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Should you postpone your MBA plans because of COVID-19?
To be entirely honest, no one really knows. The best we can do is to draw assumptions. While we do have some data points when it comes to economic crises and recessions (hello 2008), we simply do not have any point of comparison in modern history when it comes to a public health crisis. The world hasn’t faced a crisis of that amplitude since World War 2 and that is unprecedented in modern times.
Today, the situation in Europe and in the U.S. is worrying (to say the least) with full lockdowns being implemented. But there are positive signs that the Covid-19 spread is slowing. South Korea appears to have greatly slowed its epidemic. On Tuesday, March 17, it reported fewer than 100 new Covid-19 cases for the third day in a row. The epidemic seems to have similarly slowed down in China. Based on strong statistical analysis, biophysicist Michael Levitt recently concluded that the Covid-19 spread is slowing. That remains a scientific opinion and we can’t take it 100% for granted, but numbers seem to definitely prove his point.
Maybe, we have the right to be optimistic. Our assumptions may be proven wrong in the near future, but fear not, we will continue to evaluate the situation and update our stance regularly.
For now, our expert advice would be to continue preparing to apply. Should the climate not change, you can postpone your application and your preparation wouldn’t hurt. However, it would be hard to get back on track if the climate changes and you’re not ready to go.
What do we know for sure?
We know that there will be a recession. It was expected but Covid-19 just accelerated its timeline. The recent market slide wiped out gains of the Trump presidency, the Pound sterling is at its weakest since 1985, and Deutsche Bank recently warned that we could be heading for the worst slowdown since World War 2. Simply said, there will be layoffs, and because of social distancing and widespread closures, a Covid-19 recession is likely to be different – and considerably worse – than typical post-war recessions. Consumer spending on services typically fluctuates much less over the business cycle, acting as a source of economic stability. For instance, the recent lockdown in the Philippines and Malaysia resulted in the sudden and complete shutdown of Grab transport operations.
What could it mean for you as a potential MBA applicant?
If you were thinking of pursuing an MBA but were not sure yet if the timing was right, be sure that 2021 and 2022 could be the best years to start your MBA. By summer 2023 and 2024, there is little doubt that the job market will be extremely dynamic again and that the worst of the recession will be behind everyone. In other words, by the time you are done with the degree, you kind of get past the recession.
Will schools waive entry test requirements?
We can confidently share the bad news with you – tests will be required. While some top business schools like INSEAD extended the possibility for prospective applicants to apply without a GMAT, GRE, EA or TOEFL score, Harvard Business School only granted a 14-day extension for the 2+2 applicants to submit their scores and stated that they will withdraw all consideration of uncompleted applications. In other words, there will be no exceptions for the incoming applicants and you will need to prepare for the admissions test you elect.
Will this year be less competitive?
Let’s put all in perspective. Will there be fewer applicants? Yes, it is highly likely; and as a result, the official admission rate is to increase by up to a few points. However, what many MBA applicants fail to understand is that a 20% admissions rate vs. a 10% admissions rate doesn’t really change their fate. Having worked with hundreds of applicants, I have learned to understand that the difference between receiving an offer from an M7 to not receiving one is… none. We have so many examples we could share with you but I think there is none better than that of one of our 2019 applicants who got rejected by all M7 but HBS.
In short, could you leverage the current situation to improve your chances to get into a top MBA? Not really. But you don’t need to! Those who will receive an offer from a top MBA this year would have likely received an offer under less exceptional circumstances.
Important Disclaimer: Our volume of GMAT students and MBA applicants is on par (slightly higher as a matter of fact) with 2019 Q1. That may change in our Q2 comparison, but the reality today is that the market is as dynamic as it was last year.
What about my experience at school?
No doubt, it is mayhem in universities and business schools across Europe and North America, and it has hit the current students at full force and could (likely) disturb the incoming class start of their MBA. However, we are extremely confident that those starting their MBA in 2021 will not be negatively impacted by the effects that Covid-19 had and will have on education.
To conclude, there will be a business environment post-Covid that will be different from anything we have seen before. Consumer behaviours will change and many businesses are adapting already. Telecommuting is becoming mainstream and could change the way we work. Similarly, online education is becoming increasingly used and we can expect a complete validation at least one generation earlier than expected. But it will not be for you just now.