If you are just starting your career and intend to get a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, the prerequisite requirements may be challenging to meet. Many business schools require you to have at least two years of prior work experience to apply for their MBA programs. In addition, most accepted students have around five years of work experience on average. However, if you want to secure your MBA acceptance as soon as possible, deferred MBA programs can help you overcome the work experience hurdle.
With the help of these programs, you can apply to top business schools even if you do not have any work experience. These programs also accept undergraduate students during their senior year. So, if you do not have any work experience but are eager to get into a top MBA program, you are in the right place. This guide will help you understand everything you need to know about deferred MBA programs, including program pros and cons, top deferred programs, and how to increase your chances of acceptance.
What are Deferred MBA Programs?
Most business schools require you to acquire a specific amount of work experience before applying for their MBA program. However, this is the traditional path to an MBA. Nowadays, you do not necessarily need to have years of experience to apply for an MBA. This is where deferred MBA programs come into the picture.
Deferred MBA programs allow you to secure a seat at any top business school without jumping into the workforce first. However, you can only start the program once you have gathered the required work experience.
A deferred MBA program is also called an “early career program” because it enables business schools to acquire prospective students before they enter the workforce. These programs are becoming very popular all around the world, and most top business schools offer them. These programs are very competitive because the class size is rather small. Candidates accepted into these programs can enroll after gaining two to five years of work experience, depending on their program’s requirements.
You need to show the admissions committee that you have exceptional skills to gain admission into these programs. You will need to ace your GMAT or GRE, have a strong GPA, and pursue extracurricular activities. You also need to show that you are passionate and have well-defined goals that you hope to achieve.
This program is most suitable for candidates who are sure that an MBA program is something they want to pursue in the future. If you are passionate and ambitious, you can apply to business schools during your senior year. If accepted, you will receive a promise that your seat is secured for the future. Once you obtain the necessary work experience, you can begin the MBA program, just like a traditional MBA student.
Deferred MBA programs help students because they provide a degree of certainty for the future. Though some students may change their minds and move away from the idea of pursuing an MBA, this program is the best option for students who have excellent leadership skills, outstanding academic performance, high test scores, and valuable internship experiences.
Deferred MBA programs are open to students from all academic backgrounds; you do not need to have a finance or economics background to apply. All you need is a clear idea of your goals and how the MBA program will help you fulfill them.
Deferred MBA Programs: Pros and Cons
A deferred MBA is becoming immensely popular throughout the world because of the significant benefits it offers. The principal advantage of a deferred MBA program is that you can secure your seat while you are still in college. The deadline to apply to these programs falls between March and April. Some of the various benefits of applying for a deferred MBA program are listed below:
Once you have an offer of admission to a top business school, you have a certain level of security in your career. People who have completed an MBA have high paying base salaries because firms are looking to hire talented people from top business schools. If you love your job and see immense success in it, even before having an MBA degree, you don’t have to worry if you no longer feel you need an MBA. You can simply decline the admission offer and continue with your job.
Better Career Opportunities
You can take advantage of the prestigious brand name that your business school holds even before joining it. An employer is more likely to hire you once they know that you have an offer letter from a top business school. Employers do this because hiring alumni from top business schools helps build their brand’s reputation. Moreover, employers feel that students who have already been offered a seat in business school might be more knowledgeable and talented than other job applicants.
One of the biggest pros of a deferred MBA program is that you have the flexibility of when you want to attend business school. Most business schools expect you to work for two years before joining their school and begin classes during the year specified by your acceptance offer. However, with a deferred MBA program, you could decide to join a business school four years after receiving an acceptance. The program provides you with flexibility because you can join whenever you think it is most feasible, within the predetermined deferment time period. Traditional students are able to defer, but because they are not part of a deferred MBA program, their barrier to getting deferment approved is larger.
Deferred MBA programs have a few considerations that are worth taking into account:
If you enroll in a 2+2 program, you might have difficulty covering the cost of tuition. A 2+2 program consists of 2 years of professional work followed by two years of a regular MBA program. For some, finances will not be an issue, while they may be for others. If you are part of the latter group, consider finding scholarships to offset the cost of your tuition to avoid the substantial cost coming between you and your MBA. Various schools, like Yale, for example, automatically consider students for merit-based scholarships. Additionally, some employers are willing to reimburse the cost of your MBA with certain conditions.
