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Top Deferred Enrollment MBA Programs

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In the past several years, we’ve seen more and more leading business schools offering deferred enrollment MBA programs.

Traditionally, full-time work experience has been a requirement for acceptance into a leading MBA program, with students averaging five years of professional experience at the time they begin their graduate studies.

Most deferred enrollment MBA programs still require work experience—the difference is that students can gain this experience after they earn admission. Deferred enrollment MBA programs guarantee college seniors (and sometimes graduate students) a spot in their MBA programs, allowing them to enroll two to five years after they graduate from college. This allows students to focus on their work experience with their MBA plans already in place.

Read on for information about deferred enrollment MBA programs at:

How Deferred Enrollment MBA Programs Work

“This type of program is for those who know that an MBA program is something they want to pursue in the future. Not directly after their undergraduate degree (in most cases), but a couple of years later,” explains Alex Brown, an MBA admissions expert at Clear Admit.

Ambitious undergraduate students apply to b-school during their senior years and then receive a promise of a seat in a future cohort. Typically, they are required to gain two to five years of full-time work experience between being accepted and starting an MBA. Once they do enroll, they join the same MBA cohort as those admitted through the traditional application process.

“Applying and gaining admission during college helps reduce the uncertainty of their plan going forward. So rather than entering an analyst program at a consulting firm, for example, with the hope of gaining admission to a top MBA program after a few years, new graduates can enter the program knowing they have an MBA option already,” says Alex. “Of course, it doesn’t stop them from changing their minds, or pursuing other MBA options and forgoing the early admission.”

These deferred enrollment MBA programs are ideal for candidates with established leadership skills. Typically, candidates have outstanding internships, strong academic credentials, and high test scores when they apply. “Also, these candidates are still typically early in their career arch when they start their MBA programs. But, it makes sense if they are focused and really understand how the MBA program will help develop their career further,” explains Alex. “It’s good for candidates with focused career goals.”

Additionally, it’s worth noting that deferred enrollment MBA programs are open to applicants from students of all academic backgrounds. In addition to the finance, business, and economics majors who are well represented in the traditional MBA applicant pool, deferred enrollment MBA programs welcome those from a STEM or humanities backgrounds. Whatever their major, the key for applicants is to have a solid plan for the future and a good sense of how an MBA fits into that plan.

Deferred Enrollment MBA Programs at a Glance

So, what are some of the top deferred enrollment MBA programs and how do they vary?

At a glance, the structure of most deferred enrollment MBA programs are similar. All but Yale SOM are two years in length and place students in the same cohort as the full-time MBA. On the other hand, the Yale Silver Scholars program is three years in length, with the first and third year being the same as the standard MBA and the second year being an extended internship. The reason behind this difference is that the program accepts candidates directly after their undergraduate career without any work experience.

The rest of the programs require that students gain two to five years of full-time work experience before they start their MBA studies. However, in some cases, work experience is not required if the student is currently completing another graduate degree (this is the case for Stanford’s program).

“Generally, the students co-exist in the same program” as those admitted through the traditional process, explains Alex. “Younger students might have more energy and enthusiasm, older candidates might have more experience and insights. It can become a great blend for an academic experience.”

Other key distinctions can be found in the application process. For example, MIT Sloan allows MIT students with an undergraduate GPA of 4.2 to waive the GMAT. Carnegie Mellon undergraduates do not have to take the GMAT/GRE. A few programs, including CMU Tepper, UVA Darden, Haas, and Wharton, all offer scholarships for their deferred programs.

Deadlines for each of these programs tend to fall in April, around the Round 3 MBA application deadlines.

2023-2024 Deferred Enrollment MBA Deadlines

School Application Deadline Decision Notification
Berkeley Haas April 25, 2024 June 20, 2024
Carnegie Mellon Tepper April 1, 2024 June 5, 2024
Chicago Booth April 4, 2024 June 13, 2024
Columbia Business School April 15, 2024 Rolling after deadline
Harvard Business School April 25, 2024
MIT Sloan April 19, 2024 June 13, 2024
Northwestern Kellogg April 24, 2024 June 26, 2024
Stanford GSB* April 9, 2024 May 23, 2024
UVA Darden April 8 & August 1, 2024 June 13 & September 11, 2024
The Wharton School April 24, 2024 June 27, 2024
Yale SOM* April 9, 2024 May 16, 2024

*Deferred enrollment candidates may also apply according to the regular full-time MBA deadlines, though Stanford does mark Round 3 as ideal.

Inside the Deferred Enrollment MBA Programs at Leading Business Schools

Here’s a deeper look at the details of each school’s deferred enrollment MBA structure, eligibility, and application requirements.

Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access

The Berkeley Haas Accelerated Access program opened up to all undergraduate seniors or final-year graduate students in January 2021. The program offers early conditional admission into the Full-Time MBA program with the ability to defer for two to five years to gain professional experience. There is one application deadline in April with an application process very similar to the full-time MBA program, except the application fee is waived.

