Carlson Classroom

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted nearly every industry.

Business schools, in particular, were hit hard and the impact of the pandemic will have lasting effects. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about some positive changes as well. Chris Stokel-Walker of Bloomberg recently spoke to experts on how the pandemic has changed B-school operations for good.


The pandemic forced business schools to close their campuses in March 2020. Universities varied in their tactics for a return to campus. For the most part, class sizes shrunk as hybrid learning models and social distancing were prioritized.

At Oxford Saïd, class sizes were cut in half – from 80 to 40 students per class – to enable proper social distancing. As universities and colleges open their campuses this fall, Oxford has decided to keep class sizes small.

“That’s in line with how Oxford sees teaching, which is very much conversation- and discussion-based, and very interactive,” Kathy Harvey, associate dean of the MBA and executive degrees at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, tells Bloomberg.

According to Harvey, some teaching will stay asynchronous and in-person meetings will be used to promote engaging discussions.

“We found a better way, and we don’t anticipate that we’ll stop,” she tells Bloomberg.

While students found half empty classrooms to be strange and intimidating during the pandemic, many now say they welcome a smaller class size and the benefits that the environment promotes.

“However, soon we realized that smaller classes brought new opportunities for equality and quality of interaction,” Martina Sokolikova, an MBA student at Oxford Saïd, tells Bloomberg.


During the pandemic, a vast number of B-schools chose to waive standardized tests for admissions – a silver lining for MBA applicants.

Some 67 of the top 100 B-schools are now fully test-optional or allow for test waivers.

“There are just so many stories from students all over the world that it made the decision easier,” Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, says. “Even though test centers have reopened, getting to one and feeling safe in one is another story. And even though students can take the online test, taking a standardized test at home is challenging because some students are being disrupted by friends or family or have had internet connections slow down. So it is hard to perform best in those conditions.”

Sources: Bloomberg, The Harvard Crimson, Time, P&Q

Next Page: UCLA Anderson Essay Advice

UCLA Anderson exterior

The University of California Los Angeles’ Anderson School of Management, which ranked number 16 in P&Q’s Top Business Schools ranking, places heavy emphasis on its values.

Its three core values – Share Success, Think Fearlessly, Drive Change – are central to how the program defines its character. Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed how applicants should approach the Anderson MBA essays with these values in mind.


Anderson asks applicants to respond to the following required essay:

How have recent events influenced the impact you would like to make in your community, career, or both? (250 words maximum)

This question is incredibly important this year as the past few years have seen major societal events – from social justice movements to a global health pandemic.

“As you structure this essay, think about telling one or two pivotal stories about you,” Blackman writes. “Examples will bring your application alive. Remember, UCLA is looking to understand how you are different from other applicants. Also, Anderson wants to understand your values. Consider moments in the past year that have triggered reflection for you.”

Blackman also suggests that applicants think about the Anderson values in context to their own character and goals.

“How do you plan to use those values in your post-Anderson life?” Blackman writes. “This UCLA MBA application essay covers both the professional and personal sides of your candidacy. Consider both your community and career. Also, Anderson is looking for students that are engaged, humble, and open.”


The optional essay at Anderson asks applicants the following:

Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words maximum)

Blackman recommends that applicants utilize the optional essay to add context to areas such as a gap in employment or low grades.

“If you choose to write this essay for your UCLA MBA application, be clear and concise,” she writes. “First, explain the situation briefly. Then, tell what has changed and improved. Finally, focus on explanations rather than excuses. The best UCLA MBA application essays will show you have moved on from your challenges. Therefore, improvements in your life make a great case for admission.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, P&Q, UCLA

Next Page: NYU Stern Essay Advice

NYU Stern students

New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, which ranked number 15 in P&Q’s Top Business Schools ranking, seeks students who are authentic and have high self-awareness.

This year, the B-school announced its Class of 2024 MBA essay prompts, which includes a new essay requiring applicants to create a personal tagline. Trisha Nussbaum, an MBA Admissions coach at Fortuna Admissions and NYU Stern alumna, recently offered tips on how applicants should approach the Stern essays as well as create a strategy for success.


This year features a brand-new essay from Stern that asks applicants to respond to the following:

In today’s global business environment, the only constant is change. Using NYU Stern’s brand call to action, we want to know how you view change. Change: _____ it. Fill in the blank with a word of your choice. Why does this word resonate with you? How will you embrace your own personal tagline while at Stern? Examples:

Change: Dare it.

Change: Dream it.

Change: Drive it.

Change: Empower it.

Change: Manifest it.

Change: [Any word of your choice.]

Context, according to Nussbaum, is key with this essay. For one, the essay alludes to Stern’s own rebrand back in 2019 when it announced its new slogan: Change. Dare it. Dream it. Drive it.

Taking that into consideration, applicants should think about their own values and goals and convey them in a creative, forward-thinking manner.

“No matter your background, Stern wants to see that you are agile, flexible and progressively thinking beyond your industry’s traditional definitions,” Nussbaum writes. “But when you sit down to write, take the opportunity to reflect on your life and values and what is really important for you. Allow yourself to play with possibilities and to get creative. What words, values, or themes feel symbolic of your relationship to change, your thought process, and what makes you tick?”


The second essay at Sterns asks applicants the following:

Describe yourself to the Admissions Committee and to your future classmates using six images and corresponding captions. Your uploaded PDF should contain all of the following elements:

  • A brief introduction or overview of your “Pick Six” (no more than 3 sentences).

  • Six images that help illustrate who you are.

  • A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.

Essay two, Nussbaum says, is all about who you are.

“In addition to considering a candidate’s academic and professional background in the admissions process, Stern places a strong emphasis on personal characteristics and is looking for students who will be involved in the school and community,” Nussbaum writes. “The Pick Six is a place to let your personality shine. You can utilize a diverse set of images, as long as they have significance in your life and, if possible, tie into the characteristics that Stern is looking for.”


The final Stern essay asks applicants the following:

Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further e explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE, IELTS or TOEFL, or any other relevant information.

Similar to the optional essay at UCLA’s Anderson, Stern’s final essay provides a space for applicants to add context to weak areas in their application. The key is to not only add the context but to show how you are improving.

“This is also an opportunity to provide more context if you did not provide a recommendation from your direct supervisor,” Nussbaum writes. “It is a personal decision whether or not to make use of this essay, but it can be useful to express to the admissions committee that you recognize that there may be a gap, but you have taken steps to address it.”

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, P&Q

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