Finding a Job
You need to have an institution-approved full-time job before you can start your MBA. While finding a job may be easier once you have been accepted, you will have limited time to do so, and the job must be approved by your institution, which can create its own difficulties.
More Experienced Peers
You will need to find a job that provides leadership skills to avoid the problem of keeping up with your peers. Most of your classmates will be experienced and knowledgeable. Failing to find a job that incorporates leadership and diverse experiences might leave you struggling during classroom discussions. Be sure that your role allows you to gain new perspectives and have rich interactions so that you can speak with confidence and bring meaningful discourse to your classroom.
Your employer may be disappointed if they suspect that you will only be working with them for a short period of time before you begin your MBA. In addition, if you are hired and the company goes through a process of downsizing, your job may be at risk since you’re not seen as a long-term employee. Avoid this by expressing your desire to stay and grow in the company. Often, if you are upfront about your plans to develop your skills, management may actually be in favor of your plans. Give the job your all, and show your employer you are devoted to your role. They will know that your MBA will only make you a stronger employee who is even more useful to the operation
Top 7 Deferred MBA Programs
Various schools across the globe offer a deferred MBA program. Listed below are the top seven deferred MBA programs in the US. Most of these programs have a similar procedure— apply early, secure your seat, get two to five years of work experience, and join, though each school’s characteristics and MBA structure might vary slightly. Here’s a deeper look at the requirements, admission stats, application procedure, and eligibility at these schools.
1. Harvard Business School (HBS) 2+2 Program
The HBS 2+2 program is one of the most popular deferred MBA programs. You need to have a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years of experience before joining. You can apply to this program if you are a student in college or a full-time master’s program. Additionally, you can enroll in this program if you haven’t had a full-time job. The program encourages students from all backgrounds to apply, be it STEM or humanities, and the class profile is a little more competitive than the typical pool because of the limited number of seats.
The eligibility criteria of the HBS 2+2 program is:
- You must be a current student in any bachelor’s or master’s degree program.
- You do not have any prior full-time work experience, excluding internships and co-ops.
- If you’re a master’s degree candidate, you must have gone directly from undergraduate to graduate school.
To apply to HBS 2+2, you need to:
- Sign up and create an account on the application page of HBS.
- Start a new application by clicking on ‘click application.’
- Fill in the application details: personal details, student conduct, transcripts, resume, family information, internships or co-ops, awards, extracurricular activities, GMAT/GRE scores, essay, letters of recommendation, and any other information required.
- Review the application carefully, submit it, and pay the application fees.
The essay requirements are similar to that of a traditional MBA with only one difference - you need to outline your pre-MBA career goals. There is no word limit on the first essay— “why should HBS 2+2 consider your candidacy?” However, you need to write no more than 500 characters for the second essay— “What roles or industries will you be exploring during your deferral period?”
The application fee, due by the admissions deadline in April, is payable by credit card only and is non-refundable.
The class profile of Harvard 2+2 is very diverse. Students from all backgrounds enroll in this program. In recent application cycles, around 1,500 students applied to this program, and approximately 130 students were admitted, putting the acceptance rate at 8.6 percent. These numbers will vary based on the quality and quantity of applications received in a given year. HBS gives preference to applicants from any of the following categories:
- From a lower socio-economic background
- Planning to work in an operating company
- Pursuing entrepreneurship
- Pursuing a technically demanding role
2. Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment
Another popular program for a deferred MBA program is the Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment program. It is one of the most selective business schools with a small class size of about 400 students. It is for undergraduate students with diverse educational and professional backgrounds who want to start their MBA right after senior year. However, the school advises that you defer for one to three years and gain work experience before beginning the program. You can choose which year you would like to start your MBA, but the school makes the final decision.
The eligibility criteria of the Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment is as follows:
- You are in the final year of a bachelor’s degree, joint bachelor/graduate program, or master’s program.
- You haven’t taken any breaks between your undergraduate and graduate studies.
- Choose your application round - Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment program offers three application rounds: Round 1, Round 2, and Round 3. As a deferred MBA program applicant, Stanford suggests applying in Round 3. You can apply once during any application cycle.
