‘Why do an MBA now?’
As COVID-19 continues to impact economies, businesses and livelihoods across the globe, prospective business school students are asking themselves this question. On one hand, the pandemic has disrupted normal working patterns and lives, meaning for many that it’s the perfect opportunity to make a big change. On the other hand, with significant uncertainty remaining around the abilities of business schools to provide the full, face-to-face experience that full time MBAs in particular have come to expect, is now the right time to be investing in such an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime experience?
Enrolment in MBA courses is generally counter-cyclical to the economy - when the latter goes down, the former goes up. Stats from business schools over the past 18 months would appear to bear this out - the top 20 US programs enjoyed a 13% increase in applications last year and European schools are also reporting big increases. Students are looking to ride out a period of economic and employment uncertainty and equip themselves for what many fear will be an even more competitive job market as the financial repercussions of the pandemic make themselves felt. With many schools offering to waive GMAT or GRE requirements during this time, some students are also seeing this as an opportunity to target a top school without having to push for a top test score, although for many this benefit is likely to be cancelled out by the increasingly competitive applicant pool.
However - many are also asking ‘why do an MBA now?’ when many classes are still being taught (at least partially) online, field trips and overseas excursions are off the table, and, for international students, relocation and travel are complicated even further by the pandemic?
Whilst many schools have yet to finalise their plans for students joining in September 2021, hybrid or blended learning appears to be the watchword of the moment. It seems that many MBA students can expect a mix of online lectures and face-to-face small group teaching. Given the importance of networking for MBAs it is to be hoped that schools will bring back in-person events as soon as possible, but may well find themselves hampered by local or national restrictions, particularly in the northern hemisphere as autumn/winter approaches.
Answering the question ‘why do an MBA now’ has never been harder for prospective students and many will have a tough decision to make - as will the schools themselves, who need to find ways to attract and accommodate MBA students whilst also keeping them safe.