Prospective MBA Candidates scramble in midst of unprecedented 2020 MBA Admissions Cycle

Prospective MBA Candidates scramble in midst of unprecedented 2020 MBA Admissions Cycle

COVID-19 changed the way we see the World in so many ways, and Business Schools were not left unscathed. While the Round 1 Cycle back in 2019 might have seemed unremarkable in many ways, as schools continued to deal with the decline in applications received ever since the start of the Trump administration – which has been a hindrance to international applicants with its restrictive immigration policy, Round 2 applicants have definitely found themselves involved in a bumpier ride.

Stanford GSB MBA applicants were faced with the R2 interviews taking place at the starting days of the COVID crisis in the U.S, and it was already well underway in Europe. The travel bans imposed and escalating situation especially in California called for a lockdown on Campus, and a large number of the interviews had to be moved to an online format. MBA House candidates for that round were lucky enough to still be able to interview with Stanford MBA alumni in person – but the same cannot be said about many prospective candidates.

And even R2 candidates that had already heard back from schools, and therefore seemed to have their next moves pretty much set out in terms of where they would be studying come Fall 2020, were also in for a surprise. One MBA House candidate, already admitted to MIT and denied to Harvard, received a call saying that the Admissions Committee had decided to review their previous decision and that he would now be waitlisted – yes – waitlisted after being denied a spot – at Harvard.

While we still await the next chapters of this particular saga, both examples at the very best programs in the World shed a light at the unprecedented and hence unpredictable situation prospective MBA candidates are facing at the moment. While schools are scrambling to “keep” accepted students for the Fall 2020 start, some, especially international candidates may face serious complications in terms of actually securing a visa to attend the program. Added to that, schools do not have a clear answer as of when and how Fall 2020 will be conducted, if in-person (with or without social distancing) or online, so many admitted candidates, as well as second year students, feel a little cheated with their MBA experience. For such reasons, MBA programs are expecting a greater number of accepted candidates to not move forward with their enrollment, making the MBA waitlist – once the sad place you did not want to be because it was so close but just not enough to make it – a more optimistic place right now.

Vivianne Wright
MBA House Admissions Director
vivianne@harvard.alumni.edu

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