Live Updates: Coronavirus Impact On Business Schools

What is the impact of coronavirus on business schools? We bring you the latest updates including campus closures, changes to MBA admission requirements, and more


Latest features:

MBA Hiring Set To Rebound In 2021 After COVID-19 Dip

Employers expressed optimism that MBA hiring will rebound in 2021 to pre-COVID-19 levels after a dip during the pandemic. That’s according to the 2020 Corporate Recruiters Survey published by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

Before the pandemic, 92% of firms surveyed said they planned to hire MBA graduates in 2020. That figure then dropped to 77% among employers surveyed amid the global health crisis. But when GMAC asked employers about their hiring plans for 2021, nearly 90% responded by saying they plan to hire MBA graduates next year. 

The optimism expressed by employers comes despite the uncertainty and economic retraction that has gripped the global economy since March 2020. The report was nearing conclusion in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding. 

GMAC initiated additional data collection that gives a clearer picture of the economic impacts the pandemic has had and will have across MBA hiring and salary trends

The confidence employers have in the skills and abilities of graduate management talent indicates the roll business school graduates will play in the post-pandemic economic recovery. 

Jay Nibbe on the value of MBA talent to organizations today

MBA skills still attractive to employers

Before COVID-19, 90% of respondents indicated they were highly confident or confident about the ability of business schools to prepare students for success in their organization. That figure held steady at 87% in surveying performed this summer, highlighting the attractiveness of MBA degree holders and their ability to perform in times of transition and change. 

Recruiters indicated strategic thinking, communication skills, and versatility as the skills they’re most confident in when it comes to a business school’s ability to prepare graduates for success in the workforce. These skills hold steady across the entire report. 

One of the more noteworthy shifts when examining skills demand is the ability to navigate the challenges of technological disruption, which was identified by more than two-thirds of employers who responded as becoming more important as a result of COVID-19, followed by strong communication skills.

“Talent in an organization is vital to growth and a firm’s ability to innovate, a reality in any environment,” said Jay Nibbe, GMAC board member and Global Vice Chair for Markets at EY. 

“The skills highlighted in this report represent significant competitive differentiation when it comes to a company’s ability to compete and create value in the marketplace, and they become even more important amid turmoil and constant change.”


Rahul Choudaha, director of industry insights at GMAC, pointed out that the research in the report shows that as the pandemic resets the global economy and job market, corporate recruiter confidence in the skills and abilities of graduate management talent remains strong. 

“This aligns with 2021’s robust MBA hiring projections as organizations plan for their recovery in a post-COVID world which demands meta-skills integral to managerial talents such as versatility and strategic thinking,” he said.

GMAC’s president and CEO, Sangeet Chowfla, added: “When thinking about the skills and experience required to help organizations and industries rebuild after an event like COVID-19, it makes sense that employers are expressing a desire to hire more MBA and business master’s graduates.

“The world was changing rapidly even before the current pandemic and while COVID-19 has brought with it perhaps unprecedented challenges across every sector, b-school classrooms have long been preparing MBA students for a dynamic and often uncertain environment. Employers place a premium on that kind of talent and perspective.” 

how many employers plan to hire MBA talent in 2021

MBA salaries remain strong despite economic uncertainty

Compensation for MBA graduates is a key pull of the degree, and the 2020 Corporate Recruiters Survey showed for the class of 2020 salaries will remain strong. 

Most recruiters expressed intent to honor their organization’s compensation promises, with a minority of respondents saying they will reduce salaries, benefits, or bonuses. 

The compensation premium commanded by business management graduates is also holding steady. 

At $115,000, the median salary of MBA degree-holders is 75% more than those with a bachelor’s degree in pre-COVID sampling. That figure decreased slightly to $105,000 in post-COVID surveying. 

The compensation premium is even more apparent for Fortune 100 companies and the big-three industries of hire for MBA graduates—consulting, finance, and technology. At $145,000, the median salary of MBA’s in the consulting industry is twice that of bachelor’s degree holders as indicated in data collected prior to March 17th. 

With it looking less likely that MBA salaries will soften amid the COVID-19 environment and employers intending to hire MBA talent at the rate they did pre-pandemic in 2021, the value of graduate management talent will remain despite the economic uncertainty prevalent since March. In an uncertain world organizations need talent, and that’s a good sign for the business school class entering in 2020.

NEXT READ: MBA Resume | 5 Skills Employers Are Looking For

I Took The GMAT Online Exam And Got Into Imperial College Business School

With many GMAT test centers still closed by coronavirus, the GMAT Online Exam is helping business school candidates complete their applications during the pandemic.

