10 Best Deferred MBA Programs in US (2024) - Ranking & Fees

June 15, 2024
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What are Deferred MBA Programs?Top 10 MBA Deferred Admission ProgramsDeferred MBA Programs: Pros and ConsTop Tips on How to Get Into Deferred MBA ProgramsHow to Choose Which Deferred MBA Programs to Apply ToFAQs

Interested in learning about deferred MBA programs? We’ve got you covered!

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. 

However, if you want to secure your MBA acceptance as soon as possible, deferred MBA programs can help you overcome the work experience hurdle. If you do not have any work experience but are eager to get into a top MBA program, this guide will help you understand everything you need to know about deferred MBA programs.

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.

They 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 will be secured in the future. Once you obtain the necessary work experience, you can begin the MBA program, just like a traditional MBA student. 

These 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. 

They’re 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.

Top 10 MBA Deferred Admission Programs

Various schools across the globe offer a deferred program for MBA programs. Listed below are the top seven deferred enrollment 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. 

School Name US News Ranking
Stanford GSB #1 (tie) Best Business School
Harvard Business School #6 Best Business School
University of Chicago (Booth) #3 (tie) Best Business School
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) #1 (tie) Best Business School
MIT Sloan #5 Best Business School
University of Virginia (Darden) #10 (tie) Best Business School
Yale University #7 (tie) Best Business School
Northwestern University (Kellogg) #3 (tie) Best Business School
University of California, Berkeley (Haas) #7 (tie) Best Business School
Emory University (Goizueta) #18 (tie) Best Business School

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

Harvard Business School
Location Boston, MA
US News Ranking #5
Acceptance Rate 8.6
Average GMAT Score 740
Average Years of Work Experience 4.9 years
Program Duration 2 years
Tuition $76,410

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 the Harvard deferred MBA 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.

Class profile:‍

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.  

2. Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment

Stanford GSB
Location Stanford, CA
US News Ranking #1
Acceptance Rate 6.2%
Average GMAT Score 733
Average Years of Work Experience 5 years
Program Duration 2-4 years
Tuition $79,860

Another popular 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 their 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. 

Class profile:‍

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 means the Stanford deferred acceptance rate is 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 

University of Chicago (Booth)
Location Chicago, IL
US News Ranking #3
Acceptance Rate 20%
Average GMAT Score 690
Average Years of Work Experience 2 years
Program Duration 4 years
Tuition $84,198

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 of 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 during your deferred years, provided that you write a stellar statement of purpose and fill in the required applicants.

Class profile:‍

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. In recent years, the GMAT range for applicants was 600-780, and the GPA range was 2.4-4. 

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. 

4. Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
Location Philadelphia, PA
US News Ranking #1
Acceptance Rate 6%
Average GMAT Score 728
Average Years of Work Experience 5 years
Program Duration 2–4 years
Tuition $77,500

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 programs for MBA students 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 apply to the program from any academic field. Applicants need to be innovative, curious, and willing to take risks because this business school is highly selective of the students it accepts.

Class profile:

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 728, and the GPA range is 3.6. 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

MIT Sloan
Location Cambridge, MA
US News Ranking #5
Acceptance Rate 14%
Average GMAT Score 750
Average Years of Work Experience 5 years
Program Duration 2–5 years
Tuition $86,550

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 

Class profile:

‍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 750 and a median undergraduate GPA of 3.88.

There is no application fee for this program. 

6. Darden Future Year Scholars Program

University of Virginia (Darden)
Location Charlottesville, VA
US News Ranking #10
Acceptance Rate 35%
Average GMAT Score 716
Average Years of Work Experience 5.9 years
Program Duration 2 years
Tuition $37,507

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.

Class profile:

‍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 716, with an average GPA of 3.51.

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 Business School
Location New Haven, CT
US News Ranking #7(Tie)
Acceptance Rate 5%
Average GMAT Score 720
Average Years of Work Experience 5.1 years
Program Duration 2 years
Tuition $84,900

Yale’s Silver Scholars Program, established in 2001, is slightly different from the other MBA programs with deferred enrollment. 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. 

Class profile:

‍The Yale MBA program enrolls approximately 350 students each year. The average median GMAT score range of selected applicants is 720, and the average GPA score is 3.64.

8. Kellogg Future Leaders Deferred MBA

Northwestern University (Kellogg)
Location Evaston, IL
US News Ranking #3 (tie)
Acceptance Rate 20%
Average GMAT Score 731
Average Years of Work Experience 5 years
Program Duration 2 years
Tuition $81,015

The Kellogg Future Leaders Deferred MBA program, established in 2019, allows students to defer their admission for 2-5 years, depending on their career goals and development needs.

