New Product Offering: Step 6 - Crush Your MBA Interviews

What are deferred enrollment or 2+2 MBA programs?

The Beginning of Deferred Enrollment MBA Programs

In September of 2008, Harvard Business School (HBS) accepted their first class of “2+2” applicants. These new admits had applied to Harvard Business School's MBA program with one major variation: instead of having 2-5 years of work experience, they were college seniors, and would spend two years in the workforce before returning to campus to begin their MBA. The 2+2 Program began as a way to incentivize diverse, high-achieving students to plan their future careers around attending HBS two years post-graduation. 

Around the same time, Stanford also made the decision to allow accepted MBA applicants to defer their enrollment two to four years after earning their undergrad. Both Harvard and Stanford have seen great success through these programs, and they have continued to build out and add structure to these unique MBA experiences.

Who Offers Deferred Programs?


How Are Deferred Enrollment Programs Different?

Typically, individuals hoping to earn an MBA are required to gain 2-5 years of work experience before being eligible to apply. For example, HBS's class of 2021 averages 4.7 years of work experience before getting their MBA.

A deferred MBA program works slightly differently. Students still apply during their senior year (applications are due in March-April of your senior year), but once they secure a place in a prestigious MBA program, they are expected to defer their enrollment for two to four years while they enter the workforce. 

Deferred enrollment programs only vary from direct enrollment in timeline. Once deferred MBA admits decide to enroll, they join the same full-time MBA program as everyone else.

The competition for top talent (that's you!) is fierce, and for the top MBA programs, deferred enrollment programs are one of the best ways to both lock down talent early as well as become a core part of an admits’ career plans.

Who Do Deferred Enrollment Programs Want?

From my experience, deferred programs tend to target students from 5 main groups:

1. Students going into an operating role (in tech, consumer goods, retail, industrials, etc.)

2. Students from a lower socio-economic background (first generation to graduate from college, lower family income, other hardship, etc.)

3. Going into a technical role like engineering

4. Starting a business or joining a startup

5. Other diverse background or plans that make the applicant really stand out. 

If you fall into one or more of these groups, congratulations! You should definitely apply and use that to your advantage. However, if you do not fall firmly into one of these group, you are not out of the game! There are numerous ways to differentiate yourself from other applicants. 

These are my personal hypotheses about these why schools would favor applicants from these five groups:

Applicants from these groups are less likely to consider applying for business school in the future (vs. industries like finance or consulting which often have established relationships with business schools and/or require their associates to earn an MBA after 2-3 years to progress at the firm).

Building a diverse class of students is a top priority, and business schools are being extra proactive and thoughtful about attracting top-notch diverse candidates to learn about and apply for these MBA programs.More and more business school students want to enter operating or entrepreneurship roles after business school, so why not recruit more students who are coming from those roles before business school as well?

Regardless of the reasons behind what they are looking for, I’m confident that there are many things you can do to make yourself stand out to the admissions committee.

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