Coronavirus and the MBA

Like many other parts of society, the business school process has been completely upended with the spread of coronavirus. Schools are struggling to make contingency plans, admitted students are questioning whether they should defer or even attend school at all, and prospective students are contemplating if they should be leaving their job in such an uncertain time. In future blogs, we’ll explore what business school under quarantine might look like, how to enter a job market during a recession and other coronavirus adjacent topics, but in the meantime, it’s always helpful in a crisis to go back to some core principles about business school and see how they hold up. If you are already applying to business school, hopefully you’ve established these already; if you haven’t, it is a good time to better understand some of the fundamental reasons why you might want to go to school.

Reason #1: Business school will help me build my network
Regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, your network will expand as a result of business school. Even in a virtual setting, you will be surrounded and working closely with dozens of peers with similar interests and aspirations. Naturally, you’ll connect with some and grow your network. In a distance learning environment – which might be a possibility for at least some of your b-school career – the ways in which and extent to which those networks form may be different. But rest assured that schools have a vested interest in working hard to develop innovative techniques to help students form those bonds, and often it’s the process of going through a challenging experience with others that forms the tightest and most lasting connections.

Reason #2: Business school will give me a stronger business education
Remote learning is nothing new. Many strong schools already provide online classes – or even entirely virtual curriculums – and the education is similar to what you would gain in a traditional classroom environment. The important thing to know is that schools have already gone through this transition and they are ready, so your knowledge shouldn’t suffer.

Reason #3: Business school will help me further my career
This principle is where your mileage may vary, dependent upon where you are in your career and what the economy does while you’re in school. The COVID recession has thrown some uncertainty into the job market with record job losses thus far in 2020. However, for one, if you’re reading this right now you’re not graduating in 2020 so you’re looking at an uncertain job market upon graduation, but not necessarily a down market. And secondly, we fully expect schools to put extra investment into career services programs to aid the classes of 2020 and 2021. In past recessions, schools have done proactive work with alums to help current students find opportunities. And note that the time horizon may do you some favors; while the summer of 2020 is absolutely a tight job market and growth might be hard to come by in the near-term, someone planning to graduate with an MBA in 2022 or 2023 may be coming out into a period of economic growth. As any financial planner would tell you, of course, don’t try to time the market. But if you don’t love your career prospects at the moment, business school is a great place to spend two years upgrading your skill set while the labor market gets sorted out.

While the coronavirus pandemic is making us rethink a lot, it is important to not let panic set in and try to remember why (or why not) you are applying or attending business school. If you continue to reanalyze those factors as the environment changes, you’ll be prepared to make a good decision.