- Create an online account and submit the necessary documents: academic transcripts, GMAT/GRE score, essay, letters of recommendation, and TOEFL/IELTS (if you have completed your educational program from non-English speaking institutions).
- Review the application, submit it, and wait for the admissions committee to call you for an interview.
The deadline is at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time on the deadline day for your chosen application round.
The essay requirements are the same as the traditional MBA requirements. You will need to write about yourself and why you are choosing Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment. There will also be optional short-answer questions, which you have to keep within 1,500 characters.
The class profile of the Stanford GSB is varied and ever-changing. The class size is small, which makes it highly competitive to get into the program. Due to the smaller class size, each student influences the class profile.
Recently around 7,000 applicants applied for the program, out of which approximately 400 students were selected. This gives Stanford GSB an acceptance rate of 6.2 percent. The average GMAT score for accepted applicants was 733, and the average GRE score was 165 for the verbal and 164 for the quantitative section.
3. Chicago Booth Scholars Program
The Chicago Booth Scholars Program helps you secure a seat in a future class of the Chicago Booth full-time MBA program, even before graduating from college. This program is available to all undergraduate seniors of any U.S. college or university who will work for two to five years before starting their MBA. International students will need to be in their final year of the equivalent to a four-year U.S. degree program. Three-year degree programs are considered for international students under the Bologna Accord. You have an option to do either a full-time MBA program or an evening and weekend MBA program. The best part about Booth is that you have an opportunity to access all of its resources and events even in your deferred years. You can also connect with the Booth community and build a strong network with the Booth’s business professionals during your deferred years, a sure way to set yourself up for success.
The eligibility criteria of the Chicago Booth Scholars Program are as follows:
- You need to be a senior undergraduate student or in your final year of a joint bachelor/postgraduate program.
Chicago Booth is interested in selecting candidates who obtained valuable internships, part-time jobs, or entrepreneurial experience. Ideal candidates are also able to show leadership skills.
The application process is similar to the traditional full-time MBA application:
- Create an account online and start filling out your application.
- Submit all of your documents: essays, short-answer questions, letters of recommendation, resume, official transcripts, GMAT/GRE score, and TOEFL/IELTS score (international applicants only).
- Wait for an invitation to interview. The admissions committee does not send an interview invitation to everybody. Only those chosen by the admissions committee will have the opportunity to interview for their spot at Booth.
The class profile of Booth’s MBA program is diverse, with students coming from various countries, industries, and institutions. Students from any institution with any undergraduate major can apply. The GMAT range for recent years’ applicants was 640-780, and the GPA range was 3.28-4.00.
There is an additional accelerated option for University of Chicago undergraduates. The accelerated option allows you to apply six undergraduate business courses towards the MBA, defer your admissions for 1-2 years, and then matriculate into the MBA program and earn your MBA in less than a year.
The due date for the application is in April. If your application is selected, interviews are typically held in May. The final decisions are made by the end of June.
4. Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program
The Wharton MBA program ranks as one of the top three business schools each year. In 2017, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania introduced deferred MBA programs for Wharton undergraduates. Eventually, the program was opened to all students. Undergraduate and graduate students from anywhere can apply for Wharton’s Moelis Advance Access Program. The admissions committee evaluates Moelis applicants in their pool, separate from the traditional Wharton MBA applicant pool.
The program allows students to obtain two to four years of work experience, preferably in a business setting, after their undergraduate education. You can be from any academic field and apply to the program. Applicants need to be innovative, curious, and willing to take risks because this business school is highly selective of the students it accepts.
The students who get selected for the program receive career and professional support services. They also have access to the Wharton community and can attend the annual retreats and mentoring sessions.
The eligibility criteria of the Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program is as follows:
- You are in the final year of a bachelor’s degree, a joint bachelor/graduate program, or a master’s program.
- You haven’t taken any breaks between your undergraduate and graduate studies.
- Create your account online and begin filling out your application.
- Submit your documents—transcripts, GMAT/GRE score, resume, including all internships, co-ops, part-time positions, two letters of recommendation, and two essays.
- Wait for an invitation to a virtual team discussion and one on one interview.
Students studying at the University of Pennsylvania are eligible for a $10,000 fellowship (based on merit). The application fee is waived for these students.