As you begin the MBA program, you join a diverse and talented cohort of students at Kellogg. The program benefits students by providing flexibility, access to Kellogg's network and resources, and mentorship from the Career Development team during the deferment period.

Class profile:

The Kellogg Future Leaders Deferred MBA program is highly competitive, with an average GMAT score of 731 and an average GPA score of 3.7. The most recent class size is 529 students, allowing for a collaborative and supportive learning environment.

9. Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access MBA 

University of California, Berkeley (Haas)
Location Berkeley, CA
US News Ranking #7(tie)
Acceptance Rate 13%
Average GMAT Score 733
Average Years of Work Experience 5.8 years
Program Duration 2 years
Tuition $73,160

The Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access MBA program is a deferred MBA program designed for high-achieving undergraduate students and recent graduates. This program allows students to secure a spot at Berkeley Haas School of Business before gaining professional work experience.

Although it is recommended, the school does not require a GMAT or GRE score for admission. This accelerated program currently does not accept non-Berkeley undergrads. 

Class profile:

The most recent class size teaches 244 students, with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.64. The Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access MBA program comprises students with previous studies in Health, Retail, Electronics, and other industries. It also brings together students from different parts of the world.

10. Emory Goizueta MBA Early Admission program 

Emory University Goizueta
Location Atlanta, GA
US News Ranking #18 (tie)
Acceptance Rate 30%
Average GMAT Score 709
Average Years of Work Experience 6 years
Program Duration 2 years
Tuition $148,000

The Emory Goizueta MBA Early Admission program for their MBA is open to applicants from different origins. Students with or without a history in business majors can apply. If accepted, you can defer enrolling in the program for a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 5 years.

Emory Goizueta offers an application fee waiver for deferred students. They also observe a GMAT/GRE waiver. The downside is that only current college seniors are eligible to apply.

Class profile:

The most recent class comprises 125 students of different backgrounds. Every student class with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.47 has a chance here. You can increase your chances of acceptance with high GMAT or GRE scores.

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 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 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 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 can decide to join a business school four years after receiving 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. They have a few considerations that are worth taking into account:

Financial Strain

‍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. ‍

Company’s Reaction

‍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.

How to Choose Which Deferred MBA Programs to Apply To

When choosing the most suitable deferred MBA programs, consider the following factors.

Career Goals

You may have some experience in an industry outside of business. Once you realize a modification in your career, consider how an MBA aligns with your goals. Search for programs that will help you achieve these goals. 

Research MBA Programs

Before selecting one, you have to search and know a lot about up to 10 other deferred MBA programs. Look into each school's ranking, specialization, accreditation, and ease of employment after study. 

You also want to understand their application process. Next, check through the curriculum, the faculty, and the resources available, to ascertain if such schools align with your career goals. 

Program Structure

Some MBA programs are part-time, while others are full-time. Each program has a different deferral period usually between 2 to 5 years. Check for each school's structure to ensure you can commit to the program. Also, check for the location of each program. Ensure that you can make time for each activity within the program structure.

Financial Considerations

Is it affordable? You can narrow your list down to 5 schools. Then, compare the costs of each program. Look out for financial aid or scholarships available with the eligibility profile as well as terms and conditions. If you are satisfied, go ahead to prepare your application.

If you still find yourself struggling to choose a program, take our MBA School Quiz to point you in the right direction!

Top Tips on How to Get Into Deferred MBA Programs

Once you select your best deferred MBA program, follow these tips to increase your chances of entry

1. Maintain a High Score

‍An essential tip 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 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, like community service and extracurriculars.

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 can speak to your specific skills and how you have made an impact in your role.

Grace, Senior Consultant at Inspira Futures, offers these tips:

“Your recommendation must complement all parts of your application; it should be one piece of the puzzle as you give an admissions committee a complete picture of who you are.”
“Choose recommenders who know you well and make sure that they are aware of the MBA application process. A lot of times deferred enrollment MBA candidates have a tendency to choose recommenders who are based on rank rather than their familiarity with their background and the student.”
“If your recommender isn't familiar with the business school admissions process make sure that you're able to coach them through the process.”


Navigating the world of deferred MBA programs? Find answers to your questions in our FAQ section.‍

1. Who Should Go for a Deferred MBA Program?‍

An MBA program with deferred admission 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 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 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. 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. 

Clearly describe to the admissions committee how their program fits your goals and visions, and you will be on the path to completing your MBA.


Reviewed by:

Alexei Sorokin

Investment Banking and Corporate Development Expert

Reviewed: 6/14/24

About Inspira Futures

At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.
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