The Scoop on Deferred MBA Admissions

deferred MBA admissions

Are you a college senior who is thinking about attending a top business school in the future? Then today’s post is for you! A growing number of business schools have created programs that target younger applicants through deferred MBA admissions. Read on to learn more about this exciting alternative route to b-school.

  • What are deferred MBA admissions programs?
  • What do deferred MBA programs look for in applicants?
  • How we approach deferred MBA admissions
  • Why our clients apply via deferred MBA admissions
  • Should I apply now or wait for the regular process in 2-4 years?
  • Deferred MBA admissions program options

What are deferred MBA admissions programs?

Deferred programs are for college students who haven’t held a full-time job upon application submission. The most common model for deferred MBA admissions programs is to apply as a college senior (undergrad or grad). First, you gain admission, and then you work for two to four years before starting the program.

Throughout the deferral period, MBA program admits can access valuable networks and engage career resources within the university. Without a doubt, the most coveted deferred MBA admissions program for SBC clients is the HBS 2+2 Program.

With this model, successful admits work for two years upon college graduation and then attend HBS for two years–hence the program name, “2+2.”  HBS can approve a third year if you’re working on something reasonable—not lying on a beach in Bali!

What do deferred MBA programs look for in applicants?

Our SBC team includes many deferred MBA program experts. In fact, it includes two former HBS Admissions Officers who helped launch the 2+2 Program. Geri, a former HBS Admissions Officer who now works on the SBC team shared, “I was closely involved when 2+2 was launching, so I remember this time well. The HBS class demographics certainly shift over a period of time, sometimes driven by HBS priorities. For example, based on faculty feedback (seeing a lack of flexibility in thinking from students who had been working for many years), the school began to experiment with admitting people with fewer years of work experience. This ultimately led to the 2+2 (deferred admit) program.”

Another former HBS Admissions Officer and SBC consultant clarified, “The main impetus for starting HBS 2+2 was to attract students who would never apply to b-school. They are looking for all the same qualities and credentials as they do for the regular pool. But, then they are also looking for scientists, engineers, techies, and entrepreneurs, to name a few. HBS really hoped they would find young people who saw the deferred admission as an opportunity to take a risk and do something a little bit off the beaten path.”

Our successful college senior applicants are those who have shown leadership and made a noteworthy impact in some way. Also, they are often outside of the typical or traditional MBA candidate profile. For example, we worked with an HBS 2+2 applicant who graduated college early to take an internship working on the heroin epidemic in Washington D.C.

A Clear Eye to the Future

In addition, deferred MBA admissions admits usually have clear career plans and already know how a business education will aid their aspirations. Of course, they don’t need to be 100% married to a job or industry. But they do understand what community they want to serve or problems they want to tackle in the short term.

Deferred admissions admits think of the MBA program as a way to build and test hypotheses and access vital networks to move them forward along an already-defined path. A solid framework on where the MBA falls along with the master plan is important for success as a deferred admissions candidate.

Geri, the former HBS Admissions Officer on our SBC team, added,

“The main reservation was that students with only two years of work experience would not have enough to contribute to the classroom and that the classroom discussion (and their fellow students) would suffer because of it.  Fortunately, this did not turn out to be the case. The 2+2 group of students are stand-outs—they are the type of people who can hold their own in the classroom.  And interestingly, while we were concerned about integration, the 2+2’ers reported that their classmates didn’t even know they were 2+2!”

(Read: HBS 2+2 Deferred MBA Program: Get Accepted)

(Must Read: Insider Intel on 2+2)

But it’s not a program for everyone.

On the other hand, there are some for whom deferred admissions may not be the right plan. MBA applicants who have a tougher time with admit success at the college senior level are the “explorers,” or those who still want to try different things, such as taking a few years at a broad-based employment path, to assess if the MBA is right.

How we approach deferred MBA admissions

Throughout the application, we need to demonstrate to the MBA admissions committee why they should accept this candidate two to five years ahead of the regular applicant pool. HBS 2+2 typically has only 100 admits available, with about 60 male and 40 female spots. Although, keep in mind that AdCom adjusts the odds further according to industry plan or career path.

Career goal positioning within the application is an important success factor for our college senior clients, who will become the next generation of future global leaders.

The bar is higher for the deferred MBA admissions programs, and we work relentlessly with our clients to reach that threshold.

Why our clients apply via deferred MBA admissions

Our college senior admits tell us that they have great job opportunities in the two years leading up to their MBA program because of their early MBA admission. An admit to a top deferred admissions program also allows the young professional to pursue a different level of risk in the job market since they’ve already locked down the MBA admit.

deferred MBA admissions

One can make unconventional career choices—such as opting to work at a start-up over consulting because of the desire for growth, excitement, and impact. As one successful client for Stanford’s deferred MBA admissions program shared:

“The great thing about deferred MBA programs is that you get access to an amazing network of the most interesting, smart people you’ll ever meet years before you even start your MBA. So, connecting with these people early on has enabled me to jump start that self-reflection process by learning from others. That’s a huge benefit of the deferred programs that I think isn’t talked about enough.”

A deferred admissions admit enjoys being part of the MBA community for more years than a traditional MBA admit. These individuals have about four years from admission to graduation to explore the business school experience in depth.

