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Why consider a Deferred MBA?

Stefan Maisnier

Stefan Maisnier - MyGuru

Stefan is an experienced education professional leading the effort at MyGuru to deliver uniquely engaging online tutoring. Under his guidance, MyGuru and Analyst Prep have launched an affordable GMAT prep course to cover all aspects of the exam.

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The process of applying to an MBA program, especially one at a top business school, is tough! A successful applicant needs to research programs, track down letters of recommendation and transcripts, write compelling essays, sit down for candidate interviews, and, of course, prep to take the GMAT or GRE. Applying for a deferred MBA allows ambitious and prepared undergraduate or graduate students to successfully complete the arduous application process before graduation day.

A prudent MBA candidate can then focus on their career responsibilities until the day that they enroll in their program rather than having to burn the candle at both ends at some to be determined point in the future by trying to manage a day job while building a top-notch admissions packet.

For anyone who is confident that they will want to obtain an MBA as part of their academic career, applying for a deferred MBA while finishing undergraduate studies is a great way to minimize potential future application stress. “By seeking admission via the deferred path, you have a chance to create more certainty in your long-term career planning while also foregoing the time, energy, and resources you would spend on b-school applications while working full-time”, says Jake Elton, COO of EarlyAdmit, a consultancy dedicated specifically to the pursuit of deferred MBAs and law degrees. Furthermore, already having acceptance to an MBA program can allow a greater sense of freedom in the first few years of a career, since getting accepted will in no way be a consideration for any early career moves an applicant chooses to make!

Deferred MBA Programs

Much like full-time MBA programs, deferred MBA programs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many prominent business schools in the United States now offer some version of deferred MBA admission. The majority of these programs grant currently enrolled seniors and graduate students the opportunity to apply for admission based on the strength of their collegiate resume before completing their undergraduate or other graduate coursework. Admission is then “deferred”, usually for 2-5 years, while the applicant gains valuable job experience in their chosen field.

Most deferred admission programs allow an accepted applicant to join the rest of their target program’s full-time MBA cohort at some point in the following few years. Arguably the most well-known deferred MBA program is Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program. Accepting applicants since 2008, the 2+2 program is a bit more structured, ostensibly requiring matriculation to begin two years after acceptance. However, entry can be delayed an extra year or two on a case-by-case basis.

Newer deferred MBA programs such as that of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program are quite similar in function to the HBS 2+2, but proactively allow up to four years for admitted students to begin their MBA programs. Meanwhile, the Yale Silver Scholars program integrates work experience into the MBA curriculum by allowing graduating seniors to begin their MBA immediately, but after year one requiring them to partake in work, or internship, experience for year two, before completing their curriculum in a third and final MBA year. The diligent MBA candidate will thoroughly research a number of deferred MBA programs to find the right fit for their professional and academic goals.

Deferred MBA Application Benefits

There are many!

  1. For most deferred MBA programs, the application fee is $100. For some, such as MIT Sloan Early Admission the application fee is currently waived entirely! These low fees are in direct comparison to the average standard MBA application fee of approximately $250.
  2. Easy access to college resources required to complete an application such as transcripts and letters of recommendation.
  3. Third round (late spring) application deadlines that can allow for time to study for the GMAT or GRE during an often less stressful final semester before graduation.
  4. Home campus advantage. Some MBA programs offer incentives for their own undergraduates. For instance, the Kellogg Future Leaders Deferred Enrollment Program allows Northwestern undergraduates to apply without submitting a GMAT or GRE score.
  5. Immediate access to the network and resources of an admitted program.

The last point is likely the most important. Imagine being able to network with the alumni of a program you have been admitted to but have yet to start. An accepted deferred MBA candidate can access the benefits of an established alumni network before even setting foot on campus!

Committing to a Deferred MBA

The appeal of the deferred MBA program for these highly selective institutions is getting a top-quality candidate to commit to matriculating before life gets in the way. That said, upon acceptance the candidate will be expected to commit to attending, and completing, that MBA program in the coming years.

Of course, any application fees should be expected to be nonrefundable. Then, if an applicant is fortunate enough to be accepted, a nonrefundable tuition deposit, usually around $1,000, will be required to secure a spot for future matriculation. Some programs require additional tuition deposits should an accepted candidate choose to defer for an additional year beyond that two-year minimum.

Upon accepting an offer, the candidate also agrees to not apply to any other MBA programs during the deferral period. Of course, once a candidate has been accepted why would they want to go through the application process again!?

Who Should Apply to a Deferred MBA?

Anyone with a strong undergraduate resume and even an inkling of desire to pursue an MBA would benefit from, at the very least, considering applying for deferred admission. At the very worst, it costs $100 (or if applying to MIT Sloan nothing!) to potentially have the big step of an early career plotted in advance. If something changes in life, an admitted deferred MBA candidate can always defer another year or two as warranted, or if they become a truly successful mogul with no need to pursue an MBA any longer, then the tuition deposit can be written off as a relatively low-cost loss.

In the past decade alone, many top business schools in the United States have begun offering these programs, and there is little to no reason to believe that trend will not continue. Now is the time for undergraduates to take advantage of this opportunity to get ahead of the MBA application curve!

Stefan Maisnier

Stefan Maisnier - MyGuru

Stefan is an experienced education professional leading the effort at MyGuru to deliver uniquely engaging online tutoring. Under his guidance, MyGuru and Analyst Prep have launched an affordable GMAT prep course to cover all aspects of the exam. Stefan is also a test prep professor at Northeastern Illinois University holding a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Southern California and a Master's degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, who has participated as an invited test prep expert at live college admissions events globally for schools such as the University of Chicago and ESMT Berlin.