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Top 6 Tips for Deferred Enrollment MBA Applicants

deferred enrollment mba applicants

Undergraduate seniors and full-time graduate students without work experience can take advantage of the deferred enrollment MBA option offered by several MBA programs. Deferred enrollment means that you can apply to business school now, secure your acceptance and then matriculate in two to five years when the time is right for you.

During those pre-MBA years, deferred candidates are expected to accrue relevant work experience. Having a guaranteed place in an MBA program would easily lend focus and depth to your job. Deferred candidates also engage with the school community, explore their goals and more before matriculating. Building richer relationships and developing a clearer career path further enables you to lay solid groundwork for your success.

If you see an MBA in your future, you’ll need to keep the following in mind. Admissions will have less data to look at due to lack of work experience, so they will scrutinize what they do have even more closely. Here are key deferred enrollment MBA tips to ensure you submit strong applications.

Tips for Deferred Enrollment MBA Applicants

1. Ensure High Scores

While you will matriculate with a later cohort, your application will be compared with the current pool of applicants. In light of this, your GPA and test scores (GMAT/GRE) must match or exceed your target school’s average.

You need to show the admissions committee that you will be able to thrive in the graduate management education classroom. You will want to aim for at least a 3.6 GPA, especially in your most recent academic years. In regards to the GMAT, average scores at the top programs land higher than 720. For the GRE, average scores for recent classes land above 320. An admissions test is an opportunity to showcase your analytical and quantitative skills that you simply cannot prove through work experience. The test will be particularly important for deferred enrollment MBA applicants with non-quantitative coursework.

2. Lead on Campus

MBA admissions teams will also be looking for your leadership skills. Without work experience, you will have to flex these abilities in your current community. This means showing how you have made an impact and led in school, ideally through clubs or activities. Part of this will also be showing that you are a team player and have engaged your community. Keep track of your results, the scale of your projects and overall impact on your community. All deferred enrollment MBA applicants should keep in mind that the admissions committee will also want to know that you will be an engaging student in business school, so this will support your candidacy in that regard, too.

3. Make the Most of Summer Breaks/Internships

The work experience you can gain over your summer breaks or during internships presents an opportunity to shine and showcase your professional promise. Make sure you can account for challenging work experience and what you learn in the process. Show that you can thrive in a professional setting, by highlighting your team work, leadership and impact.

4. Secure Recommendations Beyond the Classroom

In general, MBA applications require 1-2 recommendations. Be discerning in your choices here. You will want to secure a recommendation from a mentor or professor who has both taught and advised you. Ideally, they would also be familiar with your campus activities. If possible, an ideal second option would be your supervisor from a rich internship experience. Remember, admissions will be looking for more than your classroom performance or a high GPA—they want to get a sense of your other skills.

Overall, be sure your recommenders include anecdotal evidence. Remind your recommenders of what you do on campus, giving them examples of your leadership or why you are a great team player.

5. Go Beyond School Websites

In the wake of Covid-19, school campuses have opened up for visitors again. Check your target programs’ websites for details on how you can visit campus, engage with current students and potentially sit in on a class. Getting this firsthand experience of a school’s culture will help you determine your ‘fit’ and also enrich your admissions essays with direct connections and personal details. If you cannot make the trip, current students and admissions teams are still hosting webinars to engage the next group of applicants. This means that you can learn about various target programs from the comfort of your own home—and save on travel expenses.

6. Demonstrate Maturity

Part of a successful application will involve demonstrating that you are mature—including that you are independent, likeable and sincere. In regards to independence, you’ll want to avoid discussing your parents—for example, “I’ve always wanted to go to X school because my Mom…”

Part of being mature also involves owning your mistakes. While you should not mention failures or mistakes unless explicitly asked to do so, be ready to discuss it in the interview. Show that you have learned from your failures, and you can take ownership of them—not play the blame game.

Ideally, in accounting for your activities, how you engage the community, etc., your sincerity and likeability will naturally shine through your application. Your resume as well as a personalized recommendation letter from someone who knows you well will be great ways to illustrate these qualities, too.

More and more leading business schools now offer deferred enrollment MBA programs. As a college senior or graduate student, you have the opportunity to secure your future in uncertain times. With these tips in mind, you can maximize your chances of joining your target MBA program. Good luck!