Over the past few days I have received hundreds of messages from prospective Indian MBA and MIM applicants regarding how the COVID-19 crisis will affect future applications, job prospects and on a bit more urgent note - admissions in the last rounds of Sep 2020 intake since most schools have either extended their deadlines and relaxed their GMAT / GRE guidelines.
This post is an attempt to tackle all these questions, highlighting the key issues and potential solutions ahead of us, and to share our view on the current situation. In order to tackle the topics we will follow the below structure:
GMAT / GRE Relaxation
Round 3 / Round 4 Admissions for Indian candidates for Top B-Schools, Sep 2020 intake
Future Outlook: Applying for an MBA in 2020
1. GMAT / GRE Relaxation
Due to the outbreak, many schools have started allowing candidates to submit their applications even without valid GMAT / GRE scores. However, this relaxation is temporary only, since any such candidates will only receive a conditional admittance to the MBA program - which will be confirmed only after they have submitted a valid score to the school.
Another issue that candidates are facing is that they are simply unable to take their tests because of the widespread lock-down. Both, GMAT and GRE, are coming up with alternative solutions to this predicament.
In fact, GRE has already started providing the option to take the test at home for candidates.
GMAC, the central body which organizes the GMAT, made the announcement recently that the GMAT will be online by mid-April.
You can read more about the notification from GMAC here.
To summarize, you will be able to take either of the tests at home, quite soon.
2. Round 3 / Round 4 Admissions for Indian candidates for Top B-Schools, Sep 2020 intake
Given that many B-Schools have extended their deadlines for their last rounds of admissions, and provided the relaxations in GMAT / GRE scores, many candidates want to take advantage of the situation.
You can read about the different schools and extensions on Poets & Quants.
There are multiple reasons for which such an extension is deemed valuable by the candidates:
Since GMAT/GRE scores are out of the picture (partly), many candidates who have struggled with these standardized tests in the past want to grab hold of the situation. Truly, this is an unprecedented event and one may never find a similar situation ever again.
There is an expectation that many admitted candidates might want to defer the start of their programs - either forcibly due to the pandemic or the global shutdowns, or willingly to join the classes next year when the situation has been controlled (hopefully). In such a scenario, when many admitted students decide to defer, the obvious solution will be to waitlist or provide an admit to more candidates in the last rounds compared to previous years.
However, we have reason to believe that these increased chances, and the relaxed criteria, might not be very useful for Indian candidates. Below you will find our reasoning for believing so.
Almost all schools in the US / Canada and Europe usually explicitly ask International candidates to apply in the earliest possible rounds - usually R1 and R2 (results in March). Keeping in mind that for R3 and R4, the results are declared quite close to the actual start date of the programs in Aug/Sep, international candidates are discouraged to apply in these rounds considering that they might face issues with getting the relevant visas. So, in general, the potential visa issues deter admissions committees from admitting Indian candidates in later rounds.
Now, in the current situation the schools are extending the deadlines and relaxing test criteria so that they can make up for the students who end up deferring their MBA program to the next year.
As an International applicant in the current scenario, and with results to be declared late May/June, it is almost certain that an Indian candidate will not be able to receive the visa to attend the programs in September 2020 - which would mean that they would need to defer their admit.
With such a scenario likely, there is no reason for us to believe that the schools would admit international applicants (who would require long-term visas), only to defer their admit to the next year.
So while the relaxed criteria and extended deadlines are certainly head-turning options, in our opinion they are most likely to benefit domestic candidates rather than international candidates.
3. Future Outlook: Applying for an MBA in 2020
The next big question that we keep getting is about the future prospects. Should you apply for an MBA now? How will things look like in the coming year? MBA programs often come with significant financial burdens, how can you take such a huge risk? What if....?
The anxiety around MBA applications is quite expected, and even justified. After all, what happens if you don't get your dream job post-MBA and are stuck with a huge student loan?
Let's clarify a few things before we move ahead.
A recession is imminent.
MBA candidates in India and abroad are suffering from this setback - losing internships and job offers getting rescinded.
Fewer employers are looking to hire at this moment.
Here are a few observations from previous experiences, especially the last recession in 2008.
MBA applications did not see a downturn during the recession. In fact, they boomed because of it.
Candidates wanted to wade out the storm by utilizing the period to up-skill themselves, rather than being on the job market and getting anxious about their job security.
Within a few years, the MBA market was back on track. By the time Sep 2008-09 intakes graduated in 2010-11, the job market was much better with enough opportunities and even rewards for those who up-skilled themselves during this time.
Those who face the maximum brunt of this pandemic and the looming recession are, unfortunately, those graduating this year.
For candidates applying this year, they will graduate the earliest in 2022, or 2023. By that time, we expect that the markets will be in much better shape than it is today.
As the recession sets in, and people start to get anxious about their jobs, they will start to look for safer options. Going for an MBA is certainly one as it helps candidates get off the job market, and at the same time gain new skills, which further adds to their profile and can help push their careers.
Keeping these arguments in minds, we expect the following to happen:
As candidates continue to watch and wait how the pandemic unfolds, we expect a lower competition during Round 1 applications. The inability to take the tests right now adds to this, since many candidates might shift their plans to take them a few months later.
Once the dust settles and the recession hits us in full swing, we expect a much higher application turnout, and hence, tougher competition from Round 2 onward for the Sep 2021 intakes.
As an MBA or MIM aspirant, there are many things that you can do while you wait for the lock-downs to be lifted, specially when it comes to researching about your schools and introspecting about your life. To know more about how you can utilize this time, click here.
Please note that these are our speculations based on experience and previous trends.
If you need personalised help for applying to the top MBA and MIM programs, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org Piyush Ranjan is the chief consultant for Management Masters. He did his undergrad from IIT-BHU, and then studied at the SIM program of the University of St. Gallen. He has helped his candidates get admission calls from Wharton, Kellogg, Cambridge Judge, HEC Paris, ISB, and other top Business schools worldwide.