There is no doubt about it – the coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused many changes to take place across practically every part of normal life, including business school and MBA admissions. As a result of the uncertainty due to COVID-19, the MBA admissions landscape, not surprisingly, remains in flux. The Association of Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) recently held its annual conference in a virtual format where Admissions Officers from both US and European MBA programs spoke about recent trends and developments when it comes to their schools, the broader business school community, and MBA admissions. Key takeaways from the conference are below.
MBA programs are considering increasing their class sizes to provide equal opportunity to applicants
Many candidates applying in the upcoming 2020-2021 MBA application cycle (with deadlines starting in the Fall) have expressed concern that there will be fewer spots available in the Class of 2023 because of the granting of deferrals to those admitted in the Class of 2022. For example, international students may not be able to get visas in time to matriculate in the Fall of 2020 or some students’ personal and/or professional circumstances may have changed due to COVID-19, causing these students to request pushing out the start of their business school education by a year.
While each MBA program has its own deferral policy, with some programs such as Harvard Business School being quite liberal and others giving deferrals on a case-by-case basis, business schools recognize that those applying in the coming year or two should have the same opportunities as those who applied in the past. As a result, some business school programs, such as Harvard Business School, are considering increasing their class size. During the conference, other MBA programs echoed a similar sentiment that adapting the class size to meet increased applicant demand could be a possibility.
Business schools are not planning on waiving standardized test score requirements in the upcoming 2020-2021 MBA application cycle
With Kellogg waiving its standardized test requirement during its Round 3 rolling admission deadline and other schools, such as Wharton, allowing flexibility as to when the standardized test score is submitted for those who applied in Round 3, applicants have been wondering what the testing requirement will look like in the near future. During the AIGAC conference, Admissions Officers emphasized that they are not planning on waiving standardized test scores in the upcoming application cycle despite less than ideal at-home versions of the exams (GMAT, GRE, and Executive Assessment) and continued uncertainty as to when testing centers will open. Instead, the business schools stressed that standardized test scores will be required, and if necessary (depending on what the testing landscape looks like in the coming months), flexibility could be considered.
MBA programs are preparing for a "phygital" world
With social distancing now the way of life until there is a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, business schools recognize that having a normal classroom environment that accommodates every student is not feasible. As a result, MBA programs are expecting and preparing for a “phygital” environment – in other words, a hybrid world that combines both physical and digital elements. This has resulted in MBA programs focusing on innovation as they seek to deliver a best-in-class experience when it comes to online delivery of classes, activities, etc.
Interestingly, with all classes and extracurricular endeavors having gone online in the past few months, Admissions Officers emphasized during the conference that they are seeing higher attendance and increased engagement from current students. From a recruiting perspective, there is also an expectation that some form of virtual recruiting is here to stay, which will reduce barriers to entry and make more employment opportunities accessible to students.
Overall, the conference generated very thoughtful and insightful and discussions. As you jump into the application process, be rest assured that MBA programs are working towards making the MBA experience as invaluable as it has always been, given the difficult constraints they are facing.
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.