Still in College? HBS 2+2 and Other Deferred MBA Programs May Be For You

 

As a college senior, are you wondering, “If I take this job over another, will my chances of getting into grad school be higher or lower?” or “Will this job give me enough experience to be appealing to the top MBA programs when I graduate?”

These questions are hard to answer right now as, after you graduate, your career could take many paths – some of which you can’t even conceive of right now. Maybe the start-up you join after graduation will IPO next year and your career will take off. Or maybe your Peace Corps assignment will show you a whole new set of global problems that you will want to solve as a future business or non-profit leader. Or conversely, maybe your first job will help you see that banking or marketing wasn’t for you after all. Regardless, if you want to have the freedom to take a job without wondering what it means for you future grad school prospects AND be able to take more risks and explore, then a deferred MBA program may be the right move for you. 

In recent years, we’ve seen significant growth in the deferred admissions programs at the top MBA programs. A trend that started primarily at Harvard Business School with the 2+2 program has now come to Stanford GSB, Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, UVA’s Darden, and Yale.

Does this make sense for you? Here’s what to ask yourself:

  1. Are you a college senior (or, for some programs, are you in a law, medical or one year master’s program)?
  2. Are you reasonably confident that you’ll want to go to business school in the next 2-5 years?

If the answers to those two questions are “yes”, then there isn’t much of a downside of applying if your overall profile is in the running (scores, GPA, etc); and a lot of upside if you’re among the few admitted each year. 

What are the requirements?

  • GMAT: For most programs, you need to have a GMAT or GRE score to apply (the exception is MIT where you can bypass the GMAT if you have over a 4.25 as a current MIT undergrad). 720+ is going to be the score you want to shoot for. HBS 2+2 average GMAT tends to be in the 740 range, as a reference. 
  • GPA: Strong undergrad performance is key. Without this, you’ll have a tough time hitting the bar for the deferred programs, but the good news is that you have plenty of time to take more coursework and prove yourself before the full time applications in a few years.
  • Essays: In order to write strong essays, you’ll need to be doing a lot of self reflection and seeking advice from mentors. You’ll need to have a vision as well as a sense for your strengths and weaknesses at this stage of your career. 

For some schools, there are particular applicant qualities or focus areas they are looking for. HBS 2+2 admits are over 60% STEM majors, and this year HBS has stated a preference for those 1) planning to work in an operating company (tech, manufacturing, consumer goods, retail, industrials, etc.); 2) from a lower socio-economic background (first generation in college, lower income family background, less family exposure to graduate school); 3) going into a technically demanding role; or 4) pursuing entrepreneurship. 

And some programs provide scholarship incentive to early admits, including Wharton ($10,000) as well as Darden ($15,000).

So, should you apply? 

These programs are incredibly competitive. If your scores and stats are in range, then we encourage people to apply if it feels like the right program for them. Many wonder if an unsuccessful application to a deferred admission program will hurt their future chances, and the answer is definitely no. In fact, reapplying in the future may just signal how strong your interest in a particular program is. 

Vantage Point MBA Consultant and former Director of Admission at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business Gretchen Athas says, “When the admissions committees see someone who is back ‘at bat’ and with an even stronger profile, it’s viewed very favorably. It demonstrates commitment when we can see that someone took an unsuccessful result and turned that into personal and professional growth so they could apply again down the road.”

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