If you’re planning to go to business school in the next 18 months, you are likely wondering how coronavirus is shifting the landscape for MBA applications. Here are some big changes – and insight that you need into what’s going on behind the scenes as you think about coronavirus and MBA applications.

  • Wait lists are real.

On the admissions side, there is profound uncertainty about yield – international students might not be able to get visas, people who have already deposited might not be able to afford tuition, and students might not want to start online, if that winds up happening. Plus, what do job prospects look like, given the worsening economic crisis?  For all of these reasons, schools are creating bigger wait lists, and will almost definitely turn to them in unprecedented ways to fill their incoming classes. If you have the ability to wait it out through the summer, and to quickly jump on a potential offer, you might wind up getting into a stretch school. To further optimize your chances, if it’s allowed by your target schools, I definitely recommend interacting with your wait list manager. This reinforces your interest and helps them advocate for you if space becomes available.

  • Round 3/rolling rounds are also real.

Because of these yield concerns, the new and extended application rounds that you are seeing do offer genuine opportunities for admission. In the past these late rounds were extreme longshots for even the strongest candidates, and you needed to articulate a good reason for applying so late in the cycle. Not the case anymore – and schools with high percentages of international applicants, who might not be able to attend because of coronavirus, are going to be especially interested in admitting domestic students who apply now. Furthermore, business schools are also likely to be understanding if you aren’t admitted but reapply in the early rounds, even if your candidacy looks largely the same. These are unusual times, and many of the old guidelines no longer apply.

  • This is an advantageous time for standardized test takers.

Starting in April, you can take the GMAT, GRE or executive assessment at home – a true benefit for those with test anxiety, and business schools are stating that they won’t devalue scores from at-home exams. Several programs are also allowing candidates to apply without scores, and to sit for the exam and achieve a minimum score after they are admitted. Some schools, including Darden, are even taking SAT scores and LSAT’s – the current landscape is truly applicant friendly.

  • School might be online, at least first semester.

If at all possible, business schools will obviously re-open as soon as possible. However, programs are also contingency planning and mapping out a potential online start. This is important to know if you are thinking about applying in one of the new/extended rounds, or deciding whether or not to deposit. Furthermore, tuition is likely to stay the same, even if school is virtual for a period of time. This is obviously speculation, and might vary across programs, but given the operating structure that exists at most universities the best current guess is that tuition will not be reduced.

  • Considering Deferring?

In light of this ambiguity, if you are slated to start school in August, you might be hoping to defer. In general, schools are likely to distinguish between involuntary and voluntary deferral requests. So, if you literally can’t attend (as might be the case for international students who can’t secure a visa in time) MBA programs will almost surely grant your deferral request. However, if you can no longer afford it or don’t want to risk an online start, they are much less likely to agree to a deferral. In those instances, you might be invited to reapply but your spot probably won’t be held.

  • Flexibility will create opportunity.

Despite all of the current ambiguity and hardship, for some candidates this might be the right time to apply to business school. Applicants who can be flexible might have a broader array of options, and when the economy is struggling many people have traditionally decided to invest in additional education.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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