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Guide to 2024 Deferred MBA Applications: Deadlines, Essays, and More

Erin Wand

Erin Wand - Personal MBA Coach

Erin Wand is an mba.com Featured Contributor and the Vice President of Marketing and Operations for Personal MBA Coach, a boutique MBA admissions consulting and tutoring firm.

Studying on the Steps

An increasing number of top business schools offer deferred MBA programs, enabling current undergraduate students to apply during their senior year or master’s degree students to apply during their final year of studies.

These deferred MBA programs give high-achieving students the opportunity to secure admission to a top MBA program before joining the workforce. Typically, students will work for two to five years prior to beginning their MBA studies (however, there are some exceptions, as explained below).

To help you begin developing your deferred MBA target school list and application strategy, Personal MBA Coach would like to share some general deferred MBA application tips along with an overview of some of the MBA application essays and deadlines for some of the top deferred MBA programs.

How a deferred MBA program application differs from a full-time MBA application

One of the most common questions Personal MBA Coach is asked is: How is the deferred MBA application different from the full-time MBA application?

For most programs, the MBA application essays are the same for both programs. However, for a few programs, including the Columbia Business School Deferred Enrollment Program and UVA Darden’s Future Year Scholars Program, there are a few differences in the essay questions to be on the lookout for.

Regardless of the essays, below are five key things deferred MBA applicants should keep in mind:

1. Your goals should include pre-MBA work

In nearly all cases, your approach to a “goal statement” should vary a bit in a deferred MBA application. Specifically, you should begin any goal discussion with a brief overview of your post-college and pre-MBA plans.

The most successful deferred MBA applicants will either have a job already secured by the time they submit their applications or have a very strong idea of their post-college plans. While you do not need to write excessively about your plans, a few sentences discussing what you hope to accomplish before starting your MBA studies, how this experience will allow you to contribute on campus, and most importantly, how this role will prepare you to succeed post-MBA are crucial.

2. Your goals can be a bit less fleshed out

While Personal MBA Coach encourages all candidates to have fully developed post-MBA goals, the expectations are a bit lower for deferred MBA applicants.

Most candidates have not worked in their targeted industry and may have less insider knowledge of what their future role will entail. This is actually okay. You want to show that you have clearly thought about what you want to accomplish in your career, but this vision does not have to be as detailed for a deferred MBA applicant. 

3. Leadership is still key

The bar is high for deferred MBA applicants; with small programs, the acceptance rates for deferred programs can actually be lower than for the traditional full-time, non-deferred programs. This means that leadership is a key differentiator.

Even though applicants will have limited professional experience, a demonstrated track record of leadership is important. Involvement on campus, or even in high school, can be a great way to demonstrate this leadership. Similarly, strong extracurriculars are likely to work in your favor. If you are considering applying for a deferred MBA in a few years, this is a great time to beef up your work outside of the classroom.

4. GPA and GMAT scores are just as (if not more) important

Without a professional track record to evaluate, admissions directors are likely to rely more heavily on numerical data including GPA and GMAT/GRE for deferred MBA applicants. If there is still time, put in the extra effort to maximize your grades. Similarly, be extra critical as you evaluate your test score and ensure that you have maximized your potential.

5. Professional experience still matters

Nearly all deferred MBA applicants have some professional experience to discuss. This can come in the form of summer internships, in-semester internships, or entrepreneurial ventures outside of work. Wherever possible, look for opportunities to step up in these roles by going beyond the expectations of your role, taking on extra projects, or helping out around the office.

6. STEM is in demand

While, naturally, this will vary from school to school, STEM majors tend to do better at some top schools. That said, traditional finance applicants (and those with other majors) are still accepted each year. Plus, not all schools have a strong preference for STEM.

Outside of these areas, Personal MBA Coach’s MBA application advice for full-time applicants will also apply for deferred MBA candidates. For our most recent MBA application tips, download our Top MBA Application Tips eBook.

Application requirements, MBA essays, and MBA application deadlines for top deferred MBA programs

Harvard Business School 2+2

  • Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program requires at least two years of professional work experience. Students then spend two years in the regular HBS MBA program.
  • Essay: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program? (no limit noted)
  • The upcoming deadline is April 25, 2024.

Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program

  • Those accepted to The Wharton School’s Moelis Advance Access program must complete two to four years of professional experience before they begin their studies as a Wharton MBA student.
  • Essay 1: How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short- and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words maximum)
  • Essay 2: Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words maximum)
  • The upcoming deadline is April 24, 2024.

