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B-Schools Are Poised to Sustain Their Pandemic Admissions Bounce

International interest, flexible learning, and deferred acceptances are seen as helping numbers stay high.

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Illustration: Nichole Shinn

After working in investment banking for four years in Santiago, Alvaro Darquea Figueroa was ready for a change. The disruption caused to industries and societies around the world by the pandemic convinced him it was the right time to pursue an MBA, and Canada’s open-arms immigration policy gave him the nudge to make an international move. In September, the 31-year-old will start a two-year, full-time program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, with his wife joining him to work in the country. Both will be allowed to live in Canada for at least three years after he graduates. “The pandemic really changed the mindset of businesses and people,” he says. “I realized going two years to study and prepare myself for this new reality and this new world was a good opportunity.”

As life for many was upended last year, applications to business schools around the world rose by 2.4%, reversing the 3.1% decline in 2019, according to data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). A desire by applicants such as Darquea Figueroa to improve their job and pay prospects amid the uncertainties induced by Covid-19 was among the drivers behind last year’s boost in applications and is still at play in 2021, GMAC found in a survey of 2,515 B-school candidates planning to enroll this year, which was published in March.