HBS 2+2 Program for College Seniors: How to Get In

college seniors

What comes to mind when you think of business these days? If it’s the stereotype of the grey flannel suit and traditional office environment, then Harvard Business School wants to have a word. To reach college seniors —particularly liberal arts students—HBS launched the 2+2 Program back in 2007. This deferred admissions program targets students who might have otherwise never considered business school.

Candidates apply in their senior year of college and, once admitted, work for two years before starting the Harvard MBA program. Graduate students who went directly from undergrad to grad school are also eligible.

Andrea on the SBC team is the former HBS Associate Director of MBA Admissions who helped launch the 2+2 Program targeting college seniors.

Andrea explains that the program is about getting the word out about what a graduate business degree can offer. Potential 2+2 candidates may have had few mentors in business. Or, an MBA degree might not be on their radar, given their current course of study.

“No one ever tells undergrads that business involves areas like nonprofits, government, education and social enterprise,” she says.

Here’s a sample of the HBS Admissions expertise on our team:

SBC’s stellar team includes many deferred MBA program experts. In fact, it includes not one but 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 worked 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.”

What should college seniors know about the 2+2 Program?

To be considered for admission to the 2+2 Program Class of 2028 (entering fall 2026), you must graduate from your program between October 1, 2023, and September 30, 2024. Applicants should plan to take the GMAT or GRE test on or before the April 25, 2024, 12 pm (noon) ET deadline. HBS will continue to accept the online (at-home) version of both the GMAT and the GRE.

College seniors outside the US are welcome to apply. If you are an international applicant attending a non-English speaking undergraduate university, you will need to submit a TOEFL, IELTS, Pearson Test of English (PTE), or Duolingo English Test score taken between April 25, 2022, and April 20, 2024.

The 2+2 application is essentially the same as the online application for the traditional full-time MBA program. It has a reduced application fee of $100 vs. the $250 fee for non-2+2 applicants. Note that HBS offers a need-based 2+2 application fee waiver. This waiver is available to all 2+2 applicants for whom the fee presents a financial burden (this includes domestic and international applicants).

Notably, 2+2 applications have only one deadline: April 25, 2024. This allows you to submit fall semester grades for consideration. Interviews and decisions happen in May.

Although the name implies a two-year work period before the MBA, it’s actually more flexible. In fact, the school says in many cases, they allow 2+2 admits to defer for three to four years in an HBS-approved professional opportunity. “They always approve a third year of deferral if you are working on something reasonable, i.e. not laying on a beach in Bali,” says our HBS insider.

college seniors

What is HBS looking for in 2+2 applicants?

If you check out the latest 2+2 class profile, the educational background breaks down as follows:

  • STEM 52%
  • Business/Commerce 22%
  • Economics 14%
  • Art/Humanities 3%
  • Social Science 8%
  • Total 2+2 Applicants in 2023: 1,528
  • Committed 2+2 Students: 118
  • Undergraduate Institutions Represented in the Committed Student Pool: 62

Harvard Business School notes that some preference will be given to applicants who are on paths less established in leading to business school, including:

  • Applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds
  • Applicants who are the first in their family to attend college
  • Applicants who are planning to work in underrepresented industries and functions, such as:
    • Operating companies (e.g. consumer goods, industrials, manufacturing, retail, and technology. Employees within these companies engage with customers, create products and services, and manage staff.)
    • Entrepreneurship (including founding an organization or joining an early-stage start-up.)
    • Technically-demanding roles (e.g. engineering, software development, scientific research, and medical functions. These roles typically require a high level of specialized knowledge, skills, and expertise in a particular field.)

“Traditional applicants were not initially the main target of this program,” our SBC expert shares. “They are looking for all the same qualities and credentials as they do for the regular pool. But then they’re also looking for scientists, engineers, techies, and entrepreneurs, to name a few.”

“They 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.”

Therefore, traditional applicants should embrace the “untraditional” side of their personal story. Rest assured, it can be done. As an example, check out our client case study highlighting the successful 2+2 application journey of Anita, an Economics major from Northwestern University.

“For the rest, you want the things that 2+2 is looking for to be the focus – science, engineering, entrepreneurship, risk-taking, etc.,” our HBS insider advises. “It’s ok to get dorky in these areas and go deep.”

If you are considering the HBS 2+2 Program and need input from an expert sounding board, we’re here to help! Reach out to set up a complimentary assessment of your candidacy today.

Check out our overview of deferred MBA admissions programs here. You can read an interview from a successful GSB deferred MBA admissions client here. Meanwhile, an interview with a successful HBS 2+2 deferred MBA admissions client is here. Happy reading!

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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