Columbia Deferred Enrollment Program

  • Columbia Business School’s deferred MBA program gives students the flexibility to begin their studies two to five years after college graduation.
  • Essay 1: Why do you feel you need an MBA to achieve your long-term career goals and why would you like to pursue your MBA at Columbia Business School? (300 words maximum)
  • Essay 2: Discuss one experience or situation in your undergraduate or graduate career where you feel you contributed to your community and what you learned from the experience. (300 words maximum)
  • The upcoming deadline is April 15, 2024.

Yale SOM Silver Scholars

  • After graduating college, students spend their first year at the Yale School of Management, followed by a full-time internship in their second year. Students then return to campus for their third year to complete the MBA program.
  • Essay 1: Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words maximum)
  • Essay 2: How did you arrive at your career interests? How have you or will you position yourself to pursue them? (250 words maximum)
  • The final deadline is April 9, 2024.

Chicago Booth Scholars Program

  • Chicago Booth’s deferred MBA program requires students to work for up to five years before starting the Full-Time MBA Program or Evening and Weekend MBA Programs.
  • Essay 1: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 words minimum)
  • Essay 2: An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office or classroom. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are... (250 words minimum)
  • The upcoming deadline is April 4, 2024.

UVA Darden Future Year Scholars Program

  • Students admitted to Darden’s deferred MBA program can choose to begin their studies after gaining two to five years of work experience.
  • Essay 1: Tell us what you would want your Learning Team to know about you that is not on your resume. (150 words maximum)
  • Essay 2: Select the prompt to which you will respond (200 words maximum):
    • Q1: Tell us about a time when you acted with a team to solve a problem or seize an opportunity. What role did you play? What did you learn from this experience?
    • Q2: Tell us about a time you acted to solve a problem for the greater good. What drew you to this issue? What did you learn from this experience?
  • Essay 3: Select the prompt to which you will respond (200 words maximum):
    • Q1: Share a time when you learned something related to diversity, equity or inclusion that was previously unknown to you? How did this experience impact your perspective?
    • Q2: Share a time when you advocated for a perspective, identity, or community different from your own. How did this experience impact your worldview?
  • Essay 4: How does an MBA fit into your career plan? (150 words maximum)
  • Short Answer: Darden has an incredible network of alumni and partners around the world, and, in a typical year, the School connects with over 80 countries. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to travel? (5 words maximum) And why? (50 words maximum)
  • The upcoming deadline is April 8, 2024 and the round two deadline is August 1, 2024.

Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment Program

  • Those applying to Stanford GSB’s deferred MBA program can select the year in which they prefer to enroll. Applicants are typically encouraged to defer for one to four years.
  • Essay 1: What matters most to you and why? (650 words suggested)
  • Essay 2: Why Stanford? (400 words suggested)
  • The final deadline is April 9, 2024.

MIT Sloan MBA Early Admission

  • If admitted to MIT Sloan’s deferred enrollment program, students are expected to seek full-time work experience for two to five years before beginning their studies.
  • Cover Letter
  • 60-second video statement introduction to future classmates
  • Second video where you will be prompted to respond to a randomly generated, open-ended question. You have 60 seconds to prepare.
  • The upcoming deadline is April 19, 2024.

Kellogg Future Leaders

  • Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management holds the spot of those accepted to its deferred enrolment program for two to five years while they gain professional experience.
  • Essay 1: Kellogg's purpose is to educate, equip and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)
  • Essay 2: Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)
  • The upcoming deadline is April 26, 2024.

Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access

  • Those admitted to the Berkeley Haas deferred enrolment program can begin their studies after a two- to five-year deferment period in which they gain work experience.
  • Essay 1: What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum)
  • Essay 2: How will the Haas MBA help you achieve your post-MBA career goals? (300 words maximum)
    • Reflect on your ambition: What are your goals and aspirations for the future? Where do you aspire to see this degree take you?
    • Now for the "why": How do your goals, passions, and imagination align with your intended path?
  • The upcoming deadline is April 25, 2024.

Read more about why a deferred MBA might be the right choice for you.

We strongly recommend visiting the official websites of the respective business schools mentioned in this article. Policies, requirements, and deadlines may change, so consulting directly with the schools will provide you with the latest details.

Erin Wand

Erin Wand - Personal MBA Coach

Erin Wand is an mba.com Featured Contributor and the Vice President of Marketing and Operations for Personal MBA Coach, a boutique MBA admissions consulting and tutoring firm.

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 14 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2, currently holding the #1 ranking in the US on Poets&Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing and mock interviews. Our team includes a former M7 admissions director and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last year, our clients earned more than $6M in scholarships!