These are chaotic times, no doubt. But the exceptional circumstances we are confronting do not necessarily mean that we cannot make right decisions. We certainly can, and studying for an MBA in the US may be one of them.
Let’s analyse the main trends affecting business education and the economy in the US and see how you can take advantage of them to position yourself for career growth.
Flexibility in application
Applicants to US business schools can now take advantage of a flexible application process. In response to Covid-19, schools took measures like extending deadlines, adding extra application rounds, granting conditional admission, and moving application interviews fully online. Some even waived admission tests as a requirement after test centres in many regions were forced to close. Fortunately, test providers have since launched at-home versions of the exams, which means that the GMAT, GRE, TOEFL and IELTS tests can now be taken remotely.
US schools are aware that applicants face many difficulties nowadays. They know that MBA aspirants may need to overcome travel restrictions, limited flights and closed consulates. But instead of giving up on your dream of studying in the US, contact admissions offices directly or attend an Access MBA event to talk to admissions directors in person. Schools have added extra flexibility to their admissions process and are more than willing to help aspirants clear whatever barriers they may be facing.
Better now than later
Against this background, you may be surprised to learn that applications to top US programmes are actually surging. For instance, applications at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business jumped by a whopping 63% this year, while the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business posted a 25% increase. Some institutions, such as Columbia Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, are even achieving record applications.
What does this mean for you? The competition is more severe, so you need to submit a stronger application package. It’s also worth considering applying now, instead of waiting out the pandemic. This fall, Harvard Business School (HBS) enrolled a class of just 720 MBA applicants, well below the level seen in a typical year. That’s because about 30% of the 1,000 applicants admitted to HBS requested a deferral. “Those 300 admits who passed on Harvard this month aren’t disappearing. They will show up over the next two years,” education expert John Byrne told Forbes.
The best time to invest in yourself
The increase in MBA applications is not a surprise. Traditionally, business professionals see schools as a haven from a difficult job market and a springboard for future success. In addition, the "opportunity cost", which includes the money lost by not entering the job market, is much smaller.
In the wake of the ongoing pandemic, a tough job market and cheap loans are among the main reasons why some young professionals have decided to pursue an MBA degree. Some are concerned that online instruction will limit interaction among the cohort, both social and academic. But Stephanie Bryant, executive vice president and chief accreditation officer with AACSB International, told U.S. News that US MBA programmes typically last two years, and those that begin virtually due to the pandemic can gradually transition to in-person learning.
Temporarily leaving the workplace to study for an MBA has been a popular career move during past recessions, and for good reason. According to Financial Times data, students from the top 100 MBA programmes in its annual ranking, who enrolled in 2008 and 2009 and who graduated in 2010, saw their salaries double in the years up until 2014.
But even now, some companies and industries keep hiring MBA talent actively. Amazon, for example, has recruited a record 1,000 MBA students worldwide this year, 20% more than in 2019. Banks and consultancies are also busily hiring MBA graduates.
The recession will not last forever. And when it ends, you could be well-positioned to benefit from all the new and exciting opportunities that will emerge. Are you up for it?