Trends with Chinese students in American business schools and specialized master’s programs

Many American Business Schools are increasingly relying on international students to meet their enrollment goals. I was quoted in a recent story highlighting that Chinese students constitute 40% of total enrollment at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

I analyzed the data of Chinese GMAT test-takers to see the growth trends. The number of Chinese citizens taking GMAT test increased by 22% to reach 70,744 between the testing year (TY) 2012 to 2016, according to GMAC or Graduate Management Admissions Council During the same five years, the growth for Chinese test-takes residing in China grew at a slower pace of 13% to reach 50.465 test-takers.

data analysis of GMAT test takers for international students from China

The difference in the number of GMAT test-takers who are Chinese residents from those who are Chinese citizens is the number of Chinese GMAT test takers from overseas. There were 20,279 such students in TY2016. The number of GMAT test-takers increased at a much faster rate of 48% (TY 2012-2016) for Chinese students who were overseas. These more likely to be Chinese undergraduate students already in the U.S. and aiming to pursue a master’s degree.

Here are few additional characteristics of Chinese students considering to study for a graduate business program:

  • The majority were not applying for traditional two-year MBA programs. Over 73% of Chinese citizens sent their GMAT score reports to “non-MBA master’s” programs as compared to 19.3% of American citizens.
  • Chinese students are more likely to be younger and hence straight out of college with no work experience. The mean age of Chinese citizens was 23.1 years as compared to 26.5 years for the American citizens.
  • Female students from China are more likely to take GMAT test. Female formed nearly 67% of Chinese citizens taking GMAT test. In contrast, only 39% of American citizens taking GMAT test were female.

[ Related post: How many students from India, China and Korea study in the US for business and management programs? ]

The implications of younger Chinese students are evident in the classroom and campus experiences where many may find it more difficult to culturally adapt to the business school environment. For example, speaking up and participating in classroom discussion is key to learning experience at a B-school while it may be culturally incompatible for many Chinese students.

At the same time, it would much harder for many of the young Chinese students with no work experience to find job and internship opportunities in a competitive employment market. Even if they succeed to find an (OPT (Optional Practical Training) or job, many of them struggle in acculturating to an American workplace. A lot of success of continuing to attract Chinese students will hinge on the supporting the success of students in the US or elsewhere.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha