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What Is a Deferred MBA Program?

Bethany Garner

Bethany Garner - BusinessBecause

Bethany Garner is a writer at BusinessBecause.com

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If you’re studying for your bachelor’s degree or master’s, and know that further into your career you’re committed to pursuing an MBA, a deferred MBA program could be a great fit for you. 

But how do you know if a deferred MBA is right for you, where can you find one, and how do you apply?

What is a deferred MBA program?

A deferred MBA program is the same as a normal MBA but with one distinguishable difference—it grants pre-admission to students for their MBA program, usually two years in advance.

In the meantime, rather than worrying about your MBA application, you stay focused on your career and build your professional experience.

Who are deferred MBA programs for?

Deferred MBA programs are designed for students in the final year of an undergraduate or master’s degree. The main requirement for a deferred MBA program is that you can apply if you’re an early career candidate with little or no full-time work experience.

Students who apply to deferred MBAs generally have a clear career path in mind and know how an MBA will help them achieve their goals. Candidates usually have a great academic track record and proven leadership potential.

“Deferred MBAs are typically aimed at high potential students who business schools want to capture early,” explains Kate Richardson, senior admissions consultant at mbaMission.

“The main benefit is that you have your business school applications out of the way before you start working, ensuring yourself a spot in your dream program.”

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Knowing there’s a spot in a deferred MBA program waiting for you gives you a little more flexibility in your early career. That might mean trying industries you were previously unsure of, or even launching your own startup. 

“Deferred MBA programs are especially keen to attract non-typical MBA applicants from diverse backgrounds,” says Jen Turtschanow, CEO of ARINGO MBA admissions consultancy.

What schools offer deferred MBA programs?

Several top schools offer deferred MBA programs. You could apply to the Moelis Advance Access Program at Wharton, the Deferred Enrollment program at Stanford GSB, or the 2+2 Program at Harvard.

The “2+2” refers to the two years’ work experience students need before enrolling in the program, plus the two years it takes to complete the Harvard MBA.

At Wharton the Moelis program operates on a similar basis, but there's more flexibility in how long you work before enrolling. You can choose to work for two to four years before enrolling in the Wharton two-year MBA.

Chicago Booth's Scholars Program allows admitted students to work for two to five years before choosing to enroll in either the full-time or evening and weekend MBA.

Yale School of Management, UVA Darden, and Indian School of Business also offer deferred programs.

The MBA you'll study is exactly the same as the school's immediate enrollment option, so when choosing a school, make sure you look at factors like curriculum structure, class profile, and career outcomes.

Many programs also offer scholarships and pre-enrollment events where you can get a taste of the MBA program and start to build your business school network.

How do you get into a deferred MBA program?

To apply for a deferred MBA program, you’ll typically need:

Before you apply, carefully consider the admissions criteria, and make sure you’ve got the required experience. Although you don’t need work experience to apply, you will need to have some leadership experience to draw on and have performed strongly in your exams and coursework.

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Most programs also require a GMAT score, although this can often be submitted separately to the rest of your application, after the deadline.

Are deferred MBA programs harder to get into?

Although the application process is similar for full-time and deferred MBA programs, bear in mind that deferred MBA programs can be more competitive—although for a program like Wharton’s, you will only be up against other deferred MBA applicants.

Only 8 percent of applicants are admitted to Harvard’s 2+2 program, compared to the 12 percent who are admitted to the regular MBA.

“My deferred MBA admits to top programs have almost always had near perfect GPAs, selective internships, and exceptional campus leadership,” mbaMission’s Kate explains.

But don’t let the lower acceptance rates put you off. If you’re rejected from the deferred MBA program at your dream school, you can always apply again later in your career. Having already applied to the deferred program could even set you apart from other candidates.

“If you aren’t admitted, your earlier application will help confirm a strong interest in the program when you reapply,” explains Jen of ARINGO.

Deadlines for deferred MBA programs are usually in the spring, so it’s important to make sure you have enough time to dedicate to your application. Since you need to apply in your final year of college, balancing study and extracurricular commitments can be tricky.

But, if an MBA is definitely part of your , taking time to invest in your future now can save you considerable stress and uncertainty further down the road.

Graduate business school application guide for undergrads

In the mba.com Graduate Business School Application Guide for Undergrads, we provide you with the information and guidance you need to craft business master’s or MBA applications that elevate your story and help you stand out from the pool of other qualified applicants, all tailored specifically for undergrads or recent graduates like you.

Get exclusive, insider advice on how to:

  • Define your personal brand and tell a compelling story with your applications
  • Be strategic about when you submit your applications
  • Put together a business school resume (and how it differs from a professional resume)
  • Write unique and authentic admissions essays
  • Choose who will write your letters of recommendation and tips for managing the process


Bethany Garner

Bethany Garner - BusinessBecause

Bethany Garner is an experienced writer at BusinessBecause.com, where she's credited with more than 200 articles covering everything from entrepreneurial stories to mental health at work.

She also oversees the BusinessBecause Applicant Question, which poses important admission questions to experts in the field, and regularly hosts webinars on various aspects of the business school experience.

Prior to joining BusinessBecause, Bethany honed her skills as a freelance writer, tackling a wide array of topics from petcare to car maintenance.

Bethany holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Glasgow, Scotland.