coronavirus COVID-19 grad school

Grad School Admissions Changes due to COVID-19

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

September 23, 2020: UPDATE

As we dive deeper into the month of September, we’re tracking even more info RE the below. Round 1 MBA application deadlines are here, but some schools are working to lighten application requirements and extend deadlines:

  • For example, UC Berkeley Haas still wants the GRE or GMAT from applicants but for those targeting their round 1 deadline this week on 9/24, they now have more time to take the test, given an unprecedented round 1 test extension to Oct. 15.
  • For some schools not offering testing extensions, they’re going one step further –a good amount of MBA programs have gone test optional. Some top MBA programs that are now test optional (not test blind though!) are: Georgia Tech, MIT, Northeastern, Northwestern, Rutgers, Southern Methodist U, UMaryland, URochester, UT Austin and UWisconsin.


It is arguably the best year in history to apply to grad school, and not just grad school but med school, law school, and business school. We’ve posted already about how admissions rates are up, university fears about enrollments are up, international applicant worries are up, university funds are low, application deadlines are later and testing and course expectations within applications have been lessened.


Here’s a sampling of some historical and impactful grade school admissions changes in the midst (and wake) of COVID-19:

  • Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management closed its MBA program for the 2021 year.
  • Many top business schools (University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, for example) have gone score optional as they’re mindful of tough GMAT testing options and want to boost applications. Darden is an interesting one because they moved their round 3 application all the way to July 15th. That worked quite well for all parties because their round 3 applications were up 364% (!) (as Poets & Quants reported) compared to last year. And, yet there are just 338 seats for all of those applicants. So, they took their previous requirement where instead of the GMAT or GRE, they’d take the SAT, ACT, LSAT, MCAT or Executive Assessment scores, and dropped it all and went score optional. I’d say that admissions office was pretty happy with their triple-digit percentage boost in applications in round 3!
  • At home GMAT’s are still possible and offered until August 14th (and all GMAT reschedule fees are waived) and at-home GRE’s will be offered until Sept. 30. It’s a win-win situation to sign up for one of these, and it’s an opportunity that will likely vanish soon, even as testing centers continue to close in the final hour before a test is set to begin.
  • Stanford’s School of Medicine went MCAT optional for 2021. That’s right. STANFORD.
  • Harvard Medical School isn’t being quite so accommodating as they are stating they will accept MCAT scores at a later time.
  • UCLA is similar but they are a bit noncommittal in stating the will hold out for a score before reviewing an applicant’s file. Then again, they also issued a joint statement with Stanford stating applications could be submitted by the October 15 deadline without an MCAT.


We are closely monitoring changes in grad school admissions to ensure we have the most up to date information for our current students and for potential clients that weren’t previously considering grad school but now are.

Similar to our assisting grad school applicants in getting a research foundation in place and finding stellar publishing outlets, we do the same in our own field of higher education. That’s why when the National Council on Measurement in Education’s peer reviewed journal Educational Measurement Issues and Practice published a July 23rd article entitled “Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste: Large Scale Assessment and the Response to Covid-19,” we soaked it in. As the author, Dr. Camera, noted, “The current pandemic has required adaptation and innovations . . . These changes may be viewed positively by test takers and consumers, but we should expect skepticism. The answer will come after COVID‐19 is mitigated and we take a long hard look at how we responded and the impact to students, institutions and learning.”

We completely agree and we’re all over it for you, working to ensure you’re in the know on fall 2020 grad school admissions trends, tips and application strategies. If you’re considering graduate school admissions this fall, “never let a crisis go to waste;” now’s the time  –let us help.

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