The Impact of COVID-19 on MBA Admissions


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MBA applicants are facing a unique admissions season for 2020-2021. A ‘typical’ admission season would provide numerous opportunities to meet with school representatives in person. Campus tour guides would be warm and welcoming, showing off brand new campus improvements and escorting applicants to classrooms for lively discussions. Even the GRE or GMAT would be better—marking answers in the controlled environments of test-taking centers. However, the impact of COVID-19 on MBA admissions is impacting everything.

However, this year’s admissions season will look much different. As an applicant, it is important to keep this in mind and adapt to the new circumstances—a skill that will be transferrable to your post-MBA life as well. On a positive note, according to co-founder, Eliot Ingram, “COVID19 led to some big adjustments for both business schools and applicants this past spring and summer.  The good news is that applicants who apply this fall won’t start school until the fall of 2021 and schools are likely to have made great strides in restoring the traditional in person experience by then.”

To help you prepare for this unique admissions season, MetroMBA has compiled common trends among business schools, how schools are handling the impact of COVID-19 on their admissions process, and a few tips on adapting to this new experience for both schools and applicants.

Common Changes Programs are Making Due to COVID-19’s Impact on MBA Admissions

2019-2020 Deferrals and 2020-2021 Deadlines

COVID-19’s impact on admissions began earlier this year, as many schools extended their Round 3 (or later) deadlines through the late spring and early summer. Many programs held out hope that in-person, on-campus classes could resume by the fall of 2020, but the pandemic continues to keep campuses closed.  For new b-school admits to the Class of 2022, the prospect of first-year classes being held virtually was not ideal. In response to this complication, many business schools offered candidates the option to defer for a year. Although data is not yet available on how this will impact future acceptance rates, keep in mind that a percentage of each school’s Class of 2023 will be deferred students.

As you enter this year’s admissions cycle, it is important to keep in mind that many schools have kept their deadlines consistent from previous years. Clear Admit, the leading independent resource for top-tier MBA applicants, has in-depth information on what round it is best to apply to business school.

Delayed Submission for GMAT/GRE and More Test Options Available

Two major changes to this year’s admissions season are the ability to submit your GMAT or GRE score later than a typical deadline. Schools have also expanded the entrance exams they accept, such as the Executive Assessment (EA), LSAT or MCAT, for admission.

So, what does that mean for an applicant?

Well, first off, it is important to prepare for the GMAT or GRE as early as possible to give yourself the best chance to score high. Your test score is only one component of the overall admissions process; however, it is a very important metric as admissions teams review your full application. The second thing to consider is what test format allows you to be the most successful. The decision to allow exams used by med school and law school applicants was made due to the continued difficulty of taking the GRE or GMAT in a test center, many of which remain closed.

At-home Version of GRE, GMAT and EA More Widely Accepted

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which owns the GRE, and Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), which owns the GMAT and EA, have adapted to the COVID-19 crisis by offering applicants an at-home version of their respective tests. For example, GMAC has decided to make its at-home online version of the GMAT exam available through the end of 2020. It’s the third time that GMAC has extended the deadline for what was initially billed as a temporary interim solution when it was launched back on April 20th when most test centers closed due to the pandemic.

Virtual Events Have Become the Norm

Even if you think you’ve been on too many Zoom meetings or watched too many virtual information sessions, get ready—it’s going to be the new norm for this year’s admissions season. The majority of schools have moved all of their events to virtual formats, including recruiting events, interviews and campus visits. We encourage applicants to attend as many virtual events as possible as they prepare their application. There are many resources available, including the Clear Admit Applicant Insight Workshop Series, which provides applicants specific information on a school’s essay topic and provides in-depth information on the student experience. The event series includes participation from the Wharton School of Business, Yale SOM, Fuqua School of Business, MIT and more. The first two events will be held on September 2nd at 12:00 EST and September 16th at 12:00 EST.

From the schools…

“At Santa Clara’s Leavey School of Business, we have pivoted quickly to online offerings. All of our events are now online and we are seeing more students attend these engaging sessions over Zoom. Prospective students are also able to connect with a current student online as well. Overall, we have seen a strong demand in most of our programs this fall and applications are up by 50%! My advice to students is to apply early and connect with the admission offices of the schools you are applying to sooner, as I believe there will be more competition for many programs in the fall of 2021.”

“At Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, we actually saw a major increase in MBA applicants. I think there are two main reasons for that. First, we have robust plans in place in a time of COVID-19 for additional support for students who are on campus and those who elect to follow along remotely. We were quick to communicate that support and ensure that our students continue to be safe and healthy. Our faculty have a lot of experience in online teaching and so we were able to smoothly adjust and maintain high quality instruction, regardless of modality. Second, students increasingly saw the value of a Whitman education. We inspire students for a world of accelerating change, and our curriculum and programming support just that. Our alumni and corporate partners really helped with this, too. We’re on the right track and students recognized that.”

Quick View: 5 Tips for Preparing for MBA Admissions Impacted by COVID-19

  1. Research deadlines and when to apply
  2. Prepare for virtual interviews and recruiting events
  3. Review test options accepted at each school
  4. Stay connected with top school via recruiting events and information sessions
  5. Relax, breathe and enjoy the journey!

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About the Author

Ryan Nemetz

Ryan is the Director of Client Services at MetroMBA and Clear Admit. He has over six years of experience in higher education including his current role and serving as a college basketball coach at Eastern University for four years.

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