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Starting an MBA during Pandemic

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Gaurav Singh at the most popular backdrop of the Harvard Business School

As you all know, I graduated from my MBA at Harvard Business School this summer. I started my MBA in the middle of the roaring pandemic. Why would I and others do that? Well, I can't answer for others, but I can explain my reasoning.

I was a round 1 applicant, and thus I have known about my plans since early December of 2019. Obviously, there was no COVID19, at least in the western world. Since, my recommenders were from my current workplace, they were aware of my B-school admission. I had plans to leave my job at the end of April and take up an internship. Unfortunately, in mid-March, most companies moved their employees remote due to COVID19 spread, which later upgraded to the pandemic status. By that time, I already had my employment verification done, and I had received my financial aid too.

Due to changed circumstances, a lot of my future classmates considered deferring. Their reasoning had been that given travel restrictions as well as limits on indoor seating could drastically affect their MBA experience. Traditionally class sizes at Harvard Business School were 930-940, but in 2020, ~200 admitted students chose to defer their admission, bringing the class size to ~730.

HBS was generous with the deferral option, however, due to significant number of requests, they had to split the deferrals over 2 years. After considering pros and cons, I decided not to apply for deferral. I felt that delaying MBA could delay my career plans by 1-2 years. Another concern I had was what I would do for those 1-2 years. I didn't think I could do anything else at my then employer, and switching to a different job that pays well was challenging during these times. I also couldn't get into a post MBA equivalent roles, cause I didn't have the credentials, and I just felt I was done doing highly core technical roles.

Looking back, I am confident I made the right decision. Firstly, there was no better way to wait out the pandemic than HBS. Since HBS had its own campus, separated out from rest of the university, they could dictate their own testing cadence and quarantine protocol. Sure classes were online initially, but we moved on to in-person classes fairly soon. International travel was impossible, but domestic travel was still on. Additionally, the limit on indoor gathering was 10, while outdoors was 25. Personally, that is my sweet spot anyway. The other option was to keep working remotely, when the world hadn't figure out how to do that well.

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