Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound MBA.

Why Spring 2021 May Be the Best Time to Apply for Business School

Nathan Wilgeroth / Abound: MBA »

The COVID-19 pandemic’s hit to the economy could cause you to think in circles as you consider your plans for the future, especially if you are considering going back to school for an MBA. On one hand, the benefits of grad school span across the professional and personal realms. The U.S. has already shown an accelerating trend of favoring job candidates with master’s degrees, with 33% of employers pre-pandemic looking for workers with master’s degrees for positions that previously required four-year bachelor’s degrees. And regardless of these tightening requirements, master’s degrees have higher earning potential. Across all fields of business, a Master of Business Administration can be a huge factor that can help you maintain your current job, land a new job, or receive a promotion and/or raise. Of course you’d want to be able to secure a well-paying job in such a competitive market!

On the other hand, you can’t ignore the issue of higher ed’s upfront cost and all the usual reservations that may have kept you from applying in the first place, pandemic or not. Whether you’ve been considering an MBA for a few weeks or a few years, perhaps this little secret might help you bite the bullet and apply: the 2021 spring semester may be the best time to apply for business school!

Since COVID-19, applications to business school have plummeted.

Fall of 2020 saw a large drop in MBA applications and admission. Some applicants pulled their application at the last minute, and some decided to defer their admission to a later date. There are plenty of reasons why this might be the case: they were too nervous to leave/draw their attention away from their current employment, their economic situation changed and made them unable to afford it, or they had to commit more time to childcare and whatever other priorities shifted during quarantine. What’s more, international students are unlikely able to enter the country easily, let alone enroll in an MBA program. This trend is sure to continue through the spring as vaccines remain in short supply, so the pool of competition has gotten much smaller. 

With less competition, your chances of admission—and, potentially, the size of your financial aid package—increase significantly. But this dip in enrollment might be fairly short lived; some admissions experts believe that applications will see a small yet notable spike in applications in the fall of 2021, similar to the trend that followed the Great Recession in 2008. That doesn’t mean you can slack off and submit a rushed application before the fall; there are always going to be strong candidates in line for a spot. Nevertheless, it’s helpful to know that many schools are eager for students to enroll. You’re in demand, so take advantage!

Traditionally reputable business schools have more delivery options for the extended future

Just a few years ago, online education was met with speculation, and late-night, low-quality TV commercials for for-profit schools became the butt of many jokes. But all of that has changed! Though they were already growing in popularity, online and other flexible course formats are now no less than necessities at nearly all institutions. The most well-known, highly celebrated schools have put lots of effort into designing fully online and hybrid formats to suit non-traditional learning styles. And since the pandemic hit last year, all that work is paying off much more than anyone could have expected. 

Online courses at these accredited, not-for-profit colleges and universities are high quality, engaging, and designed with students’ busy schedules in mind. Especially if you have kids quarantine with you, these flexible delivery options are great opportunities for you to get a high-quality education without the commute. Online and hybrid learning aren’t going anywhere, so your options for grad school can now span all across the country.

More flexibility around the application system

Even the most cutthroat business schools have adjusted their application requirements in consideration of COVID-19. Test score and general application deadlines, for instance, have been extended so that applicants can obtain their necessary documentation and take their exams during a time when the pipeline has slowed. In fact, some schools have switched to a test-optional admissions policy in which applicants can choose whether they want to submit their test scores. This option is great for those who don’t feel that their scores reflect their abilities as well as those who may have had trouble scheduling a time to take an exam at all. 

Other schools have begun accepting scores from the “GRE at Home” and “GMAT Online” in consideration of safety during the pandemic. Every school has adjusted their policies differently, so make sure to check with the admissions office of every school you’re considering to know what they are expecting from your application. No matter what, it’s likely that you have the wiggle room to stand out as an applicant even if COVID-19 has impeded your application process.

Thinking ahead to 2022

Though the pandemic is far from over, we know that the vaccines will eventually get into people’s arms and the economy will get back to a healthier place. Think of how much further ahead you’ll be with an MBA once things get moving again! Pre-pandemic, we already knew the myriad ways that an MBA can help increase your job prospects, earning potential, and network connections. Now, after the unexpected challenges that businesses all over the world have had to face, business savvy and quick thinking are going to be a top priority of employers from here on out. Who knows what the next decade will bring? Employers will want candidates who have the training of an MBA program to show their ability to think critically, handle rigorous workloads, and adapt to whatever curveballs are thrown at them. 

While the economy is at this lull, you can load up on business sense and engaging experiences that will make you all the more competitive for the jobs that will be available in the future. MBA costs might be intimidating, but there are near guarantees that the return on your investment will be exponential. 

Which school is right for you?

At Abound: MBA, we have always stressed that the best program is the one that fits your goals and lifestyle. That’s why we have thoroughly vetted and hand-selected schools that we found to be Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. As these schools continue to adapt to the effects of COVID-19, your options are broader than you might expect, and your potential to flourish in the future is strongest right at this moment. Take a look at the schools we trust and find the program that works for you.

Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound MBA.