Why business school will be much harder to enter next year

If you are between the ages of 20 and 30 and have recently been made redundant or have found that the recession has severely limited your upward mobility, you might be thinking this would be a great time to get an MBA. You would certainly be right.

The problem is, you should also expect to be in a long queue. A very long line. Just about everyone in business school admissions expects to see a significant increase in applications for the next 2020-2021 admissions cycle which officially begins in September. The only question: how big will it be.

Some observers predict it could be an all-time record. A sign of what’s to come happened earlier this week when Harvard Business School surprised many by announcing that it would enroll a class of only 720 MBA candidates this fall– well below its more typical incoming group of 940 students. This is because HBS made it possible for every admitted student who wanted a deferral to get one. It is estimated that 30% of the just over 1,000 applicants admitted to HBS have decided to wait until the pandemic is over.

Many were international students who were unable to secure a student visa on time or who are still concerned that travel restrictions will remain in place. Some admit that differed, including domestic students, did not want to start their MBA program with a hybrid of online and in-person courses.

Those 300 confessions who died at Harvard this month don’t go away. They will appear over the next two years. At the very least, this year’s shortfall will lead to next year’s overflow, with at least 150 classroom spots already filled before anyone applies by Harvard’s first Sept. 8 deadline.

Even though Harvard’s more liberal approach to postponement this year has not been followed by most of its peers, who have maintained their case-by-case assessment of these requests, other top MBA programs level should also spill over into the next admission cycle. “I predict that other MBA programs will find themselves in a similar position this fall in terms of student shortages and income,” says Tyler Cormney, co-founder of MBA Prep School, a leading MBA admissions consultant .

However, the main reasons for an app boom are historical. When the economy collapses, graduate school applications tend to explode. This is largely because young professionals are made redundant and partly because opportunities for advancement disappear even if they manage to keep their jobs. “Some candidates I have spoken to see the MBA as a safe haven and imagine that graduating from a business school in three years will mean entering a much stronger job market than the one they will be leaving. in the fall of 2021, ”adds Cormney.

Besides this historic trend, however, there is the fact that after five years of overall decline in applications to full-time MBA programs and three years of dropouts to top schools, there is pent-up demand for higher education. in commerce. In the past two years alone, applications for top 10 MBA programs have fallen 12.3%. Another factor is the depth of the recession, as measured by the more than 40 million people who are now claiming unemployment benefits in the United States. Many young professionals are being shown the door of companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Google, as these companies greatly reduce or suspend their operations and reduce their dependence on contractors.

And finally, the prospect of a Trump defeat (with the president behind in double digits in several polls) will likely lead to increased interest in American schools from international candidates who have been put off by all the anti-immigration rhetoric and the uncertainty of work visas over the past three and a half years.

The proof of a monster year can be seen in everything from inquiries at business school admissions offices to the increase in business booked by MBA admissions consultants who help applicants prepare for the next set of deadlines.

“About two weeks after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when the paralysis and shock began to subside, the volume of inquiries for undergraduate MBA deadlines increased sharply,” said Esther Magna, Director of Stacy Blackman Consulting, one of the largest MBA admissions consulting firms. . “In all respects since then, including the number of inquiries, visitors to our website, clients who have signed up for services, we see that interest in the MBA has increased for us by at least 50% compared to last year at the same time. There are weeks when I think the demand has doubled.

The increase, she adds, will lead to one of the most competitive admission seasons of all time. “Our prediction is that the demand for MBA will increase dramatically for top MBA programs,” Magna said. “More than that, the caliber of the applicant pool in terms of diversity, leadership, industry and career visions will skyrocket during the upcoming application season. Quality and quantity are about to be redefined.

Put it all together and it’s sort of a perfect storm: bad for applicants to very selective schools that routinely turn down the vast majority of their applicants, but good for schools that have been waiting for a revival of interest for some time. for the MBA.

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