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Why MBA Now? | Pandemic Edition

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Hello folks! This is the first #AskBaskar GMAT Blog in a series that we’re bringing to you, to answer some of the pertinent questions we get from B-School aspirants, and tell you how and why MBA can effect a positive change in your life.

The question discussed at length in this blog post is –

Why MBA now? Is it a good idea to get an MBA during a pandemic?

If I joined an MBA program now, I’d be graduating in 2022/23 – what would the job scenario look like then?

This is one question that’d be in the minds of everyone aspiring to do an MBA this year. If you join an MBA program this year, you’d be graduating in 2022 or 2023, depending on whether it’s a one-year or a two-year program. We can’t answer this question without also answering what the job scenario would look like when you graduate. I’ll answer both questions in 4 broad parts across the length of this GMAT Blog.

1. What’s 2022/23 going to be like?

I’d recommend that you take the following with a pinch of salt because I am not a clairvoyant who can predict things. I read a lot. Based on what I read, I’m going to lay out what is likely to be the scenario, in this GMAT Blog.

In the West, at least in the rich(er) countries, the governments have undertaken rapid, and extensive vaccination programs. Close to 60 or 70% of the population is likely to be vaccinated by the end of the year. In India, the government is talking about an ambitious plan to vaccinate a majority of the adult population before the end of the calendar year. That augurs well for opening up the economies.

One of the articles in The Economist states that there is approximately 5-trillion dollars of unspent money in the rich world. Since there have been several lockdowns, spend on restaurants, holidays/vacations, and other such outlay have been severely restricted. The Economist states that in the next year or so, this unspent money is likely to get spent, thus creating more demand in the job markets in the USA and other rich economies.

There is a surge that’s going to happen in terms of employment opportunities. The US will lead the way and other rich economies will follow suit. If all these articles are something to go by, then in the next 2 to 4 years, these economies will witness growth rates that will be comparable or could even surpass what was seen post World War II.

So in 2022 – 23, if all these predictions were to come true, you will likely be graduating in a scenario where employment, in general, and the MBA job market, in particular, is going to be lucrative.  We will hope all of these things come true.

2. What’s it like for you now?

Are you already in a great job? Are you just someone with just two years of professional experience?

In that case, just wait it out a little bit. Prepare for the GMAT. Write the GMAT. Scores are valid for five years. See how things pan out.

A year from now, there’s going to be a lot more clarity than what we have right now. Is the third wave the last wave? Is there going to be a fourth wave? Are we as a world, not just India or not just one particular country, well prepared to face this? Do we have enough medicines that can withstand it? The last severe edition of the pandemic – The Spanish flu lasted about three years or four years. This could last a lot lesser because there are signs of improvement.

Just write the GMAT. Keep it handy. If things improve, you can quickly apply and join a business school in the next available calendar.

On the contrary, if you’re someone with, let’s say, 10+ years of experience, you already have quite a lot of experience for many business schools. Your experience is likely to be a shade above the median. In that case, you probably would not want to wait for 2022 – 23 before you take the call.

Another scenario – Are you in between jobs? Pandemic has left a lot of people out of a job. If you’re in that kind of a scenario then looking at an MBA might not be a bad option. An MBA can greatly accelerate your career, or give it the much-needed defibrillation.

What doing an MBA during a pandemic would be like.

3. MBA isn’t just any other program

The third thing to keep in mind is basically don’t just look at MBA based on how it is going to pan out in 2022-23. An MBA is something about which you’ll have to take a long term view. It is akin to timing the market versus investing in good stocks. And MBA is in general, like investing in a good stock. In the long run, it’s is going to give you a lot of value.

The timing: Many times people, even the best of the investors, will say you can’t time the market well. Similarly, you cannot take such a great call on the timing. Prepare for it. Depending upon your current reality, write the GMAT, have the score in hand and even get your resume, some of your essay points ready in place. If you think that things are improving,1-2 months down the line, when the application window opens, which is likely to be in the month of August or September, and you have a GMAT score you can apply quickly.

