Applications to INSEAD‘s full-time MBA program have surged by 57% as an increasing number of candidates took advantage of the school’s extended deadlines due to the pandemic. Double-digit jumps in applications are being reported by a number of schools, according to the Financial Times which gathered early application data from 13 of the top 20 ranked schools by the FT.
At IESE Business School in Barcelona, applications hit a new record, rising by 12% year over year. At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, applications also rose by 12%. Several other schools that are not ranked among the FT‘s top 20 have already announced big increases in their application volumes. Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, for example, has witnessed a more than 60% rise in applications, according to Brandon Kirby, director of MBA marketing and admissions, during a recent appearance at the CentreCourt MBA Festival.
Some of the increases are partly attributable to admissions policies that became more flexible as the COVID-19 outbreak led to the closure of GMAT and GRE test centers. Several schools waived standardized test scores during extended rounds and many applicants took advantage of that change. “We have a wider pool of applicants who are applying,” explained Kirby. “Interest has gone up significantly for us. Students on our contact list for two years are coming back. We have had individuals who applied with us that would not have applied otherwise. The GMAT was the hurdle.”
YET ANOTHER SIGN THAT 2020-2021 SHOULD BE A BIG MBA APPLICATION SEASON
The increase signals that this upcoming 2020-2021 admissions season is likely to be one of the best ever for business schools after several years of decline in applications. During recessions, applications to MBA programs typically rise as young professionals either lose their jobs or see their opportunities for advancement diminish. “Although I can’t know for sure what will happen next year, I would expect the trend of increased applications to continue,” Assistant Dean of Admissions Rod Garcia told the FT.
The increase at INSEAD, which does not disclose the actual number of applications it receives, occurred after a few years of declines for its two intakes in September and January. More typically, INSEAD receives just under 4,000 applications for its slightly more than 1,000-sized class for both intakes. Virginie Fougea, INSEAD’s global director of admissions and financial aid, who has been in the admissions industry for the past 20 years says that she has never seen an application season like the current one. “What we have been forecasting and planning for a few months is to be totally revised and thrown away,” she said at CentreCourt. “This is incredibly challenging but at the same time I love this opportunity to adapt, adjust and reinvent.”
INSEAD did not waive the GMAT or GRE but made its admissions policies more flexible, reviewing applications without the standardized test scores and expecting lower scores than typical. “We went back to the transcript of grades and their achievements outside their academic background because there are many different ways to show you can attend,” added Fougea. “They may not get the best score they aimed for because the structure of the test will be different but this is totally understandable. Nobody will require you to achieve what you had worked for and prepared for under different conditions.”
AT LEAST SOME OF THE INCREASE CAME FROM APPLICANTS WHO OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE APPLIED IN THE U.S.
Some of the increased application volume in Europe may also have occurred as greater numbers of international candidates decided to pass on U.S. business schools over concerns about a less-than-certain outlook to get jobs in the U.S. as well as the anti-immigration rhetoric of the Trump administration.
The Financial Times quoted an unnamed 29-year-old banker in Mongolia who said she had once planned to apply only to U.S. schools has since changed her mind. She intends to apply to London Business School as well as other institutions closer to home. “Last year, I was determined to apply for U.S. programs and the U.S. only. But given the current situation in the U.S., the anti-Asian sentiment and the numbers of the cases, I’m no longer a big fan,” she said. “Instead, I’ve become more interested in MBAs in the U.K. and Singapore.”
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