Deferred Admissions Programs: Everything You Need to Know


What Are Deferred Admissions Programs?

If you know you want to pursue an MBA in the future, having already secured a spot at a top business school before you even graduate from college would be great, right? The good news is that this is totally possible! And if you did so, you would likely pursue work that genuinely interested you in the interim. Deferred admissions programs can provide exactly this kind of opportunity by allowing candidates who have been accepted to postpone their actual enrollment. Individuals are eligible to apply to such programs if they are in their final year of college or in a full-time master’s program that they entered directly from college. Some business schools offer admission to third-year undergraduate students as well. Applicants who are granted deferred admission typically gain two to four years of work experience after graduation before they actually begin the MBA program.

If you want a deeper dive into deferred admissions programs, you can find information on this resources page and in our HBS 2+2 and Deferred Admissions Guide. If you are looking for a quick snapshot of what these programs have to offer, check out this shareable PDF.


Why Do Deferred Admissions Programs Exist?

The 2+2 program at Harvard Business School (HBS) is one of the earliest deferred admissions programs. It accepted its first class in 2008 and has since grown in size as other prominent business schools have introduced similar programs. The 2+2 program’s objective was to secure standout applicants earlier than other programs could, and it was designed to attract a more diverse group of candidates, specifically those coming from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors. Today, the 2+2 program encourages individuals from all majors to apply but maintains a focus on applicants who are on nontraditional business tracks (i.e., not investment banking or consulting). For example, 57% of the 2+2 program’s most recent class were STEM majors. Deferred programs, and especially the 2+2, want to ensure that future MBA classes represent a variety of backgrounds and interests and to offer diverse candidates the opportunity to apply early, knowing they might be less likely to apply to the regular full-time program in three to five years.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Deferred Admissions Programs?

As mentioned, having been admitted to a deferred admissions program gives recent college graduates the peace of mind to explore career options they might not have otherwise because they know their spot at a top MBA program is already set. They might therefore be more willing to take risks, such as leaving a global firm to work for a start-up or joining the family business. Furthermore, going through the process of applying to an MBA program might be easier in some ways while one is in college than it would be years later. Students are already in “study mode” and could perhaps find preparing for the GMAT or GRE less challenging. They might also have more time available to devote to their applications than they would if they were working 50+ hours per week in a stressful job. And depending on which deferred admissions program they are targeting, they might have access to that MBA program’s alumni network and related resources, which could prove valuable as they begin their post-college career.

Applying to a deferred admissions program such as Harvard’s 2+2 program truly has no real disadvantage. The schools that offer this option have been clear that if someone applies to but is rejected by their deferred program, this will not negatively affect their chances for admission should they try again years later. As one admissions officer said, this is genuinely a “free shot” at an MBA program. Recent evidence supports this claim: 40% of HBS admits who were reapplicants were once 2+2 applicants.

When Should You Apply to a Deferred Admissions Program?

The deferred admissions program application is very similar to the one for the standard MBA program, but the submission deadlines are different. For example, applications for the HBS 2+2 program are due in April, whereas applications for Harvard’s traditional MBA program are due in September and January. While the deadlines for all deferred admissions programs very, they are typically in the spring.

As mentioned, you are eligible to apply if you are in your final year of undergraduate study. However, some schools offer admission to third-year students as well. And all deferred admissions programs welcome applicants from master’s programs who did not work professionally between college and their graduate studies.

How Competitive Are Deferred Admissions Programs?

Given the advantages—and absence of disadvantages—of applying to a deferred admissions program, these programs are understandably more competitive than their respective traditional MBA programs, which are of course already highly competitive! Applicants who are admitted to deferred programs tend to have very high test scores and GPAs.

Note that for the HBS 2+2 program, the median GMAT tends to be very similar to that of the traditional full-time program, and the average GPA is even higher. In addition, the acceptance rate for the HBS 2+2 program is slightly lower.

How Does an HBS 2+2 Class Compare to a Traditional HBS MBA Class?

