The last thing most people have on their minds during their senior year is more school. Many of you are looking forward to joining the company of your dreams and finally applying what you’ve learned “to the real world.” An MBA may be on your mind, but just as a possibility in the mid-future. While making moves towards graduate school before even graduating may seem premature, this may be the right choice for many high-achieving students who dream of one day running a company, starting a non-profit, or joining a hedge fund, for example. Imagine the peace of mind of going on to your first job having a guaranteed admission to a top MBA program waiting for you when you are ready!
That’s the benefit of acceptance to a deferred MBA program. Top business schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Yale, MIT, Columbia, Chicago, among others have opened up their doors to college seniors or graduate students without prior full-time work experience. Candidates apply and get admitted to their MBA programs, work for two to four years after completing their studies, and enroll in the program once they have accumulated that work experience. Some programs, like Harvard 2+2, give some preference to applicants planning to work in an operating company (tech, manufacturing, consumer goods, industrials, or retail), first-generation college students, those going into a technically demanding role, or pursuing entrepreneurship. Others, like Yale Silver Scholars, admit students straight from undergrad but have a duration of three years instead of the regular two, and students spend their second year completing an internship. Despite other differences, they all share similar requirements, charge a reduced application fee, and normally receive applications in the spring.
So, how do you know if you are competitive at a deferred admissions program? In my experience as a former MBA Admissions Director and now an MBA Consultant at Accepted.com, these are the main things to keep in mind:
- No Full-Time Work experience needed. The most important requirement for Deferred MBA Programs is to be in your last year of undergraduate studies or to have recently graduated. (Check the schools for their individual requirements) For many of these programs, you can also be in your last year of graduate school (with the exception of law, medicine, or doctoral programs), but in that case, you must have gone to graduate school directly from undergrad and have no full-time work experience. Internships and co-ops along the way are not counted as full-time work experience and are in fact highly encouraged. Check with the programs for individual details and requirements.
- Strong academic record. Given the small proportion of seats allowed every year for deferred-applicants, selectivity for these programs is high, and admissions committees will give a lot of weight to your academic record. It is not surprising that the average GPA for most of the students attending deferred MBA programs is higher than their regular MBA counterparts, in the vicinity of 3.7 or even higher. In addition, the GMAT or GRE tests are required and are also weighed heavily.
- Solid internships and other part-time jobs. Admitted applicants to these programs normally have worked every summer during their degree, and sometimes also during the school year. Those internships are essential, and admissions committees will be looking at your accomplishments and the impact of your work. Starting your own company is also considered a great source of experience.
- Track record of leadership and extracurriculars. Being a stellar student is typically not enough for these programs, as many admitted students have held several leadership roles across different types of organizations, student associations, sports teams, and the like.
- Clear goals. How do you plan to spend the two to four years between graduation and business school? Where do you plan to work? How do you plan to grow in that time? What do you plan to do with your MBA once you graduate? Given that you will be joining a class of students with anywhere from three to seven years of experience, it is important that you are specific about what you plan to accomplish in those years between now and business school, as well as after your MBA. Life happens and changes are normal, but schools will be looking at your concrete vision of how you plan to spend your time before enrollment.
Beyond having a guaranteed offer of admission to a top MBA program in your pocket, applying to a deferred program has many other advantages. For instance, it allows you take a risk that you wouldn’t normally take — like starting your own business — between college and business school.
If your career goes well and you change your mind about attending business school, you only need to decline your offer, or postpone it for later. Many programs will allow you to postpone one more year or even two, giving you more time to work before graduate school.
Another advantage: An application to a deferred admissions program effectively gives you a risk-free shot at getting admitted to your dream MBA. If unsuccessful, it will not have a negative effect on your regular application a few years down the line. You will be able to continue on with your life and apply to that same program later, when the time is right and you have been able to strengthen the elements of your application that might have led to your denial. Essentially, an early denial can work as a trial run, pointing out potential areas for improvement. For example, if your GMAT was a concern, or your lack of extracurriculars, you would now know what to improve in the next few years to strengthen your case for your regular application.
Regardless of your undergrad major, if your plan is to work in business after graduation and you may find yourself looking for an MBA later, Why not start the process now? Why not get that guaranteed admission for when you are ready?
Is deferred admissions the right choice for you? Take Accepted’s free MBA Deferred Admissions Quiz and find out!
Esmeralda Cardenal is an MBA Admissions Consultant at Accepted, former Associate Director of Admissions and Student Affairs at Yale SOM, Director of MBA Admissions at Michigan State Broad, and consultant at Cardiff Business School in the UK. Her MBA admissions experience goes back to 2001.