Between 2018 and 2019 there were 833,706 master’s degrees conferred in the United States, according to NCES data.* Of those, nearly 200,000 were in business. While there are many Master of Business degrees that one can pursue, the MBA continues to remain the most popular despite the continuous shift in admissions.
Historically, when the economy is down, graduate applications go up. People may be out of work or furloughed, so they think that going back to school will ensure they’re more competitive when job hunting after the economy rights itself, as it cyclically does.
The MBA application market is no different, experiencing fluctuations that often correspond with the state of the economy. As of 2019, MBA applications to the top 10 business schools were down by about 3,400, a trend that had been plaguing business schools for the past few years. However, the 2020–21 admissions cycle is shaping up to be the bump the business schools were hoping for.
While there are a variety of reasons for this uptick, the role of the pandemic is front and center as people may be heading back to business school over economic uncertainty and an unpredictable job market. Another reason for the increase is the number of previously accepted students who had to defer enrollment because of travel restrictions both here and abroad. Student visa restrictions and immigration bias also seem to have eased, increasing the number of international applications to domestic business schools.
COVID-19 concerns seem to be waning as on-campus learning has opened back up, but many students are increasingly looking to participate in online or hybrid learning programs. Continued concerns around COVID-19 as well as a decrease in potential students’ ability to leave employment for full-time programs have, in part, fueled this trend.
Business schools that adopted more flexible application submissions and deadlines are honoring those as students continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic, but that won’t last forever as application numbers increase and competition becomes stiffer.
All of this is creating one of the largest and most competitive MBA application pools in years.
Get your ducks in a row and submit an application worthy of acceptance. Beware of rankings alone and search for schools that have the qualities that work for you and your situation. Creating a timeline can help you organize tasks. This includes when to take your standardized tests (an important factor of admission even if you’re applying to a test-optional school), get transcripts, ask for letters of recommendation and write your personal statement.
The pandemic changed the business landscape dramatically and perhaps permanently. As MBA programs adapt their curricula to navigate this new environment, it may behoove you to pursue this educational and professional goal so that you gain the knowledge and skills to remain viable in your field of study.
* National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_323.10.asp