COVID-19 has disrupted essentially every aspect of our lives, so it is inevitable that your MBA studies or application process will be affected as well. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, people are posting their “Goodbye Harvard/GSB/etc.” photos much earlier this year. Online classes are to be expected in the immediate future and graduations canceled. That’s extremely disappointing for people who have worked so hard to reach this amazing milestone. The good news is that they WILL graduate and will get all their coursework in. Their educations will be slightly different, but not diminished. Only the celebration is truly impacted. And most of our clients are taking it quite well, focusing on the positive of an amazing 2 years and amazing career ahead.
For those of you just accepted, things are less clear. I was asked today if this would impact the student visa process. This is highly doubtful, at least in any major way. The only thing you should expect are delays. Government shutdowns will slow down the process, but you will still get your student visa and get to go to school as planned. Programs that start early (e.g. Kellogg 1-year) will be more rushed, but you should be okay. Just work with the school and the embassy to get things done.
Round 3 is rarely an option for foreign applicants, so I wouldn’t expect many of you to be in that pool (our clients almost never are, because we strongly advise against it). And the visa timeline is one reason most schools recommend/require that foreign applicants apply by Round 2. So Round 3 will be affected for sure.
A bigger concern is the waitlist. This is an important and strategic aspect of the application process. Schools don’t want to accept you if they think you won’t attend, so they waitlist you. Or they like you but want a better GMAT, so they waitlist you. There’s usually an extra few months (April – June) when those issues get resolved. The visa process, school shutdowns, test center shutdowns, and the general chaos caused by COVID-19 will definitely make managing the waitlist more difficult (for schools and applicants).
Our advice is to schedule your tests earlier if possible. Begin the student visa application process. It is possible to start with one school (where you are already accepted) and change to where you later get accepted (from the waitlist). But this change should usually happen before the embassy interview. Regardless, the beginning of the process can start right away. Of course, talk to the embassies to confirm how they will be handling such issues this year. They may be less lenient about changes.
Essentially, hopefully you got your dream school by Round 2, as most of our clients have/will. The waitlist process will be more challenging this year. Just be on top of things.
Next Cycle (R1 2020, R2 2021)
As for people applying this upcoming cycle (R1 2020, R2 2021), very little should change (aside from hub/group interview – discussed in a moment). Most of your application process will take place in the summer (for Round 1) which is when virus transmission tends to be at its lowest – although COVID does behave differently. No one really knows what July and August will look like. So maybe you should be ready to have more online meetings with your consultant and GMAT tutor. Fortunately, technology has made this increasingly easy and productive. Our face-to-face meetings naturally decrease every year just because Bangkok traffic is that terrible and phone calls and video chats are that productive. (Group Interview is the exception to this, so we are figuring that out). But clients increasingly prefer more frequent online meetings anyway, and we adapt to whatever the client wants. So again, it is largely business as usual for positioning/strategy/essay development.
Interviews are different. Hub interviews in Round 2 were a nightmare for a lot of people, and group interviews/exercises (Wharton, Ross) were chaos. We were able to quickly get our clients ready for the online versions as needed, but Wharton is much better when you’re all at the same table. So strategies do have to change. MIT also did Skype interviews for Thais for the first time ever. That was difficult, but manageable. Haas was asking people to go to Australia instead of interview with Thai alumni or do Skype. Again, we managed to push for Skype interviews and get them, but the process was more stressful than normal. We hope that doesn’t carry over to next year, and it shouldn’t. We expect schools to be ready for these types of issues.
Nonetheless, for the upcoming application cycle, we will adjust as necessary, but operate as normally as possible. We are already at 70% of capacity and are therefore already active in the application process. Things don’t feel that different at this stage, and the product/process/results are as strong as ever. Like all businesses, we have to be agile. We know that, as do clients. So we expect another great year. Good luck to everyone undergoing this always stressful process, but with these added challenges. And let us know if we can help.