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What Are You Worried About? COVID-19 Concerns Survey Findings

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Following up on our quick survey about how prospective MBA students expected COVID-19 to impact their b-school experience, we conducted some additional survey research a few weeks ago to better understand the nature of prospective students’ coronavirus-related concerns.

As promised, we’ve crunched the numbers and are sharing our findings with the Clear Admit community today.

The vast majority of respondents were hoping to enroll at full-time MBA programs in the United States. Because U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens are likely facing different barriers related to matriculation, all findings are presented separately for these two groups of prospective students. Detailed participant demographics are included at the end of this article.

Enrollment Intentions

The vast majority of our sample (89.2% of U.S. citizens and 87.3% of international students) had been admitted to at least one full-time MBA program. As for the balance, 7% of U.S. participants and 7.3% of international participants were waiting on R2 decisions at the time they completed the survey; 3.8% of U.S. participants and 5.5% of international participants responding to this survey were hoping to be admitted from waitlists.

We began by asking Class of 2022 MBA admits to indicate which of five options best described their current thinking about enrolling for a full-time MBA this fall. The breakdown of their responses is presented below.

Overall, the majority of participants indicated that based on the information currently available to them, they were planning to enroll for an MBA this coming fall, with just 18% of U.S. participants and 30% of participants reporting that they were unsure about how to proceed.

We then asked prospective students if they would defer and start an MBA in Fall 2021 if they had the option to do so. The breakdown of their responses is presented in the pie charts below.

Putting deferral on the table changes the picture a bit, with just 34% of U.S. participants and 26% of international students saying they would still matriculate in Fall 202o even if they had the option to postpone. Respondents saying they were unsure about whether they would defer comprised the greatest proportion of both groups: an understandable position, given how much is currently up in the air.

Concerns About Enrolling for Fall 2020

We then presented participants with a list of more than 30 potential concerns about how the COVID-19 pandemic might impact their MBA experience.

These ranged from social aspects of the MBA experience (e.g. friendships with classmates) and personal considerations (e.g. reluctance to move away from family or other support during a public health crisis) to professional (e.g. availability of summer internships in 2021) and financial (e.g. loan interest rates, currency fluctuation). We also asked about key elements of the MBA experience such as networking, involvement in student clubs, and programmatic offerings like leadership development and experiential learning.

Participants’ 10 most frequently selected concerns are presented in the tables below.

The number in the “Percent Identifying as a Concern” column reflects the number of respondents who selected that item as a factor in their thinking about enrolling for an MBA next fall.

We also asked respondents to rank each of the concerns they selected, with their top-ranked concern being the most influential in their decision-making. The “Percent Ranking as #1 Concern” column in the tables below reflects the proportion of admitted students who identified the concern in question as most influential for them.

The items selected by U.S. respondents are presented in Table 1 below.

Concern that COVID-19 would negatively impact social elements of the MBA, such as networking and friendships with classmates, emerged as the most prevalent concerns among this group. Meanwhile, among those who selected value for tuition money as a concern, nearly one third rated it as their top worry, suggesting that impact on the MBA value proposition is a particularly salient consideration for participants.

The most frequently selected COVID-19 related concerns for international prospective students are presented in below in Table 2. Securing a visa was the most prevalent concern for this group and also the most salient, with 40.6% of respondents who selected this item rating it as their top concern.

Across both groups, elements of the social experience, the quality of online instruction (in the event that an in-person start this fall is not safe), and availability of internships and full-time jobs also emerged as prevalent concerns.

Participant Demographics

Respondents were recruited via the Clear Admit website, social media, and newsletter. Forty-nine percent of participants (N=158) were U.S. citizens. Of these:

  • 50.0% identified as men and 48.7% as women
  • The average age was 27.6 (SD=2.3); the age range was 23-37
  • 61.4% identified as White, 21.4% as Asian, 9.5% as African American/Black, and 7.6% as Hispanic/Latinx
  • 1.3% reported that they had less than 2 years of full-time work experience, 11.4% had 2-3 years, 20.9% had 3-4 years, 30.4% had 4-5 years, and 36.1% had 5+ years of works experience

Fifty percent of participants (N=167) were not U.S. citizens. There were 39 countries represented in the international student sample. Their demographic characteristics were as follows:

  • 60.2% identified as men and 38.6% as women
  • The average age was 28.668 (SD=2.3); the range was 24-37
  • 15.1% identified as White, 39.2% as South Asian, 19.3% as East Asian, 18.7% as Hispanic/Latinx, and
    5.4% as African
  • 1.2% reported that they had less than 2 years of full-time work experience, 17.2% had 2-3 years, 18.7% had 3-4 years, 23.5% had 4-5 years, and 49.4% had 5+ years of works experience
Alex Kelly
Alex is Clear Admit’s Director of Content & User Research. She has been working in the MBA admissions space for more than 15 years in research, consulting, and writing roles. She holds an M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Utah.