Full-Time MBA (Class of 2021) HBS 2+2 (Class of 2023)
Applications 9,228 1,403
Acceptance Rate 10.2% (includes only committed students) 9%
Commits 938 115
Women 43% 43%
International 37% 25%
Median GMAT 730 730
Average GPA 3.70 3.79
Most Common Undergraduate Major Economics/Business (43%) STEM (57%)

Keep in mind that you need much more than impressive statistics to gain admission to a deferred admissions program than you do for a traditional MBA program. The schools will evaluate your professional trajectory as well, considering both your past internships and your career goals. Admissions committees also assess the impact you have made during college outside of the classroom and in the community. In your application, and specifically in your essays, you must be sure to clearly demonstrate that you are a fit with your target school by showing that you have done your research on it; you must convince the admissions committee that you have the skills, experiences, and ambition to add value to your MBA class.


Which Schools Have Deferred Admissions Programs, and How Do the Programs Differ from One Another?

If a deferred MBA is appealing to you, you will be happy to know that you have multiple options to choose from! And given how competitive admissions can be, applying to more than one program is recommended. In addition to HBS, other leading schools have introduced their own versions, including Columbia Business School, MIT Sloan, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). All deferred admissions programs have a similar structure, and most are open to candidates from any college, though this was not initially the case.

Deferred admissions programs do differ in some ways, however. The greatest difference is the class size, but other differences include scholarship amounts students receive and the requirements for work experience upon matriculation. For example, the Stanford GSB occasionally allows admits to enroll directly from college.

Plus, the schools look for different qualities in their applicants. For example, HBS states a preference for candidates who plan to work in an operating company and for those who come from a lower socioeconomic background. UPenn Wharton, on the other hand, does not cite a preference for any particular demographic.



How Do the Top Deferred Admissions Programs Compare in Size and Work Requirements?

2021 Cohort Size Work Experience Requirement
Chicago Booth Scholars Program N/A 2–5 years
Columbia Business School Deferred Enrollment Program 216 2–5 years
Harvard Business School 2+2 Program 124 2–4 years
MIT Sloan MBA Early Admission 181 2–5 years
Northwestern Kellogg Future Leaders Program N/A 2–5 years
NYU x NYU/Stern Program 5 None
Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment Not listed Determined on a case-by-case basis
UPenn Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program Not listed 2–4 years
UVA Darden Future Year Scholars Program Not listed 2–5 years
Yale SOM Silver Scholars Program Not listed None; internship required in second year

Chicago Booth Scholars Program

The Chicago Booth Scholars Program offers deferred admission only to undergraduate students in their final year of study. Launched in 2002, this program was originally available exclusively to University of Chicago undergraduate students but has recently begun to welcome applicants from all schools. The program states that during the deferment period, admitted candidates have full access to all Chicago Booth resources and events, specialized deferred scholar programming, and the school’s vast alumni network.

Columbia Business School Deferred Enrollment Program

The Columbia Business School (CBS) Deferred Enrollment program was launched for the 2019–2020 admissions season and is open to undergraduate seniors and graduate program students who have no work experience and are in their final year of study. The 2021 cohort size included 216 students, making it the largest among all deferred admissions programs. Once admitted, students have access to select conferences, events, and resources at CBS to enhance their academic experience and support their career. Students in the CBS Deferred Enrollment program also have the option of enrolling in the school’s J-Term (its 16-month program) or traditional two-year program.

HBS 2+2 Program

HBS launched its 2+2 program in 2007, admitting its first class of students in 2008. Interest in the program has grown notably since its inception: the first year of the program saw 630 applicants, while applicants for the Class of 2024 totaled 1,436. The Class of 2024 comprises 124 students representing 61 undergraduate institutions. The HBS 2+2 program welcomes candidates from all bachelor’s programs and joint bachelor’s/graduate programs, as well as graduate students who entered graduate school directly from their undergraduate studies without gaining full-time work experience.

