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Admitted HBS MBA Students Can Now Defer Due to COVID-19

The crisp campus air, the collegiate atmosphere, a new city and surroundings, study groups, house parties, club meetings, new networks—the list of exciting and educational business school experiences goes on and on.  Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to hamper plans for on-campus matriculation in the fall of 2020 due to related social distancing guidelines and business restrictions.  Accordingly, Harvard Business School has offered some flexibility to recent admits.

Based on the current and potential impact of COVID-19, HBS students accepted for the Class of 2022 now have the option to defer their matriculation.  They may submit requests between May 15th and June 1st to defer for one or two years.  HBS, however, cannot guarantee meeting all requests, as they said in an email:

“If many of you choose to defer, we may need to spread your enrollment over the next two years (starting in 2021 or 2022). If we are in that situation, we will do our best to honor–but cannot guarantee–your preference of a one-year versus two-year deferral as we balance the backgrounds and perspectives represented in the next few HBS classes.”

Clear Admit Co-Founder, Eliot Ingram, comments,

“This is a savvy move on the part of HBS.  (1) It causes admitted students to reveal their matriculation intent without HBS having to offer tuition discounts; (2) By spreading deferment options across two years, HBS can smooth out the impact on class size and quality; (3) This is a great way for HBS to signal they understand that the value of the in-person classroom experience is a key part of HBS.”

The Message from HBS

Admitted students received the following email from Chad Losee, MBA admissions and financial aid director, and Jana Kierstead, executive director of the MBA and doctoral programs:

“We hope this note finds you safe and well. We were happy to see many of you tuned in yesterday to the fireside chat with Dean Nitin Nohria and student leaders, Rachel Brown and Billy Tabrizi. In that fireside chat, Dean Nohria previewed discussions we’ve been having about potential changes to our deferral policy for this year, which is why we are writing today.

“We realize that the world has changed significantly since you applied–your employment, health, visa, or financial situation (or that of your families) may have shifted in the past few months. To provide you as much flexibility as possible, we will consider allowing you to defer your offer of admission.

“The form to request a deferral will open on May 15 and close on June 1. After June 1, we will not accept any deferral requests beyond medical emergencies, military deployments, or joint Harvard degrees. While we want to be as supportive as possible to you, one real constraint is the operational capacity of the faculty and the school. If many of you choose to defer, we may need to spread your enrollment over the next two years (starting in 2021 or 2022). If we are in that situation, we will do our best to honor–but cannot guarantee–your preference of a one-year versus two-year deferral as we balance the backgrounds and perspectives represented in the next few HBS classes.

“While none of us could have anticipated COVID-19 when going through the admissions cycle, we have always sought individuals of competence and character who can lead in uncertain situations. We chose you because we see in you the attributes that the HBS community and the world need now more than ever. While we offer the choice about deferral in all respect for the challenges that you face, our hope is that the majority of you who can will decide to enroll at HBS this fall and use this as a time to learn and to deepen your capacity to lead. We look forward to partnering with you to make this a spectacular year at Harvard Business School.

“We know you have questions. Please join us for a webinar this Tuesday, April 28 at 12:00pm ET where we will be joined by Dean Nitin Nohria. Please register and submit any questions you may have here. The Admissions team will also hold office hours to discuss any remaining questions you may have after attending the webinar–more information will be provided early next week.

“Until then, please be well and stay safe.”

Clear Admit’s Alex Brown weighed in, “It’s a good move on Harvard’s part to limit the window for deferrals. They can still enroll a full class, using the waitlist. It will be interesting to see how other schools respond.”

For more on how COVID-19 has impacted b-school admissions, see here: COVID-19 MBA Admissions Updates and Cancellations.

Posted in: MBA News

Schools: Harvard Business School

About the Author

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal

Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.

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