Deferred MBA Admissions

  • 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 programs options


What are deferred MBA admissions programs? 

Deferred MBA Admissions programs targeting college seniors are now offered at many of the elite MBA schools.   

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), gain an admit, and then work for 2-4 years before commencing the program.  Through the deferral tenure of 2+ years, MBA program admits typically can access valuable networks and engage career resources within the university. Options for programs are listed in the table below.

The most coveted deferred MBA admissions program for SBC clients is called HBS 2+2. The model is work for 2 years upon college graduation and then attend HBS for 2 years– hence the program name, “2+2.”  Note that HBS can approve a third year of deferral if the candidate is working on something reasonable, i.e. not laying on a beach in Bali!

What do deferred MBA programs look for in applicants?

At SBC, our team includes the former HBS Associate Director of MBA Admissions who helped launch the 2+2 Program targeting college seniors and other deferred MBA program experts. She shared with our team,

“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 vivid impacts and leadership and are often outside of the typical or traditional MBA candidate profile. For example, we worked with a HBS 2+2 applicant who graduated college early to take an internship working on the heroin epidemic in Washington D.C.  Successful deferred admissions applications require a compelling and differentiated story.

How we approach deferred MBA admissions

Through the MBA application touchpoints, we need to demonstrate to MBA Admissions why the candidate should be accepted effectively 2-5 years ahead of the regular applicant pool. Typically for HBS 2+2, there are only 100 admits available, with about 60 male and 40 female spots and the odds are further adjusted by industry plan or career path.

Career goal positioning in the application is an important success factor for our college senior clients, who will be seen as 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 admit. 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.”

This is similar benefit via HBS’s 2+2 program as a recent 2+2 admit, a client of SBC’s, wrote to us:

“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.”

We also hear that there’s a peace of mind in securing the admit early. A 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).”

A recent HBS 2+2 admit, who worked comprehensively with SBC, shared about the benefits of the application process here.

“…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!”

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. “

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

It’s important to assess the tradeoff of applying as a college senior versus waiting until the regular application round. The deferred MBA admissions route isn’t a side door or easier route into MBA programs. A quality application effort take a lot of time and diligence as well as application fees. An inquiry recently asked us, “Applications are time-consuming and I am ready to dedicate that time but only if I see a decent chance.”  This is the right question to start with.

An admit offer will come with the expectation by the MBA program for the applicant to pay the deposit to hold the deferred admit spot. A true intention of following through on that acceptance and matriculating in two years is important. Apply if you are sure you will accept, pay the deposit and matriculate in several years.

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, 2-4 years earlier. Should you apply in 2-4 years into your career, you are typically not viewed 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 path. We often see scenarios where it’s actually more favorable to apply as a college senior via the deferred MBA admissions process because the client’s admit odds are better now. In other words, the applicant will get admitted to a higher rank or better brand MBA program than if that applicant waited 2-4 years; 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

Check out our How to get in to HBS 2+2 overview here. An interview with a successful GSB deferred MBA admissions client is here. An interview with a successful HBS 2+2 deferred MBA admissions client is here. Additional college senior tips by SBC can be found here.

As well, we recommend reviewing Clear Admit’s deferred MBA admissions overview.

Deferred MBA admissions programs options

Deferred matriculation?Min years of work deferralMax years of work deferralDeadlineYear of Inception*
Harvard’s 2+2 Programyes24April 28, 20222008
Wharton MBA Advance Access Programyes24Wednesday, April 27, 20222019
Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollmentboth deferred and direct matriculation optionsflexibleflexibleApril 12, 20222010
MIT Sloan MBA Early Admissionyes25April 12, 20222019
Chicago Booth Scholars Programyes24April 7, 20222019
Chicago Business Fellows Programdirect, part time MBA03April 1, 20222018
Darden Future Year Scholars Programyes24April 12, 20222016
Yale’s Silver Scholars Programno00April 12, 20222004
CBS Deferred Enrollment Programyes25rolling until April 15, 20222018

Direct matriculation for college seniors

Yale Silver Scholars allows for direct matriculation. The first year is the core curriculum, then one year of internships and the last year of MBA coursework. Stanford GSB’s college senior program does have an option of direct matriculation, although it heavily favors two years of work tenure before commencing the program.  

Newer programs

Many programs are adding deferred MBA admissions programs. Research online:

Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access

Emory MBA Deferment Program

CMU Tepper MBA Deferment Program

*Note: Wharton, Yale, Haas and Booth’s programs have been longstanding for their own undergraduates and only recently expanded to college applicants outside of their own university.

Gainful Employment Clauses

College seniors are expected to remain employed.  Here’s an excerpt from the deferred admissions requirement from CBS:

All admitted students must be gainfully employed during their deferral years. They are required to maintain their full-time employment status during the deferral period. Students must complete a minimum of 2 years of full-time work experience and maximum of five years before matriculating. They will be required to submit proof and explanations of their gainful employment prior to matriculation. Columbia Business School is not able to assist with securing employment or obtaining U.S. work visas. Columbia Business School is not able to assist with securing employment or obtaining U.S. work visas.

Sample Deposit and Renewal Expectations

Here’s an excerpt from the deferred admissions requirement from CBS:

In addition to the non-refundable $500 tuition deposit due two weeks after the admission offer is received, all admitted students must submit the following items by the established deadlines for their specific enrollment class:

  • Official transcripts
  • Official standardized test scores
  • Yearly Deferral Continuation Fee ($500)
  • Yearly Employment Updates
  • Supplemental materials as requested by Columbia Business School in the year they intend to matriculate to support their original application which may include additional application data and verification and additional employment history and verification