MIT Sloan MBA Early Admission

The MIT Sloan School of Management announced the launch of its MBA Early Admission program in January 2019, stating in a press release that its goal was “to increase MIT representation in our own MBA program, and recruit qualified college seniors from other colleges to MIT Sloan as early as possible.” MIT undergraduate students do not need to submit a GMAT or GRE score to be considered for admission. The MBA Early Admission program is one of the largest such programs, with 181 students in its 2021 cohort.

Northwestern Kellogg Future Leaders Program

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is somewhat of a latecomer to the deferred admissions scene, launching the Kellogg Future Leaders program in January 2020. Similar to other such programs, it is open to undergraduate seniors and graduate students with no work experience. As a part of their deferred enrollment, students have access to premiere Kellogg resources and receive support from a dedicated admissions officer.

NYU x NYU/Stern Program

The NYU x NYU/Stern program is open to New York University (NYU) undergraduate students who are in their final year of study and have a GPA of at least 3.50. Accepted applicants receive a $10,000 Early Advancement Award that is applied toward their tuition for Stern’s full-time MBA program when they ultimately enroll. Admitted candidates are also considered for additional financial awards, including the one-year Berkley Early Advancement Fellowship, which covers full tuition and fees for the academic year the student begins their studies. Applicants are not required to submit a GMAT or GRE score to be considered for admission.

Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment

The Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) Deferred Enrollment program is open to students in their final year of undergraduate studies or a joint bachelor’s/graduate program, and to students in a graduate program that they entered immediately after college. No prior work experience is required for this program; each applicant’s case is considered individually, but the GSB website states that students are expected “to be productively engaged (such as in full-time work or full-time study) during the deferral period.” The school particularly recommends deferral for individuals who hope to pursue work in biotechnology, private equity, or management consulting, given that companies in these fields generally prefer to hire MBAs who have prior work experience.

UPenn Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program

The UPenn Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program, launched in 2017, was made possible by a $10M donation from alumnus Ken Moelis (MBA ’81) and his wife, Julie Taffet Moelis. The program was originally available exclusively to UPenn students but expanded its reach in September 2019 to welcome applicants from all schools. Wharton’s deferred admissions program is open to undergraduate students and to graduate students with no work experience who are in their final year of study.

University of Virginia Darden Future Year Scholars Program

The Future Year Scholars Program at the University of Virginia (UVA) Darden School of Business is open to undergraduate seniors from any school and to full-time master’s degree students with no work experience. The program considers each admitted candidate for merit-based awards at the time of admission, and additional opportunities for scholarships are available at matriculation. Admitted applicants have access to UVA Darden’s student and alumni network and to individualized career support.

Yale School of Management Silver Scholars Program

The Yale School of Management (SOM) Silver Scholars Program began in 2001 and is open to undergraduates of any school who are in their final year. This program takes a unique approach: students enroll in the MBA program immediately after their undergraduate studies and complete the first-year core curriculum. Then, they spend the next year in a full-time internship before returning to the Yale SOM for their third year, in which they take elective courses and finish the MBA program.

HBS 2+2 and Deferred Admissions Guide

HBS 2+2 and Deferred Admissions Guide

mbaMission’s The HBS 2+2 and Deferred Admissions Guide delves deep into the world of deferred admissions programs, including the spearheading Harvard Business School (HBS) 2+2 Program, which was launched in 2008. A deferred MBA program may be ideal for those looking to gain full-time work experience between their undergraduate studies and business school.

HBS developed the 2+2 Program to give current college seniors (or students who went directly from their undergraduate studies to graduate school) the opportunity to apply for deferred admission. This program allows students to gain years of pre-MBA work experience that will help prepare them for the rigor of business school in a way their undergraduate degree may not have done. Other deferred programs work in a similar fashion.

The mbaMission HBS 2+2 and Deferred Admissions Guide shares details on such programs as the Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment Program, the Yale SOM Silver Scholars Program, and the Chicago Booth Scholars Program. The guide provides information and direction to candidates considering deferred admissions programs as their path to an MBA, including such core information as what attracts applicants to these programs, who is eligible to apply, and what past candidates have to say.

Download your free copy of mbaMission’s HBS 2+2 and Deferred Admissions Guide to learn more about these unique MBA programs.


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