Stanford GSB | Mr. Immigrant Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Big Fish, Small Pond
GMAT 790, GPA 3.88
Stanford GSB | Mr. Digital Engineer
GMAT 700, GPA 2.7
Harvard | Mr. Banking To Startup
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. M&A Post-Startup
GMAT 710, GPA 3.6
Stanford GSB | Ms. Education Non-profit
GRE 330, GPA 3.0
Harvard | Mr. IB/PE To Fintech
GMAT 740, GPA 3.14
USC Marshall | Mr. Supply Chain Guru
GMAT GMAT Waiver, GPA 2.6
Wharton | Mr. Master’s To MBA
GMAT 760, GPA 3.4
Said Business School | Ms. Ordinary Applicant
GMAT 710, GPA 3.37
McCombs School of Business | Mr. First-Time MBA
GRE 332, GPA 3.3
USC Marshall | Mr. Versatile Entrepreneur
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
HEC Paris | Ms. Public Health
Chicago Booth | Mr. Music Into Numbers
GMAT 730, GPA 3.8
Wharton | Mr. Fintech Entrepreneur
GMAT 710, GPA 3.04
Wharton | Mr. Top Salesman
GMAT 610, GPA 4.0
MIT Sloan | Mr. Latino Insurance
GMAT 730, GPA 8.5 / 10
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB/FinTech
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Failed Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.7
INSEAD | Mr. Sailor in Suit
GMAT 740, GPA 3.6
Stanford GSB | Mr. Startup Founder
GMAT 700, GPA 3.12
Stanford GSB | Mr. Tesla Intern
GMAT 720, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Ms. Comeback Kid
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6
Stanford GSB | Mr. Nuclear Vet
GMAT 770, GPA 3.86
Stanford GSB | Mr. SpaceX
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Wharton | Mr. Data Dude
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Triathlete
GMAT 720, GPA 2.8

Will The Coming Recession Cause A Boom In MBA Apps? Don’t Bet On It

Many highly ranked schools are reporting double-digit declines in MBA applications this year


And then, there is this: More would-be MBA students already have undergraduate degrees in business that may be good enough for their careers. “One thing that has changed is that an undergraduate business major has become the most popular major in America,” says Boulding. “That didn’t use to be true.”

In fact, undergraduate degrees in business surpassed education as the most popular undergrad degree in the U.S. nearly 40 years ago back in 1980-1981 when 200,523 graduates chose business over the 108,074 grads who majored in education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (see chart below). By 2015-2016, the latest year for which numbers are available. more than three times as many graduates majored in business than education, 371,694 vs. 106,850. In other words, some 19.4% of the annual undergraduate output now major in business. Many of them–given the work experience they have already accumulated–may not see the need to return to graduate school for an MBA. And for years now, their employers are often often than not telling them to stay put.

“With a really robust economy, firms are trying to hold onto talent where they have it,” adds Boulding. “Instead of the old model of having you work as an analyst for two or three years and then encouraging you to get an advanced degree, those firms have changed their policies to allow their employees to stay as long as long as they think you are good enough to stay. So in a strong economy undergraduate majors may be a factor in people choosing not to get an MBA. Under this scenario, if the economy was not as strong, companies may be promoting them less and raising their salaries less. We are entering into a world of pure conjecture on what is going to happen.”


Conjecture or not, few are betting that a recession–no matter how global or severe–will bring back the two-year, full-time, on-campus MBA. “It is unlikely that there will ever be anything like the surge of applications that happened after the financial bust,” believes Jeremy Shinewald, founder and president of mbaMission, one of the world’s largest MBA admissions consulting firms. “And I can’t help but wonder if the current decline in applications is really just a reasonable fall from the top of the cycle, rather than a crisis, at least for Top-15 programs. A recession would probably drive some back to MBA programs, but my sense is that it would have to hit the tech industry for there to be any real impact on MBA application volumes.

“If the FAANG companies had their first major waves of layoffs, it would trickle down to so many young professionals at those firms,” adds Shinewald. “Financial services as an industry is so much smaller than it was in 2009. I am not sure that banking layoffs would have much of an impact and PE firms are funded and lean. Tech is where they are all hiding and those who are betting on a recession should give consideration to getting ahead of the potential wave of applicants so that they can compete in a less competitive year.”

As bad as it is to wish for a recession, it would be worse to hope for the collapse of the tech sector.


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.