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Overview of the Harvard Business School 2+2 Program

harvard business school sign

I remember when I first heard about the Harvard Business School 2+2 Program. I was a sophomore in undergrad, interning at a private equity firm, wondering if I would ever be qualified enough to get a grown up job one day. Business school from a top tier program like HBS felt so far out of reach, I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. Until one day, the associates at the firm asked if I had ever thought about applying for the 2+2 program. I told them I didn’t know much about it, and they proceeded to talk about it as if only unicorns could ever get accepted to an early admissions program like that. So I tucked my intimated perspective of the HBS 2+2 program away, and tried to focus on just landing the next internship. I figured if I somehow sold a company as a college student then I might be eligible to apply for such a program.

I never sold a company, and I certainly wasn’t a unicorn, but I was very grateful that I decided to apply when senior year came around. 

I want to share a little more information about this program in the hopes that other students will consider applying. And when you do, please let me know how I can help!

So what is the 2+2 program?

Many students don’t even realize that there is a way to secure a spot in the Harvard Business School MBA program before even starting your career - it’s called the HBS 2+2 Program. This deferred admissions program is a major win/win because it allows students the assurance of acceptance into the program with the flexibility to enter the workforce for 2-4 years before they dive into business school.

Additionally, HBS gets to lock down high potential individuals early and make their MBA program a planned part of these individual’s careers - even before they gain any work experience. Of all the deferred MBA programs out there, the HBS 2+2 programs feels like the most robust and potentially largest program out there (in terms of applicants admitted each year). 

History of the HBS 2+2 Program

The 2+2 Program was created in 2007 out of a desire to incentivize accomplished undergrads to plan their careers toward attending HBS MBA Program two years post-graduation. The hope was to reach a diverse group of young people who would be starting their careers in less conventional career paths that may not lead to an MBA application down the road. Harvard figured that this program would allow them to build a relationship with high-potential students early on, which would ensure a diverse set of applicants even during a time when MBA programs are becoming less “essential” in the business world.

When I went to campus to interview, Dee Leopold, the former dean of admissions for HBS mentioned that in recent years they’ve even considered rebranding the 2+2 program to be something like flex+2 because they want students to come to campus when they are ready, whether that be 2, 3, or 4 years.

Eligibility

College seniors apply in the spring of their senior year (or final year of study) and, if admitted, they work for 2-4 years before starting the MBA program. Candidates who are either getting a bachelor’s degree or a joint bachelor/masters degree are eligible for the program. Graduate or masters students can also be eligible, if they went directly from their ungrad to grad school and haven’t held a full-time work position yet.

harvard building with people out front

Who they look for

All interested students are encouraged to apply regardless of their educational background. However, HBS has their eye out for individuals who are pursuing career paths outside the norm of general business school applicants. They are particularly interested in a few main groups:

  1. Students planning to work in technical roles
  2. Students going to work in an operating role (like tech, manufacturing and industrials)
  3. Students pursuing entrepreneurship 
  4. Individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds who are first generation college students or have less exposure to graduate school in their families. 

If you are pursuing something more traditionally business-related, something in the nonprofit sector, or something totally different, don’t worry! They still accept students from across the board. There are countless ways to 

Additionally, I hear a lot from international students who are interested in applying to these programs, wondering if they have a shot. You should absolutely apply! HBS is looking for diversity of background, culture, career path, nationality, etc. and international applicants bring a level of perspective and depth that is super important to the HBS adcom.  

Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the recently accepted 2+2 Class of 2023.

How hard is it to get into HBS 2+2?

Out of 1,403 applicants, 115 students committed to the program. There was a 9% acceptance rate, which is only slightly more competitive than the 9.8% acceptance rate of the normal cycle. Of the commits, 43% are women and 25% are international students, with 17 countries represented. 

Looking deeper into the class profile academics, commits have a median GMAT score of 730 and an average GPA of 3.79. The majority (57%) were from STEM academic backgrounds. 24% studied Economics or Business and 19% were in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This chunk of STEM background is really what differentiates the 2+2 cycle from the traditional cycle.

Application Details 

So now that you have all the information, hopefully you are interested in applying for the program. The application process follows the same format as the online application for the traditional MBA program (though you’ll be saving a little money because with the reduced application fee of $100 compared to the regular $250 fee). You’ll need 2 recommenders and one of them should be a direct supervisor. An essay is required as are your GMAT or GRE scores. Interviews for the deferred admission process follow the same format as the regular admissions process - one 30 min, somewhat intense interview.

When should I apply for the 2+2 program?

The application deadline for the 2+2 program is April 2021. That deadline was extended til June 1st in 2020 due to COVID-19, but has returned to their normal timing of April of senior year.

Most important application tip

Of course you want to make your application the best it can be, and there are so many parts to the application - it can be hard to know where to start. The most important advice I can give you after going through the process myself and helping dozens of other successful applicants is to differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. While test scores, grades and a good job will all help, the most important thing you can do is make yourself stand out from other applicants. Don’t guess what you think they want based on who you know that has gotten accepted in the past. Remember, your application will be one among more than a thousand. Make yourself memorable by featuring your unique passions, personality, and view of the world. HBS’ mission is to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world.” Show them that you don’t just have dreams, ambitions, and goals for your own career success but that you are motivated by a drive to make the world a better place.

Just Get started

The most important thing you can do right now is just get started. And if you’re interested in extra tips for getting into the HBS 2+2 Program or another deferred admissions program, check out the Deferred MBA Application Strategy Guide. It has even more information and advice to give you the best shot at getting accepted to your dream MBA program. Also, feel free to reach out at any time for questions or additional personalized help. Good luck!  

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