Scott Edinburgh
April 9, 2021

The Resilience of the MBA

Graduate throws cap in air celebrating her MBA
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Amidst a year of chaos, business schools have proven to be stronger than ever!

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since Covid-19 turned the world upside down. While the pandemic has undoubtedly created a serious strain on the US and global economies, business school education has had a stroke of luck.

Pre-pandemic, MBA applications were slightly on the decline. With such a strong economy, some were finding the degree more difficult to justify from an opportunity cost standpoint. Interestingly enough, however, the MBA is making a comeback due to Covid-19. After a slow start to the 2019-2020 MBA application cycle, a round 3 boost led to overall application increases across five of the M7 schools.

When looking at 4-year application trends, Chicago Booth saw a 5% increase in applications, Wharton’s applications grew by 7%, and MIT Sloan’s applications grew by 9.5%. Even more significant, Columbia Business School saw a 12.7% increase in applications and Kellogg saw a massive 26.5% increase.

In fact, despite the shift to virtual learning and various changes to on-campus experiences, GMAC’s latest annual global survey found that 66% of business schools saw an increase in applications for 2020 enrollment.

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These upward application trends apply not only to the M7s but also to other noteworthy business schools. At USC Marshall, MBA applications soared from 1,899 to 3,159. Rice University (Jones) experienced a similar turnaround, with applications jumping to 1,021 from 625.

Some schools also promoted online and flexible degrees. While virtual learning may lack some of the dynamic elements of in-person classes, studies have found that students seem to learn just as much online as in the classroom. And there are ways to maximize online learning experiences, such as choosing the right work environment, asking questions, and avoiding distractions. If students are properly engaged, the rigor and value of an MBA can be equally as strong via remote learning.

The 2020-2021 application season has seen an even stronger boost! While final numbers will not be released for many months, Personal MBA Coach has heard anecdotally that round 1 2020 applications were up 25-30%! We expect that round 2 saw a similar rise in MBA applications.

Thanks to both students’ and business schools’ adaptability, American business school programs are positioned to have a particularly successful year in 2021. Not only is this promising for the MBA job market but it also demonstrates that the MBA experience itself is still highly coveted – even during these unprecedented times.

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So how will these changes impact those looking to apply to business school in 2021 and beyond? There is no denying that this heightened interest in the MBA increases the competitive nature of the application process.

Personal MBA Coach suggests that candidates go broad to strengthen their chances of securing an acceptance. Our average candidate applies to at least 5 schools. Make sure that you diversify your list to include some “reach” programs, some “more likely” programs, and some “safer” programs. Since you cannot always predict which business school is seeking someone who fits your profile, selecting a wide range of schools can help increase your chances of acceptance.

While some schools like MIT Sloan went test-optional as a result of the pandemic, strong test scores are another way to enhance your candidacy. Countless sources have published data showing a decline in average GMAT/GRE scores over the past year. However, this data reflected scores for 2020 enrollees.

Personal MBA Coach expects that such a trend will not continue for 2021 matriculations and that average scores will INCREASE for 2021-2022 applicants. If you are looking to raise your score, Personal MBA Coach offers customized tutoring services with tutors who have scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT/GRE and are graduates of MIT, Harvard, and UPenn.

If you need help positioning yourself for success, check out Personal MBA Coach’s MBA planning guide and find out what you can do now to strengthen your profile.

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