Deferred MBA Program: MBA without work experience

deferred MBA program

You’re getting ready to finish your undergrad or Master’s degree and you already know that you’re b-school-bound. A Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) program is going to be your next step. But traditional MBA programs expect 2-5 years of work experience from applicants, and you don’t have that yet. Whatcha gonna do?

The answer: check out deferred MBA programs. Here’s what the MBA admissions experts at The MBA Exchange think you need to know about how deferred programs can benefit students who are ready to get an early start on securing a seat at a top school.

What is a deferred MBA program?

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 on your MBA deferred admission program.

Your deferred MBA program study won’t be any less prestigious than going the traditional route with your applications. Are you ready to start work on your Harvard deferred MBA application or other top program application this year?

Who are deferred MBA programs for?

MBA deferred admission programs are for ambitious, focused students who don’t have time to wait before pursuing their goals. Once you’ve had more time to explore your career opportunities and gather the required work experience, it’ll be time to start your deferred MBA studies.

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.

What schools offer deferred MBA programs?

Not every school offers deferred MBA options – but several top programs do! Secure your seat at top programs by applying to Harvard deferred MBA, Stanford deferred MBA, Wharton deferred MBA, and more.

If you’re looking at deferred MBA admissions, you have choices including:

  • Stanford deferred MBA through GSB’s Deferred Enrollment program
  • Harvard MBA deferral through the HBS 2+2 Program (that’s your two years of deferral for more work experience, plus the two years you need to complete your MBA – math it out!)
  • Wharton’s deferred MBA option, The Moelis Advance Access Program at Wharton, which gives you 2-4 years of deferral before you start your MBA study
  • The Yale SOM Silver Scholars deferred program
  • The Scholar’s Program at Chicago Booth, which gives admitted students the chance for 2-5 years of work before starting full-time or evening and weekend MBA study

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.

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.

How do you get 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’re likely to need these materials:

  • As a way of showing off your GPA, an unofficial copy of your college transcript that includes your final year courses
  • 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
  • Two 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.

Deferred MBA program application deadlines

Worried about when to apply? Typically, most deferred MBA applicants submit materials for spring deadlines. Here’s more info on application deadlines for deferred programs at top schools.


You can apply for HBS 2+2, the Harvard MBA deferral program if you’re in the final year of your undergrad or graduate degree. You’re disqualified from applying if you took a break in between college and graduate school. The application deadline is in April.


You’re eligible to apply for Stanford deferred MBA admission if you’re in your final year of an undergrad or graduate degree with no breaks in your academic enrollment. Stanford offers three application rounds. Round 3, with springtime deadlines, typically works best for MBA deferred admission applicants.


You can apply for Wharton’s deferred MBA program during your senior year of undergrad, meeting Round 3 application deadlines in March and decision deadlines in May.

Is it harder to get into MBA programs with a deferrad?

The deferred MBA programs admission scene is different – but is it more challenging? Well, it’s 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. 

When you’ve got more professional experience, you can apply to traditional MBA programs, and 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.

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

You may be able to explore potential dream programs at pre-enrollment events on campus or online.


You need the best available support for that. At The MBA Exchange, our team of expert consultants understands what adcoms at top deferred MBA programs are looking for in applicants – and in application materials! Get our first impression of your potential candidacy by filling out our free, confidential initial evaluation form online now.