5 Ways Student Reviews Are Changing Applicant Decisions

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Monday, November 22, 2021
By Jordi Robert-Ribes
Photo by iStock/Six_Characters
When deciding on which business school to attend, reading student reviews provides unique decision-making insights.

If you’re a student in the process of choosing business schools to apply to, you’re probably considering a wealth of information while making your decision.

The location of the school, the programs they offer, school rankings, and tuition fees may all likely factor into your choice.

Though prospective students go to a variety of places to gain information for their decisions— business school websites, rankings pages, article platforms like this one— there’s one place that you, as a learner, may not have considered looking.

Student experiences and reviews are perhaps the most significant sources for prospective student information. Personal and up to date, they reveal first-hand narratives of what it’s like to study at the university, which may offer different insights to data points or standard marketing information in a brochure or on a website.

Anne Marie, a student we have worked with from France, can attest to the importance of student reviews. "The value of opinions of current students to future students can greatly affect their choices when deciding on what modules and courses they will take,” she says.

“I read a lot of student reviews on the modules I was looking at and was influenced by the reviews."

So, here are five ways student reviews are changing the way business school candidates consider the application process.

1. Opening Up International Experiences

If you’re applying as an international student, you may not have personal experience in your target city or university, or even know anyone who does.

It can be difficult to choose a country, city, or business school to study at when you’re uninformed about the on-the-ground experience and can’t get personal recommendations from friends or family.

For this reason, student reviews can offer valuable insights for potential international students. Written by real students or graduates, the reviews can give international applicants peace of mind about what they might expect at their prospective business school.

Most importantly, though, in some cases the reviews also come from other international students, bringing together students who have the same worries and career goals. When you’re making your decision on your own, turning to others who have been in the same situation can help ease the difficulty of your decision-making.

2. Reducing the Impact of Rankings

Business school rankings are still an important factor in the student decision-making process. In fact, according to data from the Graduate Student Admission Council (GMAC), 81 percent of students use rankings to make their decisions.

However, many other students will focus their decisions on their personal goals outside of rankings.

Instead of targeting the top 10 or 20 business schools, they may have their own lists of preferences that make these rankings arbitrary and even useless.

With so many business schools to choose from, personal preference for a country or city, or the desire to enter a niche industry, may carry more weight than a university’s ranking.

Student reviews often place more weight on these personal preferences, rating schools on areas like student experience, course experience, facilities, and accommodations. For students who want to know exactly what it’s like to study at a certain university, this type of input may be more valuable than the fact that a school is ranked within the “top five in the world”.

3. Placing Value on the Real Student Experience

While marketing materials like business school brochures, websites, and open visit days can offer glimpses of what life is like as a student, nothing is as personal as real student reviews.

Speaking personally about their own experiences, students or graduates who write reviews for third-party websites have the opportunity to share things they feel could be improved. For this reason, negative or constructive reviews are as valuable for prospective students as positive ones.

Emily from Austria used student reviews to make her decision on which university to attend. She says, “I held reviews and opinions of universities and courses of previous and current students very highly. They enabled me to make an informed choice by gaining a realistic view of what universities were like.”

When you take into account real student experiences, you may find that your opinion of a certain university has changed; what once seemed ideal about one school may be upstaged by information you learned about another school.

4. Giving Personal Recommendations

Information from a friend or family member can be even more significant than from an impersonal online source.

Knowing someone who has attended the business school you’re interested in and can tell you about their experience can be extremely valuable when making your decision. If you don’t know anyone in your target country or at one of your top business school choices (for example, as an international student), you may not have access to personal recommendations.

Student reviews change that. You may not know the reviewers personally, but students writing their experiences on reviews websites can give you some affirmation that the business school you’re looking at is a good fit for you.

5. Easily Comparing Schools

Without the use of traditional business school rankings, making comparisons among business schools on things like student experience and quality of teaching can be challenging.

Student review websites give you the opportunity to compare schools based on what you think is most important—whether that’s student life, class offerings, accommodations, or faculty.

Significant school differences that emerge in student reviews can really influence your decision about where to attend.

If you’re in the process of applying to business school, don’t ignore the value of student reviews—especially if you’re an international student. These personal reviews explore the in-depth experience of studying at business school and can offer detailed insights you won’t get from other sources.

Jordi Robert-Ribes
CEO, EDUopinions
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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