College senior? No need to delay an MBA

“Millennials. Gen Y’ers. Echo Boomers. Children of the ‘90s.”

Whatever term you prefer to describe early 20-somethings, if you’re a current college undergraduate student, you’re unique in a number of ways. Society views you as being more self-confident, collaborative, and impatient that those who came before you. So it’s no surprise that many seniors (and students who entered various master’s degree programs directly from college) want begin their MBA education immediately after graduation and before launching a career!

Then, reality sets in. Most business schools prefer – and, in many cases, require – that MBA candidates have two or more years of full-time work experience before even applying for admission. However, a surprisingly large number of accredited MBA programs consider, and even welcome, applications from individuals who lack full-time work experience.

Heading this group are business schools with formal programs for admission with deferred enrollment for students in the final stage of their pre-MBA education. These programs offer college seniors (and certain master’s degree students) assurance that they will enter a full-time MBA program within 2-3 years after graduation. The list begins with the two most selective business schools:

• Harvard Business School 2+2 Program

• Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment

In addition, you can consider these other schools with an eye for emerging talent:

• Yale SOM Silver Scholars (a hybrid program)

• IESE Young Talent

• Chicago Booth Scholars Program (for 4th year U of Chicago undergrads only)

• Indiana Kelley Accelerated Admissions for College Seniors

• Purdue MBA Deferred Admit

• Rutgers Future Leaders 2+2

• SMU Cox Accelerated MBA for College Seniors

• Iowa Tippie Take2

• Minnesota Carlson MBA in Two

Some business schools have a policy (typically buried in their online FAQs) that is flexible enough to at least “consider” granting deferred enrollment to college senior applicants. These MBA programs include:

• MIT Sloan

• Cornell Johnson

• Virginia Darden

Additional business schools welcome — and even aggressively seek — academically exceptional college seniors for direct admission with immediate, rather than deferred, enrollment. These MBA programs seek applicants who clearly demonstrate leadership, initiative (e.g., heading an entrepreneurial venture, working part-time, leading a campus cause), and have clear and compelling post-MBA goals.

• Penn Wharton

• NYU Stern Berkley Scholars

• Chicago Booth

• Texas McCombs Scholars

• Carnegie Mellon Tepper 3-2 Program (for Carnegie Mellon undergraduate students only)

Finally, for socially conscious college seniors who want an MBA ASAP, there’s an interesting “back door” option. Individuals who commit to serve 2+ years in the volunteer corps of Teach for America can apply for MBA admission with deferred enrollment at several business schools including: Harvard, Stanford, University of Virginia, Washington University (St. Louis), Penn State, Johns Hopkins, Tulane, University of Delaware, George Washington, and Saint Louis University.

So, what’s the best game plan for those seeking the fast-track to an MBA education? To maximize your chances for success, The MBA Exchange suggests 10 steps you can start today:

1. Achieve and maintain a stellar GPA that includes quant courses

2. Prep for and excel on the GMAT (or the GRE)

3. Pursue leadership roles on campus and in the community

4. Seek internships and part-time jobs at recognized companies

5. Cultivate enthusiastic, future recommenders committed to your success

6. Begin an introspective exploration of your goals, motivations and passions

7. Regularly visit school websites and read their blogs, publications and social media

8. Attend public information sessions and forums to meet MBA admissions staff

9. Engage with local alumni of your targeted schools

10. Get a free, expert evaluation of your MBA candidacy to confirm competitiveness