Likely Impact Of COVID-19 On The 2020-2021 MBA Application Cycle


With the rapid changes taking place in the MBA application world due to coronavirus (COVID-19), I have been getting a lot of questions from candidates on whether they should apply in the current Round 3 for admission to the Class of 2022 (since deadlines have been extended) or in the upcoming 2020-2021 MBA application cycle for admission to the Class of 2023 (with deadlines starting in the Fall). Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut response to this question – it really depends on each person’s background and situation, which requires an in-depth discussion with a consultant. However, if you would like to get a sense of how COVID-19 may impact the upcoming 2020-2021 MBA application cycle, my thoughts are below.

The number of applications will probably go up as we face a recession

We are facing an unparalleled event in our lives which is leading to a recession (if we are not in one already). The volume of business school applications in a given application cycle is typically counter-cyclical in nature. In other words, when the economy is strong and there is a robust job market, people decide to continue working, leading to fewer business school applications. On the flipside, when the economy is in a recession and the job market is weak, many people think about returning to school, and as a result, the number of MBA applications increases. Since the economic environment looks to be precarious in the near future, I would not be surprised to see an uptick in the number of MBA applications as we approach the upcoming 2020-2021 business school application cycle.


There will likely be fewer spots for international applicants

With the onset of coronavirus, routine visa processing has essentially come to a standstill for international students. For example, on March 20th, the U.S. Department of State issued a notice that it is “temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates." What is the implication of this? Essentially, international students who have been accepted in Rounds 1 and 2 will likely experience delays in visa processing, leading to deferrals being granted by business schools if these admitted students are unable to matriculate in the Fall. While the situation remains in flux, this scenario would lead to fewer available spots for international applicants applying in 2020-2021.

Uncertainty with respect to standardized testing options may linger

Standardized testing services are facing an unprecedented challenge with COVID-19 and the closures of testing sites. While at home testing options are being offered in some countries, candidates in countries where such options are not being offered face uncertainty as to when they will be able to take the exam. Since it is difficult to predict when life will return to normal, the best course of action is to stay up to speed with your studying so that you can take advantage of options to take the exams as soon as they become available. Below are the latest announcements with at-home testing options:

On March 23rd, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) announced that it “is temporarily offering a GRE General Test at home option in selected areas. The test is identical in content, format and on-screen experience to the GRE General Test taken at a test center. It is taken on your own computer at home and is monitored by a human proctor online through ProctorU®.”

Similarly, an at-home version of the GMAT will soon be released. According to GMAC, “Beginning in mid-April we will launch an online proctored alternative to the GMAT exam. The test will offer a comparable structure, time, and scoring as the exam delivered in the test centers. The Quant, Verbal and IR sections (no AWA section) will have the same number of items and the same time for completion…The check-in and security protocols will be modified to accommodate online delivery and remote proctors will be used to manage test integrity.”

In addition, ETS is offering the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test in some areas. ETS has stated that “The test is identical in content, format and on-screen experience to the TOEFL iBT test taken at a test center. It is taken on your own computer at home and is monitored by a human proctor online through ProctorU®.”

Regardless of what the scenario ends up looking like in the MBA application 2020-2021 application cycle, it is clear that we are in an extremely unusual and unique situation. In the face of this uncertainty, your modus operandi should remain the same – putting together the strongest applications that you can. If you are conflicted or confused between applying in the current Round 3 or in the upcoming 2020-2021 application cycle, we would be happy to help you think through that decision for your particular situation through our hourly services – you can learn more here.

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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.

Click on the links to learn more about our company and how you can work with us to maximize your chances of gaining admission to the MBA programs of your choice.

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