Naomi O’Donnell has always wanted to study an advanced management degree to kick-start a career in consulting. She wants to work in the luxury and fashion department of a Big 3 consulting company like McKinsey, or as an internal consultant for historic luxury firms like LVMH and Richemont.

With previous experience in marketing and fashion, and a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Lausanne, the Master in International Management program at Imperial College Business School seemed like the perfect fit.

To apply, Naomi took the GMAT—the world’s leading business school admission test—in a test center, but she wasn’t happy with her score. Then, her native Switzerland entered coronavirus lockdown. It was only by retaking the GMAT online that Naomi was able to land a place at her top choice business school.

BusinessBecause caught up with Naomi to find out more about her online test-taking experience.

Why did you decide to take the GMAT Online Exam?

By March 2020, everything was closed in Switzerland [due to COVID-19], including GMAT test centers. As the months passed, taking the exam online started to seem like my only option if I wanted to go to school in September.

Do you think your school prefers the test center GMAT vs the GMAT Online Exam?

No. Imperial informed me about the online version when it came out and suggested the idea.

gmat online exam stats

Do you feel your GMAT score was reflective of your abilities?

I did as I would have expected on the mathematical segment, but I do not believe my English capabilities were reflected in my score.

I took the test in the middle of the day, thinking that it would be sunny all day so I did not have to turn on the lights. After the math half of my exam was done, it became completely dark and cloudy, resulting in me doing the English part in almost total darkness because I was not allowed to leave my desk to turn on the lights. Reading long texts on a computer screen in the dark was very tiring and I believe that I did not perform as well as I would have wanted due to that. 

What advice do you have for anyone taking the GMAT Online Exam?

Turn on the lights before the exam! Jokes aside, first of all you need to do a few checks regarding your internet speed, sound, and video quality. On the day of the exam, they ask you to take pictures of your desk from every angle and also of your surroundings. They told me to unplug my printer for some reason as well.

The one thing that really surprised me was that there is an actual person looking at you live during your exam. I thought it was going to be a recorded video and someone would review it afterwards but this was not the case. It was bizarre to think that a person was staring at me for the whole time!

My tip would be to really know all of your GMAT strategies by heart and don’t rely on the whiteboard

Note: The GMAT Online Exam now allows a physical whiteboard option.

Why did you decide to pursue the Master in International Management at Imperial?

The key factor for me was that the program incorporates two-to-three consultancy experiences in global settings. This is such a crucial element for me as I do not have any experience in consulting. The program gives me the opportunity to develop both my academic skills and practical professional skills, and aligns well with my future career plans.

DOWNLOAD our MBA Application Guide 2020-21 

7 Myths About Applying To Business School During COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 on the business school application process affects us all differently. To get a sense of the implications, you need to work out how they impact your application. Sweeping generalizations won’t help you to weigh up the value proposition of business school. 

In our BusinessBecause MBA Application Guide 2020-21, we explain how COVID-19 could make applying for business school more competitive this cycle. We also list the latest MBA application deadlines to help you plan your business school application for a 2021 start.

With coronavirus, applying to business school is a little different. If you’re considering an MBA or master’s program, you should be aware of some of the most common misconceptions candidates have about applying to business school right now:

Applying to business school during COVID-19 | 7 Myths

Myth 1: The process is less competitive

While there are probably fewer international students applying right now, due in part to issues with visas, business school applications tend to be counter-cyclical to the economy. When people are losing their jobs, or need to upskill to be more competitive, business school applications rise. 

The competitiveness of your application may be affected by different factors based on your specific circumstances, so there is no blanket rule when it comes to how competitive you will be compared to your peers.  

Myth 2: The value proposition of the MBA has changed

The value of your MBA plays out over your whole career. It is an investment in the long-term. While graduating into a recession can certainly affect your first job after graduation, the return on investment is about more than your first job. 

An MBA could still be a boon to your longer-term career trajectory. Business school can still create opportunities that you would not otherwise have access to. Think about whether this is the right time for you, and what goals you wanted to achieve in the first place.

Myth 3: Video interviews are fundamentally different

The qualities admissions officers are looking for in candidates have not changed. There are obviously some extra aspects you’ll need to think about (such as the technology, background and lighting), but you should prepare for video interviews in the same way you’d prepare for in-person interviews. You should make sure you that you have done your research, practiced the interview with someone you trust, and thought through different questions. 

Myth 4: Scholarships are off the table

Scholarships may be more competitive now as applicants’ finances take a hit. Companies may also be more reluctant to sponsor an applicant’s studies. But scholarships are not off the table. There are still funds available for competitive candidates.

