MBA Admissions in the Time of COVID-19

MBA admissions

If you’re wondering what is going to happen to the application process when applicants can’t sit for exams or attend admissions interviews in person due to the new coronavirus, you’re not alone! The application process is changing quickly due to COVID-19. Programs are taking different approaches, leaving a lot of people wondering what to do.

You should pat yourself on the back for applying during a time when everything is changing! To help you create a game plan, we’ll highlight some of the biggest trends. Let’s go through some info to give you some more ideas about what to expect.

magoosh video lesson icon with human figureMore of a visual person? We interviewed an MBA admissions expert with 15+ years of experience getting students into their dream schools. It includes these three key points:

  • Is now a good time to go to business school?
  • What if I’ve already been preparing for the GMAT exam?
  • General info on how schools have extended the round 3 deadline

GMAT/GRE Changes and Considerations

How can I take the GRE or GMAT if test centers are closed?

The GRE is online. ETS has been offering an at-home option for test-takers since early April, 2020. They’ve since made this option permanent!

You’re also in luck if you’re a GMAT-taker! The at-home exam went live on April 14, 2020, and will also be available permanently (in addition to the in-person options). The format did change for a while (no AWA, etc.) but has since returned to mirror the in-person GMAT format. For more information, check out our blog on how to take the GMAT from home. You can also check out these online MBA programs don’t require the GMAT at this time!

What about those needing special accommodations?

If you require any special accommodations (usually medically related), be sure to call in to ETS or GMAC to reserve a testing date, rather than booking online.

What if my testing center hasn’t closed?

While it’s possible to schedule an online exam anyway, it would probably be ideal to sit down with a proper writing pad and 10-minute breaks in a test center (if safe, of course)! This is up to your personal preference as well. However, if the center closes and your test is canceled, then we recommend going online and booking the at-home exam.

Is one test preferred above the other?

The short answer: not really. There are some programs that only accept the GMAT, but they are becoming rarer by the year. COVID-19 has not changed this part of the admissions process.

Is the score requirement postponed?

For the most part, yes–or rather, it was in 2020. During that time, most programs would allow an application to be submitted followed by a score later. Some programs may still allow this; if so, be sure to utilize the essay in your application to mention that you will be sending the GMAT later.

At the bottom of this resource, we’ve linked to some of the most commonly-searched programs, which is a good starting point.

What if someone took the GMAT/GRE and didn’t like their score? Should they submit an application without mentioning it and just retake the exam?

It’s fine to just say you’ve taken the test before and submit your score. They’re going to see it anyway! You could indicate on the essay that you’re planning on retaking it to get a higher score. You can even indicate whether you’ve been testing higher on practice exams, showing that you’re reasonably expecting a better score. Then, of course, try your best to do so!

Can I take the EA (Executive Assessment) online?

Yes! And just like the GMAT, you can take it online or in person.

Other Changes to MBA Admissions

We’ve listed some trends and topics that may be top-of-mind, but will defer to links to programs’ websites so you can get the most up-to-date information when it comes to their new requirements and information.

Should applicants consider Round 3 in 2020?

The conventional wisdom has been to beat the GMAT and then ideally apply for Round 1 or 2, but COVID-19 has introduced a lot of exceptions to this rule.

Typically, anticipation of harder times in the jobs market (e.g., 2001 or 2008) has led to increased applications to graduate programs. Professionals who have lowered expectations of near-term career prospects often think about pursuing an MBA while they wait out the difficult times. Consider this time: if medical professionals are correct that a vaccine might be ready in 12-18 months, then a two-year program doesn’t seem like a bad idea for a lot of soon-to-be applicants! Now, at Magoosh we’re not medical professionals, so we have no idea whether that medical timeline is accurate or not, but we can reasonably expect Round 1 for 2021 entry to be more competitive than it would have normally been!

This means Round 3 (for 2020 entry) has become the exception; it’s looking less competitive than Round 1 or 2 in the autumn (for 2021 entry). Many applicants don’t prefer an online semester and are deferring their entry, opening up new spots in the process. On top of that, schools are extending their deadlines into the summer, and many are showing extra leniency when it comes to deadlines for the exams themselves. That doesn’t mean that you have to apply now, of course, but it means that those who are already in the middle of studying might want to weigh their options!

Virtual Events, Interviews, and (Possibly) Online Semesters

In the past year, interviews with alumni or staff (and accepted-student ceremonies and orientations) have been in-person. Most programs have found ways of doing this over the phone or virtually using video conferencing software.

There are only a handful of universities that have considered online semesters so far. We list a fair amount of links to universities below, but we encourage you to keep an eye on your chosen programs. University of Arizona, for example, has already made it clear they are going entirely online for the near future. We expect in the coming months to get a lot more clarity, as many universities would prefer not to do so unless it’s necessary.

Links to Commonly-Searched MBA Programs’ COVID-19 Responses

Remember when we said that programs and their requirements are changing rapidly? We recommend bookmarking the pages that are most relevant to your applications. Here are the official links to their information pages.

There are definitely more programs that have COVID-19 response pages, so we encourage you to use what you need from here and add to your own list!

MBA Admissions During COVID-19: Conclusion

Programs are often changing requirements and shifting deadlines, so it’s not going to be easy to apply in these times. However, the fact that you’re researching this right now means that you’re willing to try to find a way to develop in spite of the difficulties. Pat yourself on the back!

Are you applying for business school right now? What challenges have you encountered? Comment below!

Ready to get an awesome GMAT score? Start here.

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  • Fred Arbona

    Fred Arbona is a Content Creation Project Manager and GMAT Tutor at Magoosh. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. For nearly 10 years, he has tutored international students for standardized tests. Fred also works full-time as a consultant in the banking industry. When he isn't contributing to Business Because, supporting students or putting board rooms to sleep, he's running, fencing or supporting his favorite opera company.

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