Survey: Business School Candidates Resolute in Their Goals Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Though some may delay their plans, very few prospective students say they’re thinking of abandoning their pursuit of an MBA or business master’s degree.
The coronavirus pandemic is impacting peoples’ choices across all aspects of their lives, including their decisions around education. To understand how prospective students like you are feeling in this new environment, we fielded a survey to better understand the views of mba.com registrants on COVID-19 and its impacts on their pursuit of graduate business education.
What the results show is that current prospective students are not backing down from their goal of earning a graduate degree. Among the nearly 500 survey responses received in the month of March, just 5 percent say they may abandon their pursuit of a graduate business degree as a result of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
While most current applicants are holding fast to their business school goals and planned timeline, about 1 in 3 are considering delaying their plans (29%). Among them, most plan to delay a year or less (65%) and 22 percent are not sure how long they’ll delay.
The impact of coronavirus is increasing
Comparing survey responses from the first half of the month to the second half of the month reveals how attitudes shifted as coronavirus continued its spread and expanded its impact.
Among the entire sample of March survey responses, most say COVID-19 had little or no impact so far on their pursuit of graduate business school (67%). However, those who responded in the second half of the month were much more likely to say they’ve been impacted a lot or a great deal (22%) compared with those who responded in the first half of the month (8%).
Similarly, between the first and second halves of the month prospective students became much more likely to say that they are thinking of delaying their plans (17% vs. 44%); notably, prospective students became only slightly more likely to express plans to abandon their business school plans altogether (3% vs. 8%).
Travel bans and school closures are most concerning
Overall, prospective students’ level of concern about their future pursuit of graduate business school increased over the month of March. More than a third of those who responded in the second half of March say they are very or extremely concerned (35%) compared with 13 percent in the first half.
The most common areas of concern are travel bans (31%) and school closures (29%), followed by their study destination being highly affected (25%) and the status of the job market (22%). Between the first and second halves of the month, concerns grew—primarily around study destinations being highly affected (up to 41% from 12%), school closures (up to 45% from 17%), and the status of the job market (up to 33% from 13%).
International candidates are feeling the strongest impact
Prospective students who hope to become international students (their preferred study destination is not their country of citizenship) are less likely to say their pursuit of graduate business school has not been impacted by coronavirus compared with domestic prospective students (39% vs. 60%). Sixteen percent of aspiring international students say they’ve been impacted a lot or a great deal, compared with 11 percent of domestic candidates.
Residents of East and Southeast Asia who hope to study internationally—who have had to live with COVID-19 and its affects for the longest—are the most likely to say it has impacted them a lot or a great deal (28%).
International prospective students are more likely to be considering delaying their plans than domestic candidates (35% vs. 23%); however, just 13 percent plan to apply to schools in different geographic regions as a result of coronavirus. Two in three domestic candidates say that their plans are totally unchanged (64%), compared with 46 percent of international candidates. International candidates are more concerned about their study destination being highly affected (33% vs. 15%), completing visa applications or requirements (21% vs. 5%), and travel bans (38% vs. 24%).
About the survey
Collected between March 4 and 31, this analysis is based on a total sample of 482 global survey respondents, composed mostly of mba.com registrants who are actively applying (29%)—most of whom have already taken the GMAT™ exam--and candidates who are currently researching programs (41%)—most of whom are planning to take the exam.
Did you know that an interim GMAT Online exam has been developed to help you meet upcoming application deadlines? Read more in our article about the six things you need to know about the online test.