The class profile of Wharton’s MBA program is diverse and aims to include students from all across the globe with any academic background. The school admits around 170 students. The GMAT score range is between 590-790, and the GPA range was between 3.43-4.00. The average GMAT and GPA are 741 and 3.79 respectively.
Once you are accepted, you need to pay a split deposit before the deadline and the remaining when you decide to enroll. You will also need to submit a yearly declaration showing your intention to enroll in the school and verify your work experience.
5. MIT Sloan MBA Early Admission for College Students
The MIT Sloan MBA early admission program was launched a few years ago for undergraduate students worldwide who want to secure a future seat in Sloan’s MBA program. Applicants selected can work for two to five years after completing their undergraduate studies before joining the MIT Sloan MBA program.
The Assistant Dean of Admission at MIT Sloan stated, “MIT Sloan MBA Early Admission provides an exciting opportunity for undergraduate seniors to set a future path for themselves at MIT Sloan. There is increasing market demand for early admission among MIT undergraduate students and top students worldwide. This is a very positive addition to our offerings.”
You can apply to the program if you:
- Are graduating or have graduated from an undergraduate program
- Have recently entered your graduate program just after finishing your undergraduate degree
- Have no full-time work experience
To apply to the MIT Sloan early admission program, you’ll need to submit the following items:
- Cover letter
- A one-minute video statement
- A resume, uniquely formatted
- Two letters of recommendation
- Test scores
Interviews are conducted on an invitation-only basis. The admissions committee evaluates your application based on your performance at the interview.
MIT Sloan is one of the top schools in the nation with the most significant number of international and female students. The MBA class typically comprises just under 500 students with an average GMAT score of 720 and a median undergraduate GPA of 3.5.
There is no application fee for this program.
6. Darden Future Year Scholars Program
The Darden Future Year Scholars Program is for all undergraduate students in their final year and students pursuing their master’s. Applications open in January, April, and August. You can apply anytime. Once you gain admission, you will acquire two to five years of work experience before joining the school. You gain access to the Darden alumni community and can use the community to build your network and mentorship right after getting admitted into the program. When you apply to the program, the admissions committee considers you for merit-based scholarships and, after you graduate from your undergraduate program, you can become eligible for more scholarships. You need to be willing to work collaboratively once you are in the program because the Darden business environment focuses on communicative learning.
You can apply to the Darden Future Year Scholars Program if:
- You are in the final year of your undergraduate or postgraduate program.
- You do not have any full-time work experience.
You do not need to have pursued a business major to get accepted, but you should have a clear idea about the field wherein you want to work in the future.
- Select your deadline and apply - there are three different rounds in which you can apply.
- Review your application and submit your documents, including transcripts, GMAT/GRE scores, letters of recommendation, resume, and essays.
- Wait for the admissions committee to review your application and call you for an interview.
Getting into Darden’s Future Year Scholars Program is difficult as it’s highly competitive. You can apply in either Round 1 or Round 2 and Darden states that “there is no evaluative advantage to applying in an earlier deadline.” People from all across the world apply for this program. The Darden MBA program receives more than 2,000 applications in a year, and the total number of students enrolled is around 400 each year, 20 percent. The average GMAT score of selected applicants is 703 with an average GPA of 3.5..
There is no application fee to apply to this program. Once you are admitted, however, you need to pay a deposit for each year you defer. This money will eventually be put towards your tuition fees.
7. Yale's Silver Scholars Program
Yale’s Silver Scholars Program, established in 2001, is slightly different from the other deferred MBA programs. The program allows you to start your MBA right after your college graduation. You will spend your first year completing the core curriculum and then spend the second year doing a full-time internship. This program lasts for three years. During your third year, you will return to school and complete your degree with your MBA elective courses. The final portion of your MBA program will last for a total of 9 months.
The Silver Scholars program allows you to gain core MBA knowledge before you start working. The program is famous all around the world because of its global networking opportunities. Like the other programs, the class size is small, which helps to build the tight-knit Yale community.
To apply to Yale's Silver Scholars Program, you need to:
- Be in the senior year of your undergraduate education
- Have no full-time work experience
- Just like all MBA programs, you will submit an online application and include your required documents.
- Your application is evaluated based on your: GMAT/GRE score, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, essays, and quality of part-time/internship work experience.
