A Graduate Business Degree During COVID-19?

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COVID-19 has changed everyone’s plans. While back in January you may have felt certain about the 2020 goals you set for yourself, odds are that now COVID has you rethinking everything—from that big purchase you were planning to make to that vacation you had planned.

For many prospective MBA students, the question has become, “Should I apply to business school during COVID-19?” If this sounds like you, rest assured that you’re not alone. While we can’t make the call for you, we can help guide you to the decision that makes the most sense for you by raising the most important questions you should be considering.

Below are some of the most important things to think about when making your decision to continue or delay your business school plans:

1. What skills will I need in a post-COVID world?

When advising prospective students about pursuing or delaying their b-school plans, leading experts encourage them to consider their individual circumstances and preferences. Specifically, you should think about your current career trajectory. If you just finished your undergraduate degree, did you major or have internship experiences in an industry that will still be relevant post-COVID? The unsettling truth is that several industries may take decades to fully recover from the economic downturn or may even become completely obsolete.

While this can be a frightening thought, don’t let it scare you. Instead let it motivate you to future-proof yourself by upskilling in areas that you know will be relevant in the next five to 10 years.

Learn more about which skills employers will want in a post-COVID world.

Business schools are rapidly adapting their research and overhauling their curricula to meet the demand for the skills and insights that the post-COVID world will require.

For example, Wharton Business School professor Mauro Guillén launched a course in March about the impact on business of coronavirus, structured around interviews with nearly 50 alumni in senior positions. Professor Guillén plans to teach a course this fall on different companies’ strategies for coping with the financial impact of the pandemic. Wharton is not an anomaly here—business schools around the country are working to restructure their curricula.

Learn how universities have overhauled their curricula to equip students with new, in-demand skill sets.

2. What are other prospective students doing?

While you shouldn’t base your decision on others’ behavior, it can certainly be helpful to look at what people in similar positions are doing. Despite the fact that thousands of prospective students have been faced with the tough decision of whether or not to keep their business school plans on track, the majority have remained resolute in their plans to pursue business school.

Part of the reason that many prospective students have decided not to delay their plans is because of growing confidence in the quality of virtual education. When business schools across the United States (and the rest of the world) were suddenly thrust into a pandemic, they had no choice but to adapt quickly and to pour their resources into their online offerings.

In fact, most experts agree that by the Fall 2020 semester, virtual learning will already have vastly improved due to universities’ heavy investments in faculty training and improved technology.

3. How schools and companies are adapting to deliver content virtually

If you had plans to pursue an in-person, full-time MBA program, think about whether an online program would be a viable option for you. One of the primary benefits of virtual programs is the flexible nature of their coursework. They are easily altered to be relevant to the current economic and business environment.

Are there any downsides to pursuing an online program amidst COVID? Many students are concerned that employers don’t regard online MBA programs as highly as traditional, on-campus programs. COVID has accelerated the trend away from this out-of-date thinking. Plus, even before COVID, most employers agreed that if the program itself is of high quality it shouldn’t be a deterrent that the degree was earned online. As long as the business school is reputable, has a physical campus, and is accredited through a major accrediting body, employers are more interested in how you can bring value to their company than they are with the method in which you completed your MBA.

In sum, there is no denying that making any kind of plan during COVID-19 is difficult, let alone a plan as significant as pursuing or delaying your graduate business education. However, thinking about the skills you will want in a post-COVID world and looking at what other students in similar positions are doing will get you one step closer to making a decision that is right for you.

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