Studying at Business School During COVID-19
What is it like studying at business school during the coronavirus pandemic? Alison Zambrano Bustillos, a master’s in finance student at Imperial College Business School, knows better than most.
After studying economics and finance in undergrad, and completing internships in finance-related roles in India and her native country Ecuador, Alison decided to pursue a master’s degree in the U.K. to build a career in the finance industry.
Like many aspiring finance professionals, she was attracted to Imperial’s MSc Finance program for its strong quantitative focus, global alumni network, and impressive professors with real-world finance experience.
Yet while students usually benefit from a thriving campus community and central London location, the U.K. is in a coronavirus lockdown and Imperial students—like many others around the world—are studying remotely, engaging with classmates and professors online from their homes.
For Alison, online learning was nothing new. She completed the final semester of her undergraduate degree online after the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. She’s used to classroom sessions being replaced by video calls on Zoom.
While some initially feared the impact COVID-19 would have on the employability of business school graduates, hiring of master’s and MBA grads is set to rebound in 2021, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Corporate Recruiters Survey. Alison already has job and placement offers from a number of firms.
She shares her experience of studying at business school during the pandemic and how, whether you’re studying offline or online, you still stand to benefit.
Why did you decide to study at business school during the pandemic?
During my undergraduate degree, I was successfully able to study from home during my last semester so I knew I could carry on with my plans in pursing a master’s.
I felt that I could cope with the challenges of learning remotely and was sure that the passion I felt for finance was sufficient. I truly believe Imperial College will open many doors and help me to move on in my career.
How has your experience been impacted by COVID-19?
Imperial College Business School has exposed us students to both in-person and virtual lectures which has been a very fruitful experience that I quickly adapted to. I truly value the various efforts that Imperial did in order to provide a well-rounded understanding of higher-level concepts.
At the moment, all teaching is currently remote access only. We learn through Zoom calls, with our lectures recorded for further use. We have access to office hours through Zoom should we ever require additional assistance from our lecturers. There is currently nothing planned for any international trips, but this may change depending on the U.K.'s future situation.
Given the current pandemic, it has been challenging to socialize and adapt to a different way of teaching, however Imperial delivers a multi-modal teaching approach which has made my time at the school worthwhile.
Do you think your post-degree job prospects are impacted by COVID-19?
Due to the frailty and uncertainty of the U.K.'s economic situation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, job security and availability are going to come into question. When sending applications, I felt competitiveness increased, however Imperial has been incredibly helpful in putting me in touch with prospective employers.
I have been approached by several business startups and investment banks with enticing propositions and I have secured a six-month project management internship with Amazon. Skill workshops provided by the careers department prepared me for success when doing interviews with the most rigorous of employers.
What would you say to anyone considering applying to business school right now?
I would advise taking time to consider your options during this pandemic carefully.
My degree program is intense for a reason; it is made to appeal the most to those that have a strong interest in progressing to highly technical and sought-after roles in the financial industry.
If you are ready to be fully immersed in your topic area, the world of finance for example, then the investment is worth it.
Marco De Novellis is the editor of BusinessBecause, an online publisher dedicated to graduate management education, and is the creator and host of the podcast, The Business School Question. Follow him on Twitter @marcodenov.