How Coronavirus Affects MBA Applicants
While CVD-19 and our global economy dominate the headlines, adjustments are made in all aspects of our daily life to accommodate this new reality. In a matter of days, offices nationwide devised new work-from-home policies, restaurants adapted to dine-out only, and schools and universities designed new virtual learning plans.
The pandemic sweeping the globe has left nothing unaffected, and the MBA application process is no different. Both current and future applicants are faced with new uncertainties that applicants past had not. But don’t worry, we’re going to nip some of them right now. If you’re planning to matriculate this fall, read on, otherwise, skip ahead.
If you’ve already been accepted, kudos to you! Remember to negotiate any financial aid and submit your documents well in advance of the deadline. Right now, many schools are closed and the staff may be working from home, so the sooner you can submit all of your matriculation documents, the better. If you haven’t made your decision yet, note that it’s likely Acceptance Days have been or will be canceled.
If you’re in the midst of applying, here’s what you can expect:
We’ve heard from several applicants that they’ve had interviews canceled or modified from an in-person interview to a virtual interview. While we agree that that’s a bummer, know that it is in everyone’s best interest and follows the CDC recommendation of “social distancing”. This is nothing to worry about it — most round 2 and round 3 applicants are in the same boat, so you’re at no disadvantage. If schools have canceled your interview with no reschedule, check the school website and look out for emails for more information. If it’s unclear if an interview will be offered, reach out to the school directly, but please be patient as school staff is stretched pretty thin at the moment. Unless you receive confirmation otherwise, continue as if your interviews are happening, and prepare as such.
Admission committees have been disrupted in the middle of their round 2 and round 3 evaluation periods and have had to transition to conducting committees virtually, which is far less efficient, practically overnight. These committees are working hard to get you a decision, but it may take longer than normal. You may have longer waitlist periods and decisions may take a bit longer to be released. Be patient — no news is good news. If you haven’t heard back and need to make a decision, reach out to the school directly.
Many acceptance days have been either canceled or postponed. These are events that give you an opportunity to visit with other accepted students and learn more about the school program. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s somewhat unfortunate, but you just need to step up your networking / outreach game. Here are a few tips to get to know the schools a bit better:
- Reach out to current students you know or find students on LinkedIn who attend those schools and you may have a connection with
- Schools often have student ambassadors — most likely, they are not very busy right now, so now is a great time to reach out
- Exhaust all of the YouTube videos and other content on the schools’ website
- Reach out to current students in charge of clubs and organizations you may be interested in at the respective schools. These folks tend to be quite receptive to speaking with prospective students.
If you’re considering applying this year, you need to reaffirm that the ROI of school in the long-term still makes sense. Candidly, a short-term market disruption is unlikely to change the long-term trajectory of the impact a degree can make on your career, but you need to make sure that’s the case. Assuming it is, forget the noise and focus on what you need to do to get into the best possible school.
Your test timing could very well be disrupted. Tests have been canceled and the global volume of testing in Q1 is down. This is your new motto: “I can’t control my test date and time, but I can control my studying.” Schedule your test ASAP and understand that it may be canceled or postponed, however, you still need to work towards a date. Assume you will be able to take your test by early summer, so study accordingly. Make sure you’re ready to take the test when the public health issue has subsided; don’t get complacent and wait to prepare. Prepare now and be ready to go!
Official school visits are likely going to be canceled, limited, or postponed over the next several months. Conduct as much of your research online and through outreach and engagement with current students (see above for some tips). Delay your school visits until Q3 or Q4 when things have (hopefully) settled down. For now, do your research and make the best decisions you can with the information you have.
Apply in Round 1
The last few years have seen fewer applications for many graduate school programs due to the strong global economy. However, graduate school is countercyclical with the overall economy. Given the challenges in the current economy, application numbers are likely to go up as fear enters the psyche of the target graduate school applicant. To combat the increased competition, we recommend applying early to take advantage of the early application cycle and the (likely) lower overall competition in round 1 as it will take some time for potential applicants to prepare and submit their applications.
- Don’t panic – Stay the course. Don’t let the outside noise change your mind or your focus on applying to school. Use the distractions to your advantage and let the other applicants lose focus while you handle your business and deliver a quality application early in the application process.
- Connect with schools. There is likely to be a number of adjustments in events, dates, and deadlines. Make sure you are connected with the schools through the website and social media, so you get the latest updates. Don’t be that guy (or girl) who is constantly reaching out to the school because of your own insecurities and impatience. If you need to connect with them, do so, otherwise, wait until you hear back from them. Schools are making real-time adjustments, so be patient.
- Start early. It’s March, but applications will be out in May / June and first deadlines are in September; the time goes quickly. Get your test scores out of the way and be ready to start the application process in June (assuming you can take the test by then).