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Top 10 Deferred MBA Programs in 2020-21 and How to Choose the Right One for You

Columbia University with a tree in front

If you’re considering applying for a deferred MBA program right now, congratulations!

There has never been such a great time to get locked in early at your business school of choice, because in the last year, six of the top ten MBA programs in the country have adopted deferred enrollment or 2+2 programs.

How can you pick the right one? Well, first, let’s look at your options.

Your Options

Here is an overview of the top 10 business schools that offer deferred MBA programs:

Deferred MBA Program

School’s US News Ranking 2020

Years You Can Defer

Next Round of Apps Due

Year started 

Stanford Graduate School of Business Logo

1 (tie)


April 6, 2021


Harvard Business Schools logo 6 2-4 Spring 2021 2007
Wharton Business School Logo

1 (tie)


Spring 2021


Kellogg School of Management Logo

3 (tie)


Spring 2021


Chicago Booth School of Business logo

3 (tie)


April 1, 2021


MIT Sloan School of Management logo



Spring 2021


Columbia Business School Logo



Spring 2021


Yale School of Management logo


Begin directly after undergrad

Sep 15th, Jan 7th, April 13th


Darden Business School logo



Jan 6th, April 6th, June 1st, Aug 1st ‘21


Berkeley Haas logo 7 2-5 Spring 2021 2019


We’re going to break all those schools down a little more for you below so you can compare as you decide which program to apply for.

But as you learn a little more about them, it's also important to ask yourself:

How Do I Choose the Right Program?

With so many to choose from, how to pick which school(s) to apply to?

Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Ranking: How important is it to you to get into the highest-ranked school possible?
  • Emphasis: Are you looking for a school that emphasizes finance? Technology? Or would you prefer a more balanced education?
  • Supply and demand: What is the typical acceptance rate for the program? If you really want to go to a certain school, don’t let this scare you off right away, but it is worth considering as you decide to which schools it is worth applying.
  • Deferred emphasis: In the same vein as supply and demand, how much does the school appear to invest in their deferred program? It's clear that its a major focus for HBS (they've created an entire program - HBS 2+2 - around deferred applicants), but doesn't appear to be so for Stanford (although I was accepted to Stanford so I know there is definitely some interest there). Also, for Wharton, Kellogg and some of the other new programs, I'd imagine they are getting fewer applicants but still wanting to accept the qualified ones. Could be a good chance to get accepted.
  • Eligibility: Are you even eligible for the deferred enrollment program?
  • Culture: What kind of school culture are you looking for? What culture would be uncomfortable for you? Do you want somewhere more casual or more formal?
  • Relationships: Does the company you are working at or the recommenders you've chosen have special relationships with any of the schools? Unfortunately, the admissions game isn't always fair, so if you have any special "in", then you should take advantage of it. If you don't, that's okay. You can still get in without any connections, or you can hustle and try to create some new connections.

Remember, it’s not just about going to the “best” school you can get into; it’s also about choosing a school that matches well with your goals and priorities. What are you hoping to get out of your MBA experience? What matters to you? What are you willing to compromise?

Keeping these questions in mind, let’s get into a little more detail about those top 10 b-schools.

Top 10 Deferred MBA Programs Breakdown

1. Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment
  • Emphasis: technology, entrepreneurship
  • 2019 acceptance rate (for all MBA applicants): 6.9%
  • Eligibility: last year of undergrad, or in graduate program right out of undergrad

Tied for first in US News’ top b-schools, Stanford is a desirable place to go. With its emphasis on technology and entrepreneurship, Stanford reaps the benefits of being located in the heart and soul of Silicon Valley - Palo Alto, CA. Many students are drawn to its highly collaborative and down-to-earth culture. However, at 6.9%, it has the lowest acceptance rate in the country, so keep in mind that you’ll need a very competitive application to apply here. We can help.

2. Harvard Business School 2+2 Program
  • Emphasis: balanced, contemporary
  • 2019 acceptance rate in 2019 (for all MBA applicants): 12%
  • Eligibility: bachelor’s student, master’s student, joint bachelor’s/master’s student, or master’s student who hasn’t taken a break between programs

One of the few programs with existing and accessible data on their deferred enrollment acceptance rates, HBS’ 2+2 Program reports 1,403 applicants with only 9% admitted for its class of 2023, which is a slightly smaller acceptance rate than its general acceptance rate. There is reason for the high demand, however; HBS is great for those who want a more balanced education, and it provides plenty of club opportunities, strong network building, and emphasis on section unity. Its more formal classroom format and higher competition may or may not be a good fit for you.