Application requirements include the application form, university transcripts, 2 short essays, 2 recommendations, a resume, and the GMAT, GMAT Focus or GRE. Interviews are then conducted by invitation only. Accepted candidates must make a $500 deposit.

Upon matriculation, candidates will be eligible for scholarships and dual degree programs.

Carnegie Mellon Tepper Future Business Leaders

Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business launched a deferred MBA program, called Tepper Future Business Leaders, in early 2021. The program is open to college seniors expecting to graduate from any U.S. institution without work experience. The deferment period is two to four years during which time candidates are expected to gain professional experience.

In addition to the online application form, applicants need to submit copies of their undergraduate transcripts, a resume and one professional recommendation. Two essays and a $125 application fee are also required. Carnegie Mellon undergraduates do not have to submit a GMAT or GRE score, but applicants from all other institutions do. Tepper offers interviews by invitation only. Candidates hoping to secure a scholarship will be asked to submit a scholarship essay and an updated resume for consideration when they decide to enroll. Scholarship decisions are made at the time of matriculation.

Chicago Booth Scholars Program

The Chicago Booth Scholars program is a deferred MBA program for promising candidates looking to secure a seat in a future Chicago Booth full-time MBA cohort. It’s open to undergraduates from any institution in their senior year or students who transitioned from undergrad directly to master’s programs, and grants admits a two- to five-year deferment before they begin the full-time MBA program. While working full time, students have the opportunity to engage with Booth and explore the University of Chicago community. If candidates prefer to continue working after five years, they have the opportunity to enroll in the Evening or Weekend MBA programs.

Applications are due in April, and are similar to the full-time MBA application. Application requirements include an online application form, short answer, essays, 2 recommendations, unofficial transcripts (official copies required of admitted students), and professional resume. International students from non-English speaking countries must take the TOEFL, unless their undergraduate degrees were conducted in English. All applicants must take the GMAT, GMAT Focus, shortened GRE or GRE; there is no preference given to any test. Interviews are then conducted on an invitation only basis.

Columbia Business School Deferred Enrollment Program

The Columbia Business School Deferred Enrollment program is open to undergraduate and Master’s students who apply during their final years of study. (Students enrolled in Ph.D. programs, law school, or medical school are not eligible.) Once accepted, they can take two to five years to enter the workforce, and start the full-time MBA program when it’s right for them. To begin the program, admitted candidates simply send the school a letter of intent to Columbia indicating whether they want to enroll in January (16-month program) or August (20-month program with summer internship). Upon sending the letter, students may be considered for merit-based scholarships or allowed to apply for need-based scholarships. Admitted students gain access to conferences, events, and school-wide resources prior to matriculating.

Applications are due by mid-April, and requirements include an online application form, a short answer, an essay, a recommendation, academic transcripts, and professional resume. All applicants must take the GMAT, GMAT Focus, Executive Assessment, or GRE within 3 weeks of applying. There is no application fee for students who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate or eligible graduate-level program. Interviews are then conducted on an invitation only basis. CBS releases decisions on a rolling basis, within two weeks of the interview.

In 2023, 232 candidates were admitted to the CBS Deferred Enrollment Program. Their GMAT scores ranged from 570-780, and GPAs ranged from 3.3-4.0. 108 schools and 28 countries were represented by the new admits.

Harvard Business School 2+2 Program

Harvard’s 2+2 program is perhaps the best-known deferred MBA. Candidates apply in their final year of undergraduate or graduate school, then spend a minimum of two years (maximum of four) working full-time before they begin Harvard’s full-time, two-year MBA program. This program is open to students who plan to work in the public, private, or nonprofit sector, with preference given to applicants: planning to work in an operating company (tech, manufacturing, consumer goods, retail, industrials, etc.), from a lower socio-economic background, who are the first in their families to attend college, going into a technically demanding role, or pursuing entrepreneurship. Students enrolled in Ph.D. programs, law school, or medical school are not eligible; they should apply through the regular MBA admissions process.

The application is essentially the same as for the traditional MBA program, though the application fee is $100 instead of $250. The application fee is waived for active duty military applicants. The admissions deadline is in April. Candidates may enter the full-time MBA program once they have met work experience requirements. To commit to the program, candidates pay a non-refundable $1,000 tuition deposit and must withdraw applications from all other MBA programs (including deferral programs).

More than 1,500 candidates applied in 2023, and 118 students ultimately committed to the program.

Kellogg Future Leaders

Northwestern Kellogg’s Future Leaders program is open to any undergraduate student in their final year of school, as well as Master’s students who began their graduate programs directly after undergrad. Students enrolled in Ph.D. programs, law school, or medical school are not eligible; they should apply through the regular MBA admissions process.

