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COVID-19’s Impact on MBA Admissions Process and Higher Ed

August 1, 2023

COVID-19 can be described in many ways. Tense. Uncertain. Disruptive. One other term that can describe the COVID-19 impact is paradigm shift.

As we approached the end of 2019, the world was dipping their collective toe into the waters of working from home. When the global pandemic hit, remote work was an academic exercise. In that moment, it became critical to the survival of almost every business.

We all felt those growing pains in the first year of the pandemic as we adjusted our schedules and routines. Companies were no different. The infrastructure changes that were implemented have lasting effects, especially investments made in regards to remote work and learning. For many, this is preferable to how things were before.

MBA Admissions Process in the Pandemic Era

Now, please note, our argument is not that there’s a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone was impacted by the pandemic. Searching for a brightside is not our goal. Instead, we’re talking about COVID-19 being the catalyst that accelerated a process that was already in place.

Universities and institutions of higher learning were just as impacted by the pandemic as businesses were. School closures were not an option. Having to adapt educational systems required colleges to find reliable solutions quickly. However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise these centers of innovation were able to evolve to meet the new demands they faced, including a revised MBA admissions process.

Stevens Institute of Technology met this task head on. In doing so, we’ve implemented new processes and strengthened ones already in place. Of course COVID-19 left its mark on our programs. But in rising to the challenge, we are now better able to serve our students. We’ve been doing it for over 150 years; rising to this kind of challenge is in our DNA.

Now that COVID is no longer an emergency, we’ve had the time to look back and see how it has impacted higher education.

Online Learning

Whether it was for kindergarten classes or master’s-level courses, education made the switch to being online. This ordeal led to investment in technology and software that has paid incredible dividends. Bandwidth, networking and streaming have shown remarkable improvements, driven by the necessity to manage the surge of digital traffic.

On top of that, coursework and instruction have changed as well. We’ve invested a great deal of time and thought into making the user experience intuitive. We’ve really looked into the way people learn and have made the necessary adjustments for it to work online.

We’re sure you’ve noticed, but technology is literally in our name. Even before the pandemic we were making strides in modernizing our program.

When other universities were putting resources to get online, we were already there. This meant we were able to invest our energy towards refining and enhancing our online program as well as our admissions process for courses such as online MBA. And in the world of online programs, we’re proud to say ours is award-winning.

The Perception of Online Degrees

Up until the pandemic, most people were unfamiliar with online learning. Because it was still novel, there were people who didn’t understand the quality of online coursework. But if there’s one thing that changes people’s perceptions, it’s experiencing it themselves.

The massive adoption of online learning gave people the opportunity to see firsthand the strength online programs always had. This exposure on a cultural level allowed online degrees such as MBA along with their admissions process, to be seen as equal to their in-person counterparts. This is a wonderful revelation as it democratizes education through access and credibility.

The Adoption of Asynchronous and Synchronous Classes

In taking a step back and analyzing how courses are taught, COVID-19 was the moment in time to consider making changes. It used to be that students showed up to class at a specific time and listened to the professor. 

There was no compromise. There was no flexibility. There was only one way of doing—the way it’s always been done before.

When it comes to advanced degrees, many people have jobs or family or both to juggle. That’s why our admissions process and master’s programs such as MBA have evolved to accommodate students without any sacrifices to the quality of the classes. This led to the adoption of asynchronous and synchronous courses.

One course is a live lecture and meets virtually, or synchronously. The other class, however, is pre-recorded so it can be completed on your schedule. This asynchronous approach is then supported with message boards, office hours and more. This combination of classes has been a fantastic change to allow people with tight schedules to still pursue their degrees.

Enhanced Accessibility and Inclusivity

One of the hurdles students encounter in higher education is being able to attend in person. This could be because of logistical reasons, such as living in another state. Or their schedules couldn’t accommodate commuting to classes. There are also financial impacts of learning on campus—and with online learning many of those are mitigated.

There are also personal reasons that can interfere. From mobility issues to mental health obstacles, being online can remove those barriers. The beauty in this is that talented and intelligent individuals can now occupy educational spaces that were once prohibitive.

Assessment Methods have Changed

It used to be that people were evaluated on how well they could remember information during a timed test. With online learning, the ways of grading what people learn has changed. Rather than expect students to memorize key answers, better ways to evaluate students have come into play.

Understanding and mastery of a course are more important than rote memorization. Our MBA admissions process, assessments and evaluations have evolved to incorporate a more holistic approach to learning. Mastery of a subject doesn’t come down to a single test. We’ve incorporated participation, projects, group work, message boards, papers, reflections, case studies and more to get the whole picture of what students are taking away from the classes.

New Learning Tools

The transition to online education wasn’t as simple as learning how to use video calls. As the need to improve remote learning became apparent, many companies rose to the task. New software has revolutionized the way we learn online.

Collaboration tools have grown considerably, allowing for an experience that allows for multiple people to work on projects simultaneously. Features have been added that allow students to ask questions seamlessly, or get clarification from other students without interrupting the class. And as mentioned before, testing and evaluating knowledge has been overhauled to really focus on learning and skill development.


Apply Now

These are some of the key ways COVID-19 has affected the MBA and higher education admissions process, online learning and sparked innovation in the field. Another aspect of COVID-19 is the way applications have been impacted. While the effects were most noticeable at the beginning of the pandemic, there are still changes that have remained. 

First, standardized testing was interrupted by the pandemic. In reaction, colleges had to look at the entire application and not just numbers. While testing has returned and the scores are important, the character of the applicant and their real life experience are now considered differently.

Second, interest in advanced degrees has increased making the application process more competitive. The upside to a larger applicant pool is class cohorts are stronger. This enhances the class experience and ensures a stronger network upon graduation. Another thing to consider is wait lists are now longer which means committing to a program once accepted is critical.

When you apply to Stevens, we want to make sure your application to the admissions office is as strong as possible. The key is making sure your application tells your entire story to stand out during the MBA or other higher education admissions processes. Your test scores, official transcript and letters of recommendation are just one part of that narrative. We welcome you to also include your resume and a statement of purpose to share your passions, achievements, career goals and how Stevens can help you take on your goals for the future.

With the stress test of COVID-19, our full time MBA program has been fortunate to emerge stronger in many ways. The innovation required to continue through the pandemic has left lasting results. Beyond improving the infrastructure needed to handle the massive shift to online learning, the way subjects are taught also evolved.

Fortunately Stevens was already primed to tackle the growth necessary for surviving the pandemic. Our technological focus means we’ve always looked to the future. And through the trials and tribulations of COVID-19, our master’s programs have emerged stronger.