Why right now is a great time for women to get an MBA

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Get in, ladies, we’re going to business school…

Why right now is a great time for women to get an MBA

If you’ve ever considered business school, right now is an excellent time to start GMAT prepping and crafting those personal statements. And if you’re a woman, there’s no time like the present to invest in your education, career and self – now really is the time to dive in.

It’s no secret that MBA programs are seeing decreasing application numbers, especially at top programs (US schools saw a drop of 7% last year). Before we get into why, consider that fact—that leading MBA programs still have the same number of slots to fill with each incoming class—which means that the odds are ever in your favor. If business school really is on your radar, consider this, and take advantage.

Even if you’re not looking at the M7 (the “Magnificent 7” US schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Kellogg, Columbia, Booth) or Top 20 programs out there, business schools are working to better fit the application process and attendance of an MBA program into students’ lives. Schools are providing more testing options, as exhibited by widespread acceptance of the GRE in place of the GMAT, and we see more programs like NYU Stern’s Full-Time MBA accepting the Executive Assessment (the 90-minute, GMAC-administered, schedule-friendly exam popular with seasoned Executive MBA candidates). Some schools have dropped their standardized testing requirements entirely, in favor of proven work experience and other markers.

With respect to programming, schools are investing in flexible formats, like part-time, executive and online MBAs. Not everyone can take a full two years off of work and pay someone to attend classes during that time (who seriously has that saved up?). While there are many ways to pay for your MBA, it’s still a big investment of time and money. If you can’t leave the workforce and the standard MBA just won’t work around your schedule, you’ll find more online, part-time and other hybrid options out there – they make sense for ambitious students’ busy lives, and they make a lot of business sense for business schools. Additionally, schools are doubling down on specialized programming that people (and employers) want, like the Master’s in Finance or Master’s in Real Estate, and working to acquire STEM designation (like Tepper School of Business and others). You’ll be able to find the program that meets your academic and professional needs, so don’t put off the decision to dive in any longer.

Schools are very much focused on achieving gender parity and have the scholarship funding to go with it (quick plug for the groundbreaking Executive MBA for women just launched at Brenau University and the MBAchic Fellowship). Schools and businesses recognize the positive impact a more diverse classroom and board has on business and society and are putting their money where their proverbial mouth is, to bring in more qualified women. If you’re an ambitious woman who has thought of business school in the past, it’s an excellent time for you to send in your best application. Schools will be fighting over you… okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but strong female candidates will continue to feel the $$$ love $$$ this MBA application season.

Two macro issues also make a stronger case for now being a great time to get an MBA. Economic uncertainty and recent Fed decisions to cut interest rates should encourage anyone seriously considering the degree. As we know in times of economic downturn, MBA application numbers rise (check out this article from 2009). It’s a great time for strong candidates to consider dipping out of the workforce while the economy bounces back. Even if you aren’t likely to be let go from your company during tough times, your performance bonus and potential salary bumps will likely take a hit due to budget cuts, no matter how wonderful you are; if you head to bschool, by the time you graduate, you’ll be jumping into a hopefully revitalized economy, with an increased salary, to boot. (You certainly can take the part-time, online or executive route as a hedge, benefitting from both your coursework and a steady salary at the same time, but be sure to time your next move so that you may maximize any tuition reimbursement benefits without losing the salary-boosting impact of your shiny new degree).

[Recent] Fed decisions to cut interest rates translate to a lower cost of borrowing funds for school. We hear from our community on a regular basis about how scary the idea of taking on significant debt can be; if you’re already swimming in undergrad student debt, the idea of piling on more for an MBA can be truly terrifying. While this is hugely simplifying things, consider the career path you’d like to take, and understand how necessary the degree is and what post-MBA salary offers look like. The Fed cutting interest rates might not be a massive influence on your decision, but depending on your program, it could mean thousands of dollars in savings.

Recently 50 US business school deans led by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) penned a full-page open letter in the Wall Street Journal calling for the overhaul of the H-1B visa system and removal of “per country” caps. While current immigration regulations give priority to certain international candidates pursuing Master’s degrees over Bachelor’s, the “ outdated laws, artificial regional and skills-based caps on immigration, and recent spikes in hostility are closing the door to the high-skilled immigrants our economy needs to thrive.” This offers American applicants better odds of getting into their top school; while this trend presents a short-term advantage Stateside, if it continues, it will have a massively negative impact. According to GMAC, USCIS receives more than three times as many petitions for visas as it has available slots within a matter of a few business days – these caps will hurt us in the end and send top talent elsewhere.

Schools are attempting to work around this by securing STEM designation (Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper recently did, joining Kellogg, Darden, Fuqua, Haas and more), as that provides international students with a longer employment window here in the US, but that’s not a complete fix. While you can certainly take advantage of the current opportunity to get into a competitive program, you can also work to open the doors for international talent (especially those with skills to fill known gaps in the States post-graduation). What it means to be a global business leader is evolving beyond the standard, “maximizing profit for shareholders” and broadening to being more thoughtful of the role business plays in society, and in the world – dealing with ambiguous situations like this offer just a taste of the business, moral and ethical decisions that are headed your way.

As Melinda Gates said in announcing Pivotal Ventures’ $1B investment in innovative and diverse approaches to expanding women’s power and influence, “equality can’t wait.”Empowering, supporting and uplifting women into leadership positions and onto boards through business education is just one way to improve business, society and life for us all. Movements like Time’s Up and #MeToo have kicked things into motion, where women are using our voices and stepping into our power, in work, in school and in life; it is a great time for women to get an MBA. That’s why we are back to relaunch MBAchic as a platform for MBA and professional women around the world; our goal is to make investing in your education, career and self more accessible to all.

So. If you’ve ever considered business school as part of your own academic or professional journey, join us. Don’t wait to dive in – your time is now.

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