What is the overall state of MBA admissions right now?
ERIKA OLSON: Let's start by talking about the overall state of MBA admissions right now. People are freaked out about how COVID is affecting things. We're now in September and you have been talking to all of the admissions committees — what are some of the things you're hearing and common themes that are coming up this year?
JAY BRYANT: In my position I get to spend my time speaking with admissions professionals from all over the country at a variety of different types of business schools — from the top 10 ranked schools to the more regionally focused business programs. And, they're all trying to figure it out this year. Lots of things have changed.
The first thing I always talk with them about is their recruitment process, which plays a big part in business schools. They want to be sure you get the opportunity to know who they are and what the school is about. When I was in admissions, we were used to always going out and doing info sessions or having you come visit campus. I personally have gotten to travel all over the world to events to meet my future students. That's just not possible right now. So the recruitment process has very much gone to an online situation.
As you are going through and learning about these schools, you'll learn about the different types of events they're having and the different ways to visit campus virtually. That was the first things schools had to figure out — how in the world are they going to be in contact with you, the applicant.
The next thing is obviously the admissions process itself. Most schools do conduct interviews. For students that were really far away, we have done things like Zoom® or Skype® interviews in years past, but now, no matter where you are located, you can expect to be interviewed online. That's a big change.
Every single admissions director that I have spoken with has said that they really want to maintain admissions standards. They want the quality students in their programs that they were able to attract before. They don't want the COVID era to change that. A big part of that is still the admissions test. You want to perform well on the GRE General Test if you are applying to a school, because that's going to show them a lot of your current capabilities academically.
One of the great things we were able to do at ETS is roll out the GRE and TOEFL® at home tests for the majority of the world within just a few weeks of the start of lockdowns and situations going on around the world, providing the assessments that would help schools continue on with the 2020 admissions cycle.
In speaking with admissions directors, I've seen that the COVID situation has also been an accelerator in business schools. Online education was brand new when I first entered the industry and it's certainly grown over the years. This year, in a matter of days, classes had to go online. And new technologies that may have been more on the fringe in classrooms — maybe used by only the technologically savvy professors — suddenly all of the faculty are having to use. That's been a big change in classrooms.
I have my degree in international business and my position has always been working with global teams, and I've found that what is happening in the classroom right now is actually very reflective of working in a global environment.