What is a Deferred MBA Program and Should I Apply?

What is a deferred mba program is a great question to ask if you are a college senior.



In recent years, we’ve seen significant growth in deferred MBA programs at the top business schools. A trend that started primarily with the HBS 2+2 program and Stanford Deferred Enrollment has now come to Wharton, Chicago Booth, Columbia, MIT Sloan, Kellogg, and more. The list of deferred admission (or enrollment) MBA programs continues to grow every year. So, what is a deferred MBA program exactly?

Generally, they entail a full-time two-year MBA program that you apply for as a college senior (or graduate student) and attend after having worked for 2-5 years. During the ‘deferral period’ – between college graduation and arriving on campus for your MBA – many business schools offer access to their career services office and/or student programming like industry conferences.  

As a college senior, are you wondering, “If I take this job over another, will my chances of getting into a top business school be higher or lower?” or “Will this job give me enough experience to be appealing to the top MBA programs?”. As we’ve all learned over the past few years, life (and your career) can 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 new set of global problems that you will want to solve as a future business or nonprofit leader.

Conversely, perhaps your first job will help you see that banking or marketing wasn’t for you after all. Regardless, if you want the freedom to take a job without wondering what it means for your 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. 

Should You Apply to Deferred MBA Programs? Initial Questions to Ask

Now that you know the answer to ‘what is a deferred MBA program’, you may be wondering whether it is worth your time and effort to apply. Here’s what to ask yourself:

  1. Are you a college senior or in a master’s program that you began right after undergrad (law and medical school may or may not count, depending on the MBA 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 these 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.). Further, there is a lot of upside if you’re among the few admitted each year. 

What GMAT and GPA Do I Need for Top Deferred MBA Programs?

  • GMAT: For most programs, you need to have a GMAT or GRE score to apply. 720+ is going to be the score you want to shoot for. Last year’s MIT Sloan Early Admission Program median GMAT was 750 (whoa!) and, while HBS 2+2 no longer reports this data point, the last median GMAT score they published was 730, as a reference. 
  • GPA: Strong undergrad performance is key. As a benchmark, last year’s MIT Sloan Early Admission Program average GPA was an exceptional 3.88!

Without competitive data points, you’ll have a tough time hitting the bar for the deferred MBA programs, but the good news is that you have plenty of time to take more coursework and prove yourself before the ‘traditional’ application cycle in a few years.

What Else Goes into Applying to Deferred MBA Programs?

  • Essays: To write strong essays, you’ll need to do a lot of self-reflection and seek 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.
  • Recommendations: To secure powerful recommendations, you’ll need to have built strong relationships with individuals who can opine on your potential as a future business leader. These can include professors, an internship manager, or campus leadership advisor.  

Some schools favor certain applicant qualities or focus areas. For instance, HBS 2+2 admits are roughly 70% STEM majors and admissions 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, 3) going into a technically demanding role, or 4) pursuing entrepreneurship. 

So, What’s the Catch? Hint: There Might Not Be One

Deferred MBA 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 people wonder if an unsuccessful application to a deferred MBA program will hurt their future chances and the answer is definitely no! In fact, reapplying in the future may signal your strong interest in a particular program. 

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.”

If you’d like to discuss whether applying to deferred MBA programs might be right for you, contact us here for a free 30-minute consultation.


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