Advantages and Tips for MBA Deferred Admission Programs

The traditional pathway to getting a Masters in Business Administration has changed over time, and applying to top US MBA programs as a college student has become an increasingly popular option. Many schools offer a deferred or early admission program for talented college seniors. And it’s not just an option for business majors–MBA programs want diverse classes in terms of academic focus and student demographics.

However, the competition for a top 10 MBA program is high, the essays can be quite demanding, and it’s critical to avoid doing a rush job!

Why Get an MBA?

MBA graduates make high starting salaries at consulting firms, banks, private equity shops, tech giants, consumer packaged goods companies, retailers and tech start-ups. The MBA is a very flexible degree, allowing graduates to change jobs and industries over time. And MBAs are increasingly staffed even in the non-profit world, sports leagues, and government agencies.

Once you are accepted to an MBA school as a college senior, you will then work for 2-4 years prior to starting your MBA studies. The programs want you to have some professional skills and experiences to add to the participatory nature of their classroom.

Why Apply Early?

  • Working after college at a demanding job, you may find it hard to dedicate time to studying for the GMAT or GRE. And the application essays and other requirements will consume much of your free time. Deferred MBA applications are typically due spring of senior year when you are still in study mode and have more free time.
  • One of the goals Harvard Business School has with their famous 2+2 program is to attract non-business majors. Computer science engineers, biomedical engineers, math majors and liberal arts types are all welcome.
  • When you get in early to an MBA program, you can leverage the school’s career services and networking resources. In fact, I have seen some college seniors with an existing job offer, trade up for an even better one (at graduation or after) once they have a brand name MBA on their resume. For example, I helped a client who had lined up a business analyst job at a large corporation and was able to change within six months to a coveted position at one of the top three consulting firms.
  • Getting a deferred admission is also very liberating. It allows you to focus on your first job and learn as much as you can without feeling the need to be perfect. And you can make courageous job decisions based on passion and interest. Maybe you really want to join a tech start up or take an operations job at a K-12 school system. Well, you can! Your MBA spot is guaranteed.

Tips for Applying Early to MBA Programs

  • Develop a testing timeline early on in college. Start planning your MBA application sophomore year of college. Aim to take your standardized testing by junior year or summer before senior year. The GMAT and GRE are both equally welcome.
  • Be strategic about your extracurricular activities. Develop a plan for your extra curriculars and internship choices as early as sophomore year so you can tell a connected story on your business school applications. You will want to present your candidacy around certain interests built over time. For example, I had a client who was a sophomore computer science major and we strategically focused on his interest in the automotive space. To support this direction, he joined his school’s Formula One related club and did an internship at Tesla–all this supported his eventual MBA career story around the increasing convergence of automotive vehicles and software.
  • Start writing applications fall of senior year. Given most deferred applications are due spring of senior year, do not wait until February to start writing your applications. Begin the writing process in November-December so you can also leverage your winter break!
  • Apply widely. There is a rigorous interview process, and you may need a few chances to perform at your best. Competition is high for a spot. Many schools including HBS, Stanford’s GSB, Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, and Chicago Booth offer these early acceptance options.
  • Demonstrate interest and do your research. You may remember the term demonstrated interest from your college applications. MBA programs encourage and track your engagement with their school. So, plan to do some campus tours, diversity weekends and information sessions. And read their emails. It all matters.

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