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Jonathan Jaimes Rubiano and Maria Alessandra De Leon, Emlyon MBA students, 2021

Why COVID-19 Shouldn’t Cancel Your Business School Dreams


Posted January 11, 2021 by Marco De Novellis - Editor - BusinessBecause

At the beginning of 2020, Jonathan Jaimes Rubiano and Maria Alessandra De Leon were set to move from Colombia to Lyon in the South of France later that year. Their plan was to pursue the full-time MBA program at Emlyon Business School together.

Rubiano, operations director for an oil and gas firm, and De Leon, a marketing manager, were looking forward to settling into a new life in a new country. For the young married couple, an MBA in Europe was a way to gain more international experience and change their career trajectory.

Then, coronavirus hit. Business school campuses closed, international travel was restricted, and Emlyon’s MBA start date was pushed back to January 2021.

While the pandemic caused some incoming MBA students to defer their admission, Rubiano and De Leon didn’t want to put their carefully laid plans on hold. In December, they traveled to Lyon so they could start classes on-campus in January.

When considering their decision, they found themselves asking a lot of questions: How will the MBA experience be different during a pandemic? What will post-MBA job prospects look like?

There is value in pursuing an MBA during a crisis. While the job market is tricky right now, going to business school gives you the opportunity to ride out the storm. By the time you graduate, there’s a good chance the job market will have picked up, and you’ll be in a better position to advance your career.

In fact, 89 percent of global employers still plan to hire MBA graduates in 2021, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, and graduates with advanced management degrees can earn more than double what bachelor’s degree holders earn.

Rubiano and De Leon tell us what they expect from their upcoming MBA experience and why you shouldn’t let COVID-19 delay your business school aspirations.

Some incoming MBA students deferred until fall 2021 due to COVID-19. Why did you decide to move forward with your plans to pursue an MBA?

De Leon: I've thought so many times about how crazy it is to move across the globe during a pandemic, but I also think it is what it is. In 10 years, we will look at 2020, and I don't want it to be a lost year or “the pandemic year”; I want it to count.

I believe in destiny and, after so many challenges, we finally got our visa and were able to enter France. We are getting our MBA, and I'm incredibly excited about that.

Rubiano: The MBA is a goal I set a long time ago, and the current situation didn't change my mind to go for it. My wife and I were accepted to one of the best business schools in France, and we didn't want to lose the chance. Hopefully, at the end of the MBA program the job market will improve, and I would like to get some international experience.

How might your MBA experience be different than it might have been pre-pandemic?

De Leon: So far, the classes will be on campus, and we'll just have to be cautious. It may change, but we don't know yet.

Things will be different in terms of the people, I guess. Nobody wants to hug or kiss anybody these days, and coming from Colombia, hugging and kissing is part of our life! But you get the best networking opportunities from an MBA by learning from others, making contacts, and exchanging ideas. So going back to school is definitely something I want to experience offline.

In our spare time, I hope we will still be able to go out, travel, experience the culture, and learn and practice the language. I believe that's part of the MBA experience too.

Do you think your post-MBA job prospects will be impacted by coronavirus?

De Leon: I've talked a lot about it with my husband, and we actually think that by the time we are looking for a job, the world will be either wholly adapted to the pandemic or things will have already returned to normal. I'm not really concerned about that.

Rubiano: Hopefully, in the course of 2021, job prospects will improve considerably. For example, in Colombia, the economic situation has changed seriously. However, the financial markets are reacting to retrieve the time lost. So, I think the job market will recover positively this year.

What advice do you have for anyone considering applying to business school right now?

De Leon: This is definitely my favorite question, and my answer is: Do not put your dreams on hold! There won't ever be such a thing as a perfect moment; you need to take the opportunities as they come.

Starting an MBA during a pandemic is not ideal, but many things are not ideal. It is still your life, and it's up to you to make it count.

Rubiano: This difficult time is not an excuse to abandon our personal goals. Probably, some people are thinking this is not the right moment, but once this crisis ends, people with the best professional profiles will stand out.


Marco De NovellisMarco 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 @marcodn_bb.

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