NOTE: THIS POST MIGHT CHANGE SINCE CORONAVIRUS UPDATES ARE CHANGING EVERY DAY. These are my thoughts as of March 27, 2020.

SUMMARY / TL;DR: In sum, I believe you have nothing to lose by applying now; in the event that things end up resolving (or, if classes go online and admitted students are OK with that), then you’ll be no worse off than you would have been if you hadn’t applied at all. If you’re already convinced and want to see my related post about how I think different scenarios might play out, you may be interested in my other post: INFOGRAPHIC: How Will COVID-19 Affect MBA Admissions and Enrollment in 2020? Impact on Round 3 Waitlisted and International Applicants)

So:

CORONAVIRUS has basically SHUT DOWN the world, and business schools have been affected too!

Since SO many people are either getting laid off right now, or EXPECT that they will get laid off soon, there is a sudden avalanche of people interested in the “Round 3” MBA deadlines.

“But usually, applying in Round 3 is a pointless suicide mission, right?”

RIGHT.  USUALLY. 

BUT NOT NOW. 

I think you should PROBABLY roll the dice and apply now,

UNLESS you are an INTERNATIONAL APPLICANT (and even then you might as well try!). 

So, let me address the “international applicant” comment first: even if you get accepted via this extended Round 3, I am worried that you might not be able to get your student visa in time to get to the US to start classes. Unless the school has promised you an answer by, say…June? It might be a waste of time, visa-wise.

That having been said!  Harvard Business School recently announced that if international students are unable to attend due to COVID-19, then HBS will simply save a spot for that student in a future class. In that case, perhaps you should apply now too, even if you might not be able to attend school this upcoming autumn.

Now, for domestic candidates (or those from Canada and Chile, etc. that have favorable visa situation) – I have  several reasons to apply Round 3, 2020, and a few reasons to consider holding off.

My list is here; click on the links for further discussion

“YES” reasons:

1. The economy will turn around once this pandemic is controlled, so ride it out in school

2. The deadlines are getting extended, so for a lot of schools, you have time to pull together something solid

3. If (heaven forbid) the international students are not allowed to enter the country, now these programs will need to QUICKLY fill 30% of their spots!

4. I consider this to be essentially a “Risk Free” time to apply; if you get rejected, just re-apply in the next cycle

5. I think the upcoming R1 / R2 of this year are going to be super-competitive

6. “Oooh! They are relaxing their GMAT / GRE rules, which is good news for me!” (NOT SO FAST)

“NO” reasons:

1. It’s gonna be hella competitive

2. There might not be much scholarship money left 

3. If this stuff is still raging by August / September, classes might be ONLY online

1. The economy will turn around once this pandemic is controlled, so ride it out in school 

 OMG, what BETTER time to BE IN SCHOOL than when the economy is in the gutter due to a GLOBAL PANDEMIC?

Surely, if it takes about 18 months for a vaccine to be ready (that is, created and fully tested), then the students entering two-year business school programs now means that, by 2022, this will (hopefully) all be behind us… those students should be emerging from school just as the sun starts to shine on the economy again.

This could be extra applicable to you if you work in an industry that might be hit hard: tourism, restaurants, airlines, cruise-ships…and of course tons of other industries.  If you think you might get laid off due to fall in revenues from the virus, maybe jump ahead of that situation and go to school this fall.

2. The deadlines are getting extended, so for a lot of schools, you have time to pull together something solid

3. If (heaven forbid) the international students are not allowed to enter the country, now these programs will need to QUICKLY fill 30% of their spots! 

Ugh. I hate the reason that this would happen. But I need to be honest: it would certainly be a boon to domestic / green card / etc. applicants.

4. I consider this to be essentially a “Risk Free” time to apply; if you get rejected, just re-apply in the next cycle

Usually, in normal, less virus-y times, I’d tell you to NOT WASTE YOUR TIME applying in R3, just because there are usually no spots, no scholarships left, and then you’ll look like a doofus when you re-apply a mere three months later, and don’t have any substantial updates to include. I would tell you to hold your horses and just wait a few extra months for R1.

But I do NOT think that prejudice will happen this year. BECAUSE:  Admissions Officers are people too. They are just as freaked out and uncertain about things as you are. This is why they’re extending the deadlines. They have NO idea, if this virus continues: will they need to replace the 30% of the class that is usually taken up by international students?  If they have to switch to an “online only” for one or two semesters, will the domestic applicants drop out? 

It sounds cliche to say “these are unprecedented times”, but… these are unprecedented times. The schools WANT you to apply in R3 (otherwise they would not be extending the deadlines). It would be a real jerk move to encourage people to apply in R3, and then penalize them for it in the subsequent R1).