Successful applicants defer their enrollment at Kellogg for two to five years, during which time they are expected to gain relevant work experience.  Candidates may also reassess which MBA program to join; while applicants are accepted into the full-time two-year MBA program, they can also choose the Evening & Weekend or One-Year program. They may also expand their plans to consider the JD-MBA or MMM, though those require admission to the other Northwestern schools.

The application requires brief essays, a recommendation, and an interview by invitation; the TOEFL and GMAT/GRE are also conditional requirements. Non-native English speakers must take the TOEFL, unless their undergraduate studies were conducted in English. Northwestern undergraduates do not have to take the GMAT/GRE, but it is required for all other students. While there is no application fee, admitted candidates need to make an initial deposit of $500, then $500 for every year of deferment; these funds ultimately apply to tuition when they matriculate.

MIT Sloan MBA Early Admission

The MIT Sloan MBA Early Admission program is open to any exceptional undergraduate student during the year that they are graduating. Graduate students without full-time work experience may also apply. Between being accepted and starting the program, candidates are expected to seek two to five years of full-time work experience.

Applications are due in April, and requirements include a data form, cover letter, 2 videos, 2 recommendations, academic transcripts, and professional resume. All applicants must take the GMAT, GMAT Focus or GRE, but MIT students can waive the GMAT or GRE if they have a GPA above 4.2.  Interviews are then conducted on an invitation-only basis. The application fee is waived for all candidates.

Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment

The Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment program is open to undergraduate students who want to begin their MBAs immediately after their senior year. However, students are encouraged to defer for one to four years to gain work experience (two-year deferrals are most common). They can apply during any of GSB’s three application rounds, and can choose which year’s MBA cohort they would like to enter. There is no separate application for deferred admissions; interested applicants apply through the full-time MBA application portal. If they decide to defer for one to two years, they can apply for specific fellowships the year before starting their full-time MBA.

Those eligible for deferred enrollment have their application fee reduced to $100.

UVA Darden Future Year Scholars Program (FYSP)

The UVA Darden FYSP program is open to undergraduate students in their final year, as well as Master’s students. Candidates can apply in April or August. Once admitted, they then go on to gain two to five years of work experience while also gaining access to the Darden alumni community for mentorship, networking, and individualized career support. Then, once ready, candidates join the regular full-time MBA program.

The application requires a GMAT, GRE, Executive Assessment, MCAT or LSAT score, but applicants are encouraged to take the GRE or GMAT before matriculating. Applicants must also submit a resume, transcripts, 3 short answers, and two letters of recommendation. While there is no application fee, admitted candidates need to make a deposit of $500 for every year of deferment; these funds ultimately apply to tuition when they matriculate.

Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program

Undergraduate seniors and graduate students from any institution can apply early for the Wharton MBA through the Moelis Advance Access Program. Accepted applicants receive special professional development and career services support, as well as access to the Wharton community including annual retreats and mentoring. Applicants may apply in their senior year during Round 3 of the MBA admission timeline and are evaluated in comparison to fellow Moelis applicants, not the larger Wharton MBA applicant pool. Candidates defer for two to four years of work experience, and then join the regular two-year, full-time MBA program when they’re ready.

University of Pennsylvania undergraduates, specifically, have the added potential for a $10,000 yearly fellowship (or more, based on merit). The reduced application fee of $100 is waived for active-duty military or veterans, and applicants for whom the fee presents a financial burden. The application requirements include unofficial transcripts, GMAT or GRE score, a resume, two letters of recommendation, two essays that are the same as the general MBA application, and interviews (Team-Based Discussion & one-on-one). Admitted candidates through either program need to make a deposit of $1,000 at the beginning of June of the year they are accepted, and then another deposit of $1,000 when they decide to matriculate. The school also expects yearly affirmation of intent to attend the program, as well as verification of work experience.

In 2023, 118 enrolled in the Wharton Moelis program. Fifty-three percent are women and 27 percent are international.

Yale SOM Silver Scholars

Students admitted to the Yale Silver Scholars program start their MBA studies immediately after college graduation. Candidates spend one year completing the core curriculum, and then undertake an extended full-time internship in year two. Then, during the third year, they return to Yale SOM to complete their degree with MBA elective courses. Students are fully integrated into the Yale SOM MBA class, but they have special programming and career development support that’s tailored to them. Candidates apply during their senior years of college or from a graduate program, if they attended immediately after their undergraduate studies.

Applicants complete the same online application as regular enrollment candidates, with nuances in the Work Experience and Activities sections of data form, and must submit 2 letters of recommendation. If invited to interview, candidates will meet with one or more members of the Silver Scholars committee.

Continued Reading:

Top 6 Tips for Deferred Enrollment Applicants

Why Now is a Great Time to Apply to Business School

Partner Article: How to get into HBS 2+2 from a former HBS Adcom

Partner Article: HBS 2+2: Interview with Admit

Partner Article: Stanford Deferred MBA: Interview with Admit

Page last updated January 2024.

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