the report’s key themes: information access, immediacy, transparency, and authenticity.

1. Information Access

According to the report, prospective students expect ease and accessibility with regard to all facets of the program. This goes beyond being able to reach the admissions team, to being able to easily access different resources, content, and information whenever prospective students need it, across devices.

Pasquale Quintero Jr., Sr. Director, Full-Time MBA & Specialty Master’s Recruiting, has observed this expectation at UMD Smith. “We’re starting to see that Gen Zs account for the majority of our specialty master’s candidates and an increasing number of MBA candidates,” Quintero says. “We’re finding that our most successful student interactions are consultations or drop-in virtual hours offered via WhatsApp, Zoom, or Google Meets.”

2. Immediacy

Having immediate access to resources is now a given. But prospective students also expect immediacy in the results they’re seeing, from salary increase to promotions. According to the report, younger generations put more emphasis on the value that comes immediately after the program.

This doesn’t surprise Angela Bostick, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at the Wharton School, based on her experience. “Gen Z is looking for a full story. There needs to be a narrative, and there needs to be a way for them to walk through and understand where they could see themselves in a year, five years, and 10 years,” Bostick says. “And that longer term vision plays out really nicely in content marketing.”

3. Transparency

Because prospective students evaluate a program’s areas and outcomes even before the admissions process, they expect to see the value the program brings in an open and transparent manner. 

At UMD Smith, Quintero relies on website analytics to track prospective students’ interests and ensure content is serving their needs. 

“Analytics show that students visit our career and admissions pages most often,” Quintero says. “We prioritize the content that we publish on those sites, focusing on the process, requirements, cost, and outcomes. If students can’t gather that information on the website, we know that they will probably opt out of the process.”

4. Authenticity

The report indicates that a sense of authenticity is best conveyed through empowering prospective students to feel a personal connection to the program. Through technology, it is possible to scale personalized communication. Prospective students expect information to be tailored to their exact profile, and delivered in genuine and valid ways.

Survey participants were asked, “At what point in the admissions experience would you expect to receive personalized communication from the program?” Unsurprisingly, this expectation increases as prospective students move through the enrollment funnel, with 73% of respondents saying they expect to receive personalized communications from admissions teams after they start an application. But approximately one in three respondents expect to receive personalized outreach after initiating their first digital interaction, such as downloading a brochure or visiting the program’s website.

Wharton’s Bostick says these interactions are integral to the relationship  between the institution and the prospective student.  “Authenticity is communicating that you care about what someone is telling you. For example, if someone tells you a story, and if you can’t repeat back at least some part of it that was interesting, then that person doesn’t feel that you cared about what they shared,” Bostick says.

Bostick continues, “One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ask a candidate for fields of information that you don’t use. But by communicating with them based on things you know about them, you’re showing the candidate that you care about their thoughts and their interests. It’s a heavy lift, but it creates the right level of connection between the school and the candidate.”


Are you interested in learning more about the research, as well as hearing additional insights from the Wharton School and UMD Smith School of Business? Join us for the webinar How to Market to Prospective Business Students on Wednesday, July 29 at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET.

Download the report

About the Author

Benjamin Rhodes is a product marketing manager at Prior to joining, he led internal communications at Columbia Business School.