- If your application stands out, the admissions committee will invite you for an interview, where you will meet one or more members of the Silver Scholars committee.
- A final decision is made based on your interview performance.
The Yale MBA program enrolls approximately 350 students each year. The average median GMAT score of selected applicants is 720, and the average GRE score is 3.65.
Top Tips on How to Get into Deferred MBA Programs
1. Maintain a High Score
An essential tip to get into a deferred MBA program is to ensure you maintain a high GPA throughout your academic career. Strive for a high GMAT or GRE score and be sure your score matches your target school’s average. Aim to achieve a GMAT score above 700 and a GPA above a 3.5. A good score will help you show the admissions committee that you have good analytical and quantitative skills.
2. Build Leadership Skills
The admissions committee is seeking candidates who have excellent leadership skills. Enhance your MBA profile by showing that you have developed these skills through various experiences. Since you may not have significant work experience, you need to build a track record of leadership while in school. You can do this by joining clubs or activities and taking on a leadership role within them. Participating actively in clubs helps the admissions committee know that you are a team player and have engaged in extracurricular activities that expand your skills and experience. Make a note of all the projects you have led and their overall impact on the community. The admissions committee is keen on accepting students who will be active once in business school.
3. Make the Most of Your Breaks
If you have several years before graduation, you should make the most of your summer breaks and gain valuable experience through internships and part-time jobs. These experiences will help your application stand out. You can add these jobs to your application to prove your professional promise and showcase the valuable lessons you have learned. Highlight your teamwork and leadership skills and the impact you have brought to your community.
4. Develop Focused Goals
You need to prove to the admissions committee that you have a clear vision and purpose. The admissions committee is interested in accepting applicants who understand what drives them and how an MBA is a perfect fit for their goals. The application essays are one of the best ways to showcase this. The Director of Admissions at Booth School of Business, Lisa Koengeter, shares that the MBA essay gives the admissions committee “a better understanding of you, your self-assessment and your aspirations.” Be clear about your ambitions and goals and why you need to get into the MBA program to achieve them.
5. Obtain Good Letters of Recommendation
Deferred MBA applications require you to have 2-3 letters of recommendation. Try to secure at least one letter of recommendation from someone other than a professor. You could do this by asking your supervisor at your internship or part-time job. Recommendation letters provide admissions committees with an unbiased review of your candidacy. For this reason, it’s important to secure letters from those who know you well and are able to speak to your specific skills and how you have made an impact in your role.
1. Who should go for a deferred MBA program?
A deferred MBA program is perfect for students who are sure that they want to pursue an MBA in the future. These students can join business school a couple of years after completing their undergraduate studies.
2. When should I apply for a deferred MBA program?
You should apply for a deferred MBA program in the last year of your undergraduate or postgraduate program. You should check the website of your desired school for the deadlines.
3. Can students with a three-year undergraduate degree apply?
Most schools accept a three-year undergraduate degree. However, these applicants are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Additional documentation may be required for international students with three-year degrees.
4. Can I apply if I have full-time work experience in another field?
No, you cannot apply if you have any kind of work experience. These programs are for applicants with no prior work experience.
5. How many years can I defer before joining the MBA program?
Most business schools allow you to defer for between two to five years before joining the program. You should check your desired school’s requirements regarding how many years you can delay.
6. Do I need to take the GMAT to apply for a deferred MBA program?
Most deferred MBA programs require you to take either the GMAT or GRE. However, there are certain exceptions. You should check your desired school’s requirements before taking the GMAT.
7. Why is it so difficult to get into a deferred MBA program?
Most business schools have only a few slots for students in the deferred MBA program, and small class sizes make the application process highly competitive. Your application needs to stand out to be considered for admission. Having a consultant review your application will help make sure your application is at its best.
Most of the top business schools now offer deferred MBA programs, allowing you to secure your future earlier. As a college student, you will have many advantages once you are admitted into a program. You need to gather as much valuable experience as possible and sharpen your skills while you are in school. Research thoroughly before you decide to apply. You should aim to fit the class profile when it comes to your scores and GPA, but remember to let your unique qualities stand out, especially those of leadership. Have a clear vision of your goals and dreams and clearly describe to the admissions committee how their deferred MBA program fits your plans, and reassure them that you are dedicated to the path of completing your MBA.