Are you thinking about applying for an MBA during the pandemic? You’ll have plenty of company, as some news outlets predict the largest year-over-year increase in MBA applications in history.
There’s no better time to hedge against the widespread professional volatility than by investing in academic and personal growth. Applicants in 2020-2021 will become the MBA Class of 2023 and will benefit from a refreshed economic landscape.
We too have seen a steep increase in interest for the MBA since the COVID-19 pandemic began. MBA demand is counter-cyclical to the economy. As we shared with U.S. News and World Report, during a booming economy, MBA aspirants feel hesitant to leave their secure, well-paid career paths. Now, many career paths are tenuous, impacted as they are by the coronavirus. Therefore, the opportunity costs for the MBA investment have become lower and look more favorable for business school applicants.
Job security is at risk for many around the world. Pursuing an MBA will become a necessity for many in the short term. Indeed, numerous career paths for young professionals, such as those in private equity or consulting, have a built-in “up and out” mechanism that drives MBA matriculation.
Many employers will push forward with this “up and out” process in the short term to weather the storm of COVID-19. MBA applicants in their twenties are typically debt-free and can incur the costs of their education. Some young professionals consider the MBA as an escape from unemployment or furlough status. We see all these drivers playing out via a recent boost in MBA applicants engaging with us.
Changes Ahead for Those Who Seek an MBA During the Pandemic
Top programs such as the M7 in the U.S. have the technical prowess to adapt in extraordinary ways due to intelligence, deep financial resources, and innovation. The M7 programs in the U.S. will create, through their own connections of recruiters and in-house professors, a profound value advantage and improved educational model for its students. Top MBA graduates in 2023 and beyond will benefit from this transformative education and will become well-equipped to tackle the next series of unknowns ahead.
We have seen MBA applicants become more particular about the brand of the program in which they invest. We encourage our clients to aim high because this is now a new normal. Suddenly, aspects such as test scores may become trivial to even the elite programs. Instead, the character and resilience of applicants will factor in more heavily.
Meanwhile, international MBA applicants may have a different set of tradeoffs and unknowns ahead. We talk with international candidates about their options and help them decide what’s best for their situation. In some cases, even if they can secure a visa to get here, it might not be their best choice because the job market for internships will be even harder for them.
OPT Foreign Workers Program & Politics
President Donald Trump had been expected to make an announcement on Optional Practical Training (OPT), the foreign worker program. But, a recent push in favor of keeping OPT is underway. Many business schools in the past year have become STEM certified for their graduates to qualify for this post-graduation employment extension.
A lot can change in the months ahead, especially with the U.S. presidential election in November. Regardless, we predict that MBA demand will increase significantly for the top MBA programs. As a matter of fact, we believe the caliber of the applicant pool with respect to diversity, leadership, industry, and career visions will soar in the application season that is upon us.