3. Wharton Advance Access Program
  • Emphasis: finance, leadership
  • 2019 acceptance rate (for all MBA applicants): 22%
  • Eligibility: in last year of undergrad, or graduate student

With almost quadruple the acceptance rate of Stanford GSB, Wharton still tied for first place in US News’ 2020 business school ranking. This Pennsylvania school boasts a very social and supportive atmosphere and is a good fit for prospective students looking to emphasize in finance. 2020 was the first year Wharton opened up the Advance Access Program to non-UPenn grads, so we are watching closely to see if they announce more details on acceptance rates for this year. We've had several of our applicants get accepted to this program, so we are bullish on it being a really great option in deferred programs.

4. Kellogg Future Leaders Deferred MBA
  • Emphasis: marketing
  • 2019 acceptance rate in 2019 (for all MBA applicants): 26%
  • Eligibility: in undergrad, or in the first 3 years of your career

Tied for third in the US News ranking, Kellogg also specializes in collaboration and socialization in and out of the classroom, with emphasis on classroom discussion and some renown for its party culture. Kellogg has a particularly flexible program; it even includes an option to complete your MBA in just one year. If you ask any current student how their experience has been, they'll tell you they love it.

5. Chicago Booth Scholars Deferred Enrollment Program
  • Emphasis: research, quant/data, finance
  • 2019 acceptance rate (for all MBA applicants): 22.5%
  • Eligibility: in last year of undergrad, or in the first 3 years of your career

Chicago Booth tied with Kellogg for third place in the US News ranking. Even though it has an exceptionally academics-oriented culture, Booth also provides flexibility in coursework and many opportunities for leadership and involvement in clubs. This commuter school is known for its Midwest friendliness, which may make you feel right at home.

6. MIT Sloan Early Admission MBA Program
  • Emphasis: engineering, technology (STEM)
  • 2019 acceptance rate in 2019 (for all MBA applicants): 11.5%
  • Eligibility: graduating/graduated with undergrad degree in the last academic year, or in graduate program right out of undergrad

This Massachusetts school has a very high-demand MBA program with a strong emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). If you are interested in a STEM-related business path, this is the place to be. But remember, STEM does not mean anti-social, especially not here; MIT Sloan is very social, down-to-earth, and collaborative, so applicants who can prove strong social skills are highly preferred. Applicants hoping to pursue a career in Product Management or other technical-related field have found success at MIT. 

7. Columbia Deferred Enrollment MBA Program
  • Emphasis: finance
  • 2019 acceptance rate in 2019 (for all MBA applicants): 19.1%
  • Eligibility: last year of undergrad, or in subsequent graduate program

Located deep in the big city of Manhattan, Columbia’s MBA program has the advantage of being in the middle of modern business. Although it has a history of a highly competitive culture, the university has recently attempted to encourage a more diverse and collaborative culture. Keep in mind that living costs here will likely exceed those of your other options.

8. Yale SOM Silver Scholars MBA Program
  • Emphasis: nonprofit, leadership
  • 2019 acceptance rate in 2019 (for all MBA applicants): 25%
  • Eligibility: current college senior

Even though Yale School of Management (SOM) comes in at number 9 in US News’ business school ranking and has the oldest deferred enrollment program in the top 10 here, the Silver Scholars Program only admits approximately 5% of all applicants! Regardless, Yale SOM remains world-renowned for its global networking opportunities, integrated curriculum, and leadership training. Plus, its exclusivity means it boasts of small class sizes and a tight-knit community. It has a longstanding history of sending a disproportionately high (but recently, decreasing) amount of graduates into the nonprofit industry. Keep in mind that this program begins immediately following your senior year of undergrad.

9. UVA Darden Future Year Scholars Program (FYSP)
  • Emphasis: balanced
  • 2019 acceptance rate in 2019 (for all MBA applicants): 24.4%
  • Eligibility: last year of undergrad, or in a fifth-year master’s program

Darden offers a balanced curriculum that incorporates exceptionally modern business practices. Known for outputting great communicators, Darden expects its students to work very collaboratively. If you’re Darden-bound, prepare for a very intimate and communicative learning environment. It's also clear that the Darden admissions team is putting a strong emphasis on this deferred program, so if you are interested in Darden, this program is a really good option.

10. Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access MBA Program
  • Emphasis: balanced, leadership, innovation
  • 2019 acceptance rate in 2019 (for all MBA applicants): 17.7%
  • Eligibility: bachelor’s or master’s students studying at UC Berkeley

The Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access MBA program is geared towards UC Berkeley undergraduates or graduates, hoping to return to Berkeley for their MBA. We are watching this program closely to see if they will expand to non-Berkeley grads (following in the footsteps of several other elite deferred MBA programs that began just for undergrads at that institution). With proximity to Silicon Valley, Berkeley grads are known for being plugged in with all the top tech companies and VC firms.

Ready to Start Applying?

If you found a school you think would be a great fit for you, download the Deferred MBA Application Strategy Guide today to make sure you start the application process on the right foot and make your application worth it.

Didn’t Find a Good Match?

None of these top 10 seemed like a good fit for you?

Not to worry! There are still other options for you to consider, and we can help you make that choice. Feel free reach out to us to set up a time to chat today. 


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