MBA Programs

Deferred MBA Programs: Ready to Apply as a College Senior?

September 5 2023 By The MBA Exchange
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College seniors, MBA admission may be closer than you think! It’s true that business schools typically expect MBA applicants to have at least 2-3 years of full-time work experience before applying. Schools want their students to have a real-world perspective that will enhance classroom learning. But, if you’re an undergraduate or current Master’s student who knows that an MBA is essential to achieving your ultimate career goals, there’s an exciting option available at many top b-schools that can change the game for qualified college seniors – deferred admission programs. 

What is a deferred MBA program?

Let’s get into the details, starting with a key definition. Deferred MBA programs let you apply without work experience as an early-career prospective MBA student. Deferred programs get you around that tricky problem of work history when your goals are clear but your resume is still short.

You can apply to deferred MBA programs in the last year of your undergraduate or Master’s study. Then, once you’re pre-admitted, you get some time, usually about two years, to stay focused on your current work and studies before commencing your MBA program. Your deferred MBA program study won’t be any less prestigious than going the traditional route with your applications. 

Most students who score with MBA deferred admission programs already have a pretty clear career path in mind and know that an MBA will be part of their rise to the top of a profession like finance or consulting. In order to succeed with deferred MBA admissions, you’ll need to be able to show current strong academics and plenty of leadership potential.

Benefits of a Deferred MBA Program

Getting admitted to a deferred program isn’t just a boost to your ego. You reap real benefits from being on the ball this early in the game. Earning an MBA boosts the average salary you can expect to earn post-graduation. And, when you secure your seat ahead of the game through deferred MBA admissions, you have the mental freedom and flexibility to get started innovating, experimenting, and finding your own peak style of play.

A deferred MBA acceptance is a great thing to have in your back pocket if you want to explore the startup sector, for one thing! Go ahead and try that gig in an industry you’re surprisingly interested in because you’ve got your Harvard MBA deferral secured and now you’ve got the time.

Top Deferred MBA Programs

Chances are good that if you’re looking at deferred MBA programs, you’re shooting for the top, looking at Harvard MBA deferral or similar. Check out factors including ranking, class profile, average career outcomes for graduates and curriculum structure when deciding on your target programs.

Top deferred MBA programs in the United States and abroad include:

  • HBS 2+2 (Harvard MBA deferral)
  • GSB Deferred Admission (Stanford deferred MBA)
  • Wharton MBA Advance Access Program
  • Yale SOM Silver Scholars Program
  • Chicago Booth Scholars Program
  • MIT Sloan MBA Early Admission Program
  • Darden Future year admissions
  • Columbia Business School Deferred Enrollment program
  • Indian School of Business Young Leaders Program

When you’re choosing the right type of MBA program for you, be it traditional or deferred admission, consider factors like your career goals, your achievements and your funding/budget. Scholarships are available that can help with the cost of many deferred MBA programs.

How To Get Accepted Into a Deferred MBA Program?

Deferred MBA admissions are a little different from the traditional setup. Deferred programs are looking for demonstrated potential. You could have a leg up if you can show that you stand out – diverse backgrounds and unique stories are a definite plus in the deferred MBA admissions world.

For your deferred MBA program applications, you’ll need these materials:

  • An unofficial copy of your college transcript that includes your final year courses and GPA
  • For most programs, a GMAT or GRE score, although many schools allow you to submit this part of your application separately from the rest of your materials
  • An MBA resume that details your part-time work experience, internships, and any future positions you have lined up
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Essays, similar to those required for full-time MBA admissions
  • Depending on your program, you could need to show up for an interview or team-based discussion

A top GPA and leadership experience are a big deal for deferred MBA programs. Admissions committee members at Stanford deferred MBA or Wharton deferred MBA programs need to be able to look at your profile now and see that there’s going to be more there as you continue to develop as a professional. While you don’t need a full 2-5 years of work experience for deferred MBA programs, most do have a required minimum level of experience that you need to be able to show.

How Competitive Are Deferred MBA Programs?

The deferred MBA programs admission scene is definitely more competitive. For example, Harvard accepted just 9% of applicants to the 2+2 deferred MBA program, while accepting 12% for their traditional full-time MBA program for the class of 2023. Accepted applicants had a 3.79 GPA average and a GMAT score between 590-790, with a median of 730.

However, while deferred MBA admissions are highly competitive, the early start you’re getting by attempting to get into a deferred MBA program gives you space to shift if things don’t go according to your first plan. You’ve got some cushion underneath you. And, at programs like Wharton’s deferred MBA, you only have to compete against other applicants to the MBA deferred admissions program, not the whole bulk of the entire applicant field.

Even if you don’t succeed in gaining admittance to a top deferred MBA program, just having completed the application sets you apart from other MBA applicants. MBA admissions officers will be impressed you had the vision, determination and motivation to apply early if you reapply in the future. 

When you’ve got more professional experience, you can reapply to traditional MBA programs. Your attempt at MBA deferred admission makes you stand out in a positive way as someone who’s focused and ambitious, with strong organizational skills and a drive to succeed.


Business schools’ rationale for attracting top college students has evolved over time. The good news for applicants is that, at this point, there’s no “standard candidate” mold to conform to. Many different types of candidates can succeed with deferred admissions. Originally, most MBA programs were looking to expand the profile of their incoming classes by targeting scientists, engineers, humanities majors and entrepreneurs who didn’t traditionally pursue business school.  But in recent years, their target market began to include high-achieving business majors, first-in-family college students inhibited by the financial burden and everything in between. 

Bottom line – don’t let your academic or personal profile keep you from pursuing deferred MBA admission. Every MBA program is somewhat different, yet they all tout a similar value proposition to college seniors. You have nothing to lose, and a potential guaranteed MBA admission in your hip pocket to gain. So go for it!