5. I think the upcoming R1 / R2 of this year are going to be super-competitive

The fact that you’re thinking about this now means that you’re either a visionary (yay) or you just lost your job (boo), but I think you’re ahead of the curve.

I can’t help but wonder if, even industries that are able to weather the storm for one, two… four months… if this keeps up into the summer and fall, if the economy really goes super-south, then MANY more people will apply then if they get laid off in the autumn.

OR if COVID-19 gets resolved prior to, say, mid-December 2020, then R2 next year is going to be FULL of people applying who will want to start their programs in fall of 2021… since they figure they will now get “the full experience” (vs. potentially doing only online learning)

Either way — if coronavirus gets worse over the summer, more people will be losing their jobs, hence more applicants. If coronavirus gets better during or after the summer, more people will feel comfortable applying to business school, hence more applicants.

6. “Oooh! They are relaxing their GMAT / GRE rules, which is good news for me!” (NOT SO FAST)

Not so fast there, friend. You might be able to SUBMIT an application without a score, but you won’t be off the hook — you will need to submit a score at some point… and if, at that point, it’s a terrible score… well, that “preliminary / conditional acceptance” might become a rejection.

Also, some schools, like UVa’s Darden, are accepting OTHER scores… like YOUR SAT or ACT scores from high school. This will not only give them SOME sense of your academic aptitude, but also gives folks one less excuse… after all, everyone (in the US) has an SAT or ACT score, right? This is smart of them!

Ok, so those are the “pro” reasons — what about the “cons”?

1. It’s going to be hella competitive  

Hint: Everyone else is thinking the same thing you are.  They are also thinking about the three points I made above.

Adding to the mix, OMG there are SO MANY LAYOFFS happening now. People are either GETTING laid off, have been told that they WILL get laid off, or are GUESSING that they will get laid off.

These folks are desperate, and they have a LOT of time suddenly on their hands. So they will throw together an application (shameless plug: doing so in a less-painful way by following the steps I outline in ApplicantLab!).

I PREDICT that this Round 3 will be the most competitive one in years; maybe EVER.

(See point #2 above: I think the schools are extending the deadlines because THEY are expecting this as well. They want to cast a wide net and also be in an OK spot to potentially fill the international students’ spots)

2. There might not be much scholarship money left 

And, if finances are a big issue for you, if your credit score isn’t great or if you haven’t had a lot of time to save up, you’ll have a LOT less time to get a loan set up. The loan thing shouldn’t be a huge deal, but realize that you might not get a scholarship and so if this is something that would throw your life into financial turmoil, maybe hold off for a few more months.

3. If this stuff is still raging by August, classes might be ONLY online

Ok, so: since the FAKE reason you go to business school is the education, but the REAL reason you go to business school is for the contacts / network / friendships …a lot of my CURRENT clients who were ALREADY ACCEPTED in an earlier round are freaking out:

How are we supposed to make those famous life-long friendships if we only get to know each other over ZOOM?”

(random side-note: if this actually ends up being a problem, I have a small idea for a side-startup that might be able to help…but it obviously doesn’t exist yet, so…)

THIS IS A PRETTY VALID POINT, BUT THE SKY ISN’T NECESSARILY FALLING

First of all, at this point in “sheltering in place”, perhaps you’ve only tried out working on line. But did you know that you can drink socialize with others online too?  My friends and I call it “Zoom Happy Hour Coffee Chats”.  It is NOT as good as meeting up in person BUT it IS still pretty good.

Also, if you’re applying to a two-year program, then surely, SURELY (please, please) this will be behind us by…next summer? So it’s not like you’d never get to meet these people in person. My prediction is, even if your whole first year is done online, but you get to meet in person for the second year, given how smart and resourceful you are, y’all will make up for lost time once you get to campus.

But. Look. It WON’T be “AS GOOD” as the full in-person experience. I’d be lying if I said that it would be a complete replacement.

So, surprise! This one is BOTH a “con” AND a “pro”.

Because.

If other applicants / admits freak out over the online-only thing, they won’t want to come to campus. MORE SPOTS AVAILABLE FOR YOU.  Yes, that first semester (or two) would not be awesome, but since we can (at this point) tentatively hope for a vaccine by next autumn, if you’re in a two-year program, you’d have plenty of time in year 2 to party like crazy thoughtfully network with your classmates.

So! These are my thoughts. THE BAD NEWS IS, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN. THE GOOD NEWS IS, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN, so I think you should roll the dice and try to apply in Round 3 and see if that uncertainty ends up working out in your favor.

(What do you think? Do you agree/disagree with me? Did I miss anything? Email me at [email protected] and let me know!)