How Will the Coronavirus Affect International Applicants?

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Apr 13, 2020



Over the last few weeks, we've fielded many questions on how might the coronavirus affect international applicants. Primarily, admitted candidates fear they won't be able to secure visas due to the COVID-19 crisis. But prospective MBA applicants also worry that their chances of admission will shrink because of the ongoing pandemic.

Those are both valid concerns. To clarify the situation, we'd like to share our perspective based on conversations the former admissions officers on our team have had with several top-tier MBA programs.

As of now, we don't expect any schools to delay the start of their semesters. Current wisdom indicates that the situation in the U.S. and worldwide should improve by mid- to late summer. If that holds, we would expect consulates to resume visa interviews.

Here are two constants to remember. Elite business schools will continue to admit the candidates they feel are the best fit for their programs. Secondly, schools always admit more applicants than they know will attend. In this current scenario, many schools might consider accepting slightly more people than usual to hedge against any yield fallout.

Harvard Business School MBA Admissions Director Chad Losee recently shared that this year's unprecedented circumstances have also prompted the school to maintain a larger waitlist than usual.

However, we don't think any MBA program will start basing admission decisions on the progression of the pandemic. This much we've heard directly from MBA admissions representatives.

Worst-case scenario, programs could allow admits to defer until fall 2021 if they can't get their visa for fall 2020. The bottom line: candidates should keep their focus on presenting a robust application---the rest is just noise and distraction.

How will test center closures affect MBA applicants?

We've seen a raft of Round 3 updates from MBA programs, and the majority focus on providing flexibility for submitting test scores. If you haven't yet taken take the exam, we encourage you to monitor the updates issued from GMAC. We know that GMAC has started to explore online alternatives for assessment delivery in affected regions. They aim to have that available mid-April or sooner.

GMAC says it plans to offer this interim solution at a lower cost than the standard GMAT exam to support test takers and schools during this difficult time.

As we've noted, many top programs have extended deadlines and moved to review applications without a test score temporarily. But none have yet waived the requirement altogether. Therefore, candidates should still expect to provide a valid test score to enroll in the fall if admitted.

Will the coronavirus affect international applicants' appeal?

Schools remain very interested in international candidates, for the same reasons as always. They want to make every effort to enroll as diverse and qualified a class as possible for fall 2021.

Programs will turn to virtual recruiting options during this disruptive period, and their immigration offices are also monitoring the situation and continuing to assist incoming students. They have all risen to the occasion, and institution by institution, will make every effort to get students to campus for the fall.

No one has a crystal ball right now to predict the impact on class yield, or the full extent of how might the coronavirus affect international MBA applicants. There will be variability across programs. U.S. programs have issued statements to candidates to explain the next steps. Also, they are making every effort to reassure candidates that their processes for evaluation, interviews, and decisions will continue undeterred. Thanks to technology, this is possible.

For now, each MBA candidate needs to stay abreast of what is happening in their region and at their consulate. Vigilance and proactiveness remain important for this crisis, as for any business challenge.

Being an MBA student means committing to finding creative solutions to pressing problems. So candidates should step back, take a deep breath, shift perspective, and approach this as another challenge to overcome to achieve their goals.