Myth 5: Taking the online GMAT is better or worse than taking the GMAT at a test center

You should take the GMAT when you are ready—whether that means taking the GMAT Online Exam or the in-person test. A test-taker’s readiness is a bigger factor than the small differences between the test-taking experiences. 

gmat online exam facts

Myth 6: There is no point getting an MBA in this jobs market

There’s no doubt the MBA jobs market is tougher, but an MBA might be even more valuable in setting yourself apart from your peers and figuring out how to navigate the new world of work. 

If your industry is hard-hit or if you have lost your job, it might make sense to sit out the recession in business school. You’ll get the connections, skills and ability to pivot that could make all the difference to help you retool, reposition and reset. 

Myth 7: It’s impossible to choose a business school without campus visits

As many international students will know, visiting a business school is not the only way to understand its culture. In fact, a lack of opportunities to visit campus has leveled the playing field. You’ll need to engage more online and do more online networking with students and alumni to do your research, and to determine if a school is the right fit.

DOWNLOAD our MBA Application Guide 2020-21 

COVID-19 Didn’t Stop This MBA Landing A Top Consulting Job At Deloitte

When International MBA students at Emlyon Business School switched to studying online after France’s coronavirus outbreak, Abram Stewart (pictured) used the opportunity to strengthen his network and land a new job. 

Before Emlyon, he worked as a product manager for investment strategies at Charles Schwab Investment Management. He was secure in his role, but he wanted a business education that would give him wider career options.  

He’s now a senior consultant in the investment management division of Deloitte Luxembourg, and says he’s in a strong position to add more variety to his career. “Before leaving for business school, I thought to myself: When was the last time you took a risk?” he says. 

The risk paid off. With his MBA, Abram is already reaping the benefits––and the global pandemic didn’t get in the way of him realizing his career ambitions.  

Being an MBA student during the pandemic 

After working in the US, Abram welcomed the opportunity to move to France and enroll at a top business school to broaden his skill set and access the European job market.   

“For me, business school has given me the opportunity to embark on a journey to live and work abroad––an opportunity I hadn’t had at my previous role due to their focus on the domestic US market,” Abram says.   

Emlyon appealed to him because of its internationally diverse cohort, the focus on entrepreneurship, and the flexibility of elective courses, Abram explains. The price point––with an MBA at Emlyon costing a quarter of the average price of American MBA courses––added some incentive, too. 

“On a personal note, my wife is French and we had always wanted to return to Europe before our son was in school and we owned a house––things that would make moving more difficult in the future,” Abram explains. “So, with three suitcases (and the cat), we shipped out to Lyon! 

With a young child at home, Abram has enjoyed the increased flexibility online learning has allowed thanks to coronavirus. He was able to fit his study around raising his child. 

 Abram enjoyed exploring France throughout his time at Emlyon Business School

“My professors understood these are unprecedented times and accommodations needed to be made,” he says. “Besides acquiring the ability to use a wide array of video conferencing software, the biggest skills I’ve carried with me into the workplace from this period is how to stay proactive and relevant.” 

Abram says that he now has an increased understanding and appreciation for the value cultural diversity adds to the workplace. 

Online networking with Deloitte 

Being proactive is a key skill in consulting, and online networking helped him find his current job, he adds. “I don’t expect jobs to find me, so I diligently built my internal network to get visibility.” 

Abram reached out to contacts he’d made at an Emlyon careers fair late last year, and stayed in contact with them throughout the pandemic.  

“All MBA candidates must understand that the job search is a long and involved processes,” he points out. “My position at Deloitte is the result of eight months of diligent networking.” 

It took time to find the right role for him. He admits to dozens of leads he chased as he finished off his MBA qualification. Although these ended in disappointment, his applications grew stronger each time.  

“I spoke with Deloitte at the first banking and consulting mini job fair in October 2019 at Emlyon. There, I made a personal connection with one of the reps over their favorite pizza in NYC.” 

This innocuous meeting led to them staying in contact, giving Abram insight into the inner workings of the organization––such as nuances in office environments, and potential areas for growth in the company, he explains.  

At Emlyon, Abram got the international and cultural experience he was after

Landing a post-MBA job 

Over the ensuing months, Abram signed up for multiple mock interviews with different consulting companies, and made sure to attend roundtables and presentations (delivered in both English and French) which were hosted through Emlyon.  

“This preparation allowed me to speak knowledgeably and confidently about the industry during the formal interview process,” he says.  

His contact at Deloitte was happy to write a referral for him, and that ultimately led to Abram clinching the role in time for his graduation from Emlyon 

Emlyon was instrumental in both having a close partnership with Deloitte for students like me to gain visibility with them and for providing informal seminars which give us first hand perspectives from industry practitioners,” he says. 

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