Deferred MBA Programs: What Are They and How Do I Get In?

Most top business schools like Harvard, Booth, and Columbia run deferred MBA admissions programs and A LOT of people ask us about them because it seems to be a great way to secure an early place. But what exactly are deferred MBA admit programs? Why do they exist and, most importantly, what do I need to do to get in?

Angela Guido is here for this and more with “three” awesome pieces of information that you need to know before applying to a deferred program!

#MBAMondays #deferredMBA #Harvard2plus2

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

It's Monday, MBA Monday! Angela Guido here, the founder of Career Protocol, and today I'm talking about that mystical, magical MBA program that the conoscenti, the secret insiders know of as Deferred MBA Program.

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What Is A Deferred MBA Program?

All right, deferred programs. What are deferred programs? Very simply, they are MBA admissions that are deferred. So typically, you apply in your junior or senior year of college, maybe even just slightly after graduation – but before you really begin your career – you're applying to business school with the intention of working for two or three or four years and then matriculating. But you're asking the school to admit you now, before you've really begun your career. It's kind of a nice option to have in your pocket as you're launching off into the first stage of your professional career and that's why people love deferred programs because it gives you the future of a great MBA to work towards in the first few years of your career. When I talk about deferred MBA programs, the one that comes to most people's mind is Harvard's 2 + 2 program. This is possibly the oldest, but it's definitely the most popular deferred MBA program. By some estimates, roughly 10% of Harvard's class are deferred applicants. So, if you end up getting an MBA at Harvard, something like 100 other people on campus will have been admitted at the end of their university, before they started their career. But Harvard is not the only one. Most other awesome schools have followed suit. So there's the Stanford deferred enrollment program. Wharton has one, Yale, Kellogg, MIT, Chicago Booth, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley Haas, Columbia, Darden. I think that's not even a complete list. Most of the top MBA programs have the opportunity to apply for deferred admission, but these programs have some special dynamics that you want to be aware of if you are approaching a deferred MBA application process. And I'm going to put them into – guess how many buckets? Three! Three buckets of things you need to know as you're applying to deferred programs.

MBA Programs Are Taking A Gamble On You

Bucket number one, you are asking schools to take a mighty big risk on you. Why do I call it a risk? Because if you're graduating from university, the chances are you haven't done much yet. You haven't done a lot to prove that you're going to be a great business thinker a great professional, someone who actually leads in a real world context where dollars and time and people's livelihoods are on the line. Most people graduating from university haven't really tested and proven themselves yet in those environments. Maybe you've done some internships, maybe you've even had full-time work experience while you were studying, but it's very different from being entirely untethered from the academic universe out there in the real world, making your way. So, you're asking schools to promise you a seat in their program before they have the chance to know what you're actually going to achieve in the real world.

Deferred Programs Are Looking For Rare MBA Candidates

The second thing to know about these deferred programs is that they exist primarily to serve the school's diversity goals. One of the best things about business school is that your classmates are going to be from all different places in the world, all different backgrounds, all different styles of communication and thinking, and just any kind of diversity you can imagine will be represented in your business school class. But if you know anything about diversity, you know that some groups of people are underrepresented in business school versus other groups of people, and so we can slice and dice the diversity pool however we like, but the bottom line is schools are using these deferred programs to lock down rare candidates, so that when full-time admission comes, they don't have to fight with the other schools for you. So if you're a really rare, unique, and diverse candidate, there's a very good chance that schools are looking for you, and you're the kind of person that they want to take a risk to lock down now so that you can go to that program when the time comes. There's no downside to applying to deferred programs. Even if you're not admitted, schools will take that as a sign of courage, a sign of wisdom, a sign of commitment to your future. So there's no downside to it. I really recommend, if you like the idea of getting into business school now, that you absolutely should go for it but keep in mind that part of this decision will be influenced by things that have nothing to do with you.

Show That You’re MBA Ready Now & You Still Will Be When the Time Comes!

The third thing to know is that, by and large, what schools are really looking for in deferred applicants is exactly the same set of qualities that they're looking for in their full-time applicants. So, watch all the other videos on our channel, which tell you how to be the best version of yourself in your MBA applications. They want to know that you are someone who wants to lead and is preparing for a long-term trajectory of having a huge impact. So, altogether what this means for your application is that you need to do your very best job to showcase that you are ready for an MBA right now. So that means you need a resume that truly showcases your achievements and the impact that you've had in all of your community organizations, campus leadership, internships, any work that you've done, you need to show them that you are accomplished and impactful. Then you also need to show them that you have a pretty clear head about your future career. Things change, right? Even if you're writing your essays today and matriculating in a week from now, schools know that everything changes as life unfolds, and they're okay with that. But I want to see from you in a deferred applicant is someone who has a plan, someone who's really thought through “Who do I want to be in this world and how does the MBA fit in with that?”. They really need to believe that you're going to need an MBA, because otherwise they're not going to offer you one of their very precious deferred admission spots. If they think you're going to not go to business school in the end, or if an MBA is actually not going to serve your vision, they're going to have a really hard time admitting you at any point, and especially now when you're asking them to hold your option and wait for several years before you actually matriculate.

Let Your True Self Shine Through

And the last thing is, when building your application, don't neglect character. It's still true. Everything I say in all the other MBA Monday videos still holds for deferred applicants. They really want people who are driven by a core set of values, that care about the world around them, and that are inspired to lead positive change. So make sure that your essays show your professionalism, your wisdom in planning your future, but also what really makes you tick and who you are as a human being. All the same rules apply. You're just asking the school to make a decision on you before they have all the information they're going to have about other candidates who are applying full-time. So that means that your application has to be that much more solid and that much more air tight.


So, if you're not subscribed to our channel subscribe now. If you haven't worked to build your leadership and professional profile, get started on that now. Follow all of our videos and don't forget to sign up for a free call with us to discuss how you can strengthen your candidacy now and before you apply, so that whether it's now in a deferred program, or a few years into your career, you can get into the dream schools of your choice.

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Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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