MBA programs often offer check-ins with deferred admissions admits such as in November of each year. At that time, the admit can let the MBA program know when he or she expects to matriculate. Plus, this check-in process gives them the same access to scholarship opportunities.

Hear from our successful deferred MBA admissions clients.

A recent HBS 2+2 admit, and a client of SBC wrote in to say:

“Being a 2+2 admit means you are a part of the larger 2+2 community, which includes both current admits (for multiple years, since admits can defer for 2-4 years) and past 2+2 alumni. One of the first admit events HBS hosted was a panel with previous 2+2 students, and we had the opportunity to hear their stories and ask them questions directly. You are also invited to other quarterly events such as networking events and mock cases that are exclusive to 2+2ers.”

A recent HBS 2+2 admit, who worked comprehensively with SBC, discussed the benefits of the application process this way:

“…definitely don’t NOT apply because you feel like you’re not qualified enough. I can’t believe that I could have missed out on getting admitted to HBS 2+2, had I let my initial self-doubts get the best of me. One thing that helped give me an extra boost of confidence to apply was telling myself that even just the application process itself was a tremendous growth opportunity – a chance to reflect and figure out what my future goals are. And it truly was an awesome experience – I feel like a different, more self-aware person now than before I applied, and in the end, it worked out well!”

There are many upsides to applying as a college senior. First, you have more flexibility with time to schedule test prep and application work. Many seniors are coursework-light when graduation nears, and their academic prowess is ripe and strong. Second, some deferred admissions MBA programs offer perks to college senior applicants. These include things such as waiving the application fee and more leniency with recommendation letters (teacher, advisor, coach, etc).

Top Deferred MBA Admissions Programs

Deferred matriculation?Minimum years of work deferralMaximum years of work deferral DeadlineYear of inception*
Harvard 2+2 ProgramYes24April 25, 20242008
Wharton Deferred Admission ProgramYes24April 24, 20242019
Stanford GSB Deferred EnrollmentBoth deferred and direct matriculation optionsFlexibleFlexibleApril 9, 2024 (GSB accepts deferred applications in all rounds)2010
MIT Sloan Deferred Admission for College StudentsYes25April 19, 20242019
Chicago Booth Scholars ProgramYes24April 4, 20242019
Chicago Business Fellows ProgramDirect, Part-Time MBA03March 25, 20242018
Darden Future Year Scholars ProgramYes24Round 1 April 2024; Round 2 August 20242016
Yale Silver Scholars ProgramNo00April 9, 20242004
CBS Deferred Enrollment ProgramYes25Rolling until April 15, 20242018

Timing is Everything

This HBS 2+2 admit also sees that the deferred MBA application timing can be optimal over the regular application cycle:

“The good news is, AdCom understands that you are a college student and they don’t expect you to have the same level of accomplishments as someone who’s been out of college for a couple of years. In the regular rounds, the applicants might have had a bit more of a blank canvas to start out with and a greater variety of experiences that they can talk about, but that also means the standard is higher.”

We also hear that there’s peace of mind in securing admission early. As one client shared:

“One of my personal tenets in life is “frontloading is key”, so securing early admission to a program was right up my alley (so I don’t have to worry about admissions once later on).”

Along those lines,  the HBS MBA Voices blog shares the journey of Nikki Philip, a 2+2 admit who planned on working in a remote village in Kenya during those interim years. “Applying to HBS via the 2+2 deferred admissions process allowed me to take the GMAT, apply to HBS, and receive my acceptance all before moving to Kenya after graduation,” she explained.

Should I apply now or wait for the regular process in 2-4 years?

Assessing the tradeoff of applying as a college senior versus waiting until the regular application round is important. The deferred MBA admissions route isn’t a side door or an easier route into MBA programs. A quality application effort takes a lot of time, diligence, and application fees.

An admit offer comes with the expectation that the applicant will pay the deposit to hold the deferred admit spot. A true intention of following through on that acceptance and matriculating in two years is essential. Apply only if you are sure you will accept, pay the deposit, and matriculate in a few years.

What if I don’t get in?

We are often asked if MBA programs will consider the applicant to be a ‘reapplicant’ if they were dinged from the MBA program at the college senior level two to four years earlier. Should you apply a few years into your career, the admissions committee typically won’t view you as a ‘reapplicant’ and your college senior submission won’t be considered. Accordingly, there’s no downside to trying to apply as a college senior.

We have counseled many clients about the tradeoffs of applying based on their specific career paths. We often see scenarios where applying as a college senior is more favorable because the client’s admit odds are better now.

In other words, the applicant will get into a higher-ranked or better brand MBA program than if that person waited two to four years. Of course, this scenario is nuanced and shaped by career direction, demographics, and other attributes.

Let’s make sure your deferred MBA admissions plan is effective and optimized. Contact us for an initial free evaluation here.

Visit the HBS 2+2 Program overview here. Check out our How to Get into HBS 2+2 overview here. Read an interview with a successful Stanford GSB deferred MBA admissions client here. An interview with a successful HBS 2+2 deferred MBA admissions client is here. Finally, you can find additional college senior tips by SBC here.

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Harvard HBS, Stanford GSB and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Erin, who was Assistant Director of MBA Admissions at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) and Director of MBA Admissions at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Meet Andrea, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


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