So keep that perspective about MBA. Notwithstanding how 2022-23 is going to be, in the long run MBA is going to make a lot of difference to your career options, unless you’re someone who is heavily into something like Data Analytics/tech.

If you are a techie – not someone who’s doing clients’ support. I’m talking about people who actually write OS, who write algorithms and are heavily into it, or you’re someone who’s into biotech, who is doing research on, like, vaccines and viruses you probably will have to have a good justification to move out of tech. If you’re not a tech person, an MBA is certainly going to make a big difference to your career.

4. Is the uncertainty about 2022-23 the only thing that matters?

Fourthly, Is 2022 -23 likely to be the only thing that is going to be a game-changer? I don’t think it should. I’ll give an example.

We had a student who joined Darden Business School in 2007. When she joined in 2007, the entire world was looking rosy. The world’s financial markets were skyrocketing. The housing bubble was still expanding and hadn’t burst yet. Therefore, no one even thought twice about whether I’ll get a job. And this is from a top school such as Darden. She graduated in the middle of the housing bubble burst. It took her six months after graduating to find a full-time opening. She had to switch from one OPT to another in the US, taking help from her alumni network and career cell. Finally, by October in the year she graduated, she landed a job with a large retailing company. Those six months were painful. But it always works out in the end.

Similarly, for the current set of aspirants, it’s not going to be easy. You’re not sure whether you are going to be attending school in person or is it going to be predominantly online. You’re not sure whether you are going to get a job. You’re not sure whether the job is something that you want to keep. If all of these things run amok in your mind, be assured, that sooner than later, a good MBA even in a bad year such as 2008 (or 2021), will land you a good job and things will start looking better.

10, 12 years down the line, she’s happy for having done an MBA from a top business school, despite the circumstances that it happened in.

At other times, we’ve had people who joined top consulting companies in the US post an MBA but could not win the H1 lottery three years in a row and had to come back to India. In a subsequent H1 lottery after coming back to India, a few have gone back to the US and with interesting jobs and offers. So, do not take a short term view on this.


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Financing your MBA

The most important thing is to mitigate your financial risk when looking at an MBA.  A lot of what we’re talking about 2022-23 can be summarized as “What will I get from an eventual job vs with the investment I have made into an MBA?”

Here are two pertinent questions – Can I repay the loan/debt that I’m availing of? Is it going to come back to bite me?

Even in these years, if you have a very good GMAT score, if you have a good profile, schools provide scholarships. It the situation demands, you may want to choose a lower ranking school that provides you with tuition fee waivers so that you mitigate your financial risks significantly.

For example, the 15th Ranked School might give you a 20% tuition fee waiver, and the 25th Ranked School might give you a 70% tuition fee waiver. To mitigate financial risks, you might want to go and pick up a 25th rank school and get a 70% tuition fee waiver. So you’re better off having done that MBA with less financial risk.

In most of these scholarships, financial assistance is provided to candidates with a good GMAT score. So, when you’re preparing for the GMAT, do everything that you can to hit a 740+ GMAT score. A 740+ GMAT score is a score that’s going to land you up with some kind of tuition fee waiver, and it’s going to make it easy for you to decide when and whether to do an MBA.

The Verdict

The long term view of doing an MBA is good. Even if 2022-23 is not going to be a cornucopia of employment opportunities, economies will turn around for the better, sooner than later. In that time frame, you’re going to be a lot better off having completed an MBA, than not.

It doesn’t matter how the world economies move; move the levers that you control. Preparing well and getting a good GMAT score is within the realm of things you control. That could mitigate the financial risks of doing an MBA and make it easy to decide on pursuing an MBA.

Thanks for reading this GMAT Blog. We wish you all the best for your further education in management program(s) and your career.

(This GMAT Blog was adapted from a Live Q&A video we did on our YouTube Channel. Check it out)

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