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Thinking of an MBA next year? Consider applying THIS YEAR

March 25, 2020

Given growing COVID-19 social, health, emotional, and economic impacts, we have received some questions on how MBA applications may trend this upcoming application year. Obviously the health and safety of you and your families are the top priority, and rule #1 we are advising clients is to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy. Nobody wins if you get sick!

That being said, for those still considering an MBA this year, we expect the level of competition to rise (likely significantly) due a lower number of spots vs. prior years. Many schools, including HBS, have responded to concerns by this year’s incoming class of international students by guaranteeing them spots next year if they are unable to obtain visas to join the class this year. Those spots won’t be available to this year’s applicants. Other schools are adjusting standardized testing requirements for this year and next, making it easier to submit last-minute applications now.

More important is the impact of a slowing job market. In prior years, the most common reason cited by clients for deferring their MBA was excitement about their career for the year ahead. With COVID-19 and the resulting economic ripple effects already changing applicants’ job prospects in 2020 and beyond, we expect a growing number of people to look at the uncertainty ahead as a good opportunity to return to school for two years.

As a result, if you’re able to apply in Round 3 (or additional rounds schools are creating to attract additional candidates), strongly consider doing so. Click here for an updated set of school deadlines.There will be spots opening up for some students previously accepted but unable to attend this year. While some of those spots will be taken by expanded Round 2 waitlists at many schools, we expect the proportion of people starting their MBA in the Fall who were accepted after Round 2 will be higher than in previous years. Some clients we’re working with have already decided to pursue this strategy, knowing that they can always re-apply next year with less stigma than in prior years.

Regardless of whether you apply in the next few weeks, or next few months, we suggest the following to keep moving forward with your personal and professional growth:

  • Standardized Testing: Schools are announcing changes to their standardized testing requirements daily for Round 3/Round 4 applications. With all of the change in the immediate term (some expanding to include the MCAT, LSAT, SAT, ACT, others removing the requirement), it is unclear exactly what schools will require for R1 2020 applications. Try to put concerns about those tests on the backburner for the moment and focus on what you can do. Almost ready to test? Schedule and try out the test-from-home options (GRE details here, GMAT details here). Planning to test in the May/June timeframe? Deep breath. Make sure you’ve got a couple of tests on the schedule (scheduling later will be tough) and then follow your prep plan. Sign up for email alerts from ETS or GMAC, and pivot to focus on the rest of your application.
  • Choose Target Schools: Aim for 3-4 target schools, customized to your preferences, and 1-2 safety schools that offer you a higher probability of getting in. We can help you run some simulations when you’re ready.
  • Project Plan: Set up your project plan to organize your various deliverables by school. Make sure you set realistic deadlines to keep you moving forward without stressing yourself out needlessly (save that for August wink).
  • Key Themes: Start brainstorming key themes you want to present in your application. Aim for 3-4 core themes and 4-6 stories/examples that back those themes up.
  • Essays: Many schools’ essays are unlikely to change (i.e. Stanford), and at the very least you can get started on brainstorming materials and finalizing your themes.
  • Social Media: Streamline and edit your social media profile. Now is a great time to make updates on your LinkedIn profile and add new connections that you may not have had time for in the past. 
  • Networking: Still aim to meet 1-2 new people, though face-to-face meetings will have to wait.

Please remain healthy and safe,

The SCG Team