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Implications of COVID-19 on Fall 2021 Grad School Applications
Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert
Chicago, IL
Monday, September 21, 2020

Implications of COVID-19 on Fall 2021 Grad School Applications

CHICAGO, IL:  September 21, 2020:

Although there are still many things unfolding in this evolving situation, here are five factors prospective graduate students should keep in mind as they consider this question for Fall 2021: "On balance, is now the best time for me to pursue a graduate degree?"

1. More people applying, but for more or fewer seats?

Whether someone has just earned their undergraduate degree or has years of experience but is now facing a shaky job market, going to grad school now can look like a good option to ride out the storm. Which is why — as we've seen many times over the years — typically in a down economy, application volume to grad school tends to grow.

2. Changes to the school research process

There are many ways prospective students can conduct program research, but in spring 2020 the pandemic altered several important potential touchpoints. Curtailed, taken online or outright eliminated were things like campus visits and special events for admitted students; in-person events like admissions fairs and coffee chats with admissions staff, students and alums; and in-person interviews. As of fall 2020, many of these changes remain and will need to be navigated by prospective students.

3. Standardized test shifts

2020 has seen the GRE, GMAT, LSAT and TOEFL offer new online options — unthinkable to many admissions professionals pre-pandemic. Even the MCAT temporarily shortened its total exam time. And some graduate programs relaxed their typical requirements around these tests — even in some cases outright waiving them as an application requirement. Some programs have extended these policies for those applying for a 2021 start.

4. Online learning — here to stay?

While this may not be the moment when online learning fully takes over higher ed, prospective graduate students should expect that online learning will continue to be increasingly prevalent even after the pandemic subsides. A comfort level with learning in that environment will be all the more important.

5. Program delivery differences

Ideally, a graduate degree is as much about what happens outside the classroom as what happens inside it. For example, consider the impact on the recruiting and hiring side: It could remain all virtual, and that may include any internships as well (as was largely the case in summer 2020). On-campus recruiting and "road shows" to major hiring cities could remain at a standstill. And more broadly, where will the economy be when you would complete your degree; how could that affect your career prospects?


The bottom line is if you feel confident that, given what is known now, you can and will excel in the current overall learning environment, and that pursuing graduate study now is a pragmatic choice given your overall goals, we would encourage you to move forward.

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Name: Dr. Donald C. Martin
Group: Grad School Road Map
Dateline: Chicago, IL United States
Direct Phone: 773-549-7639
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