mba graduate

Guest Post by Kristen Beyers, Fortuna Admissions

She exuded a sense of urgency, this college senior seeking my counsel on applying to Stanford Graduate School of Business’ deferred admissions program. She had done her research around women’s social entrepreneurship in the global economy, understood her unique value proposition, and was compelled in pursuit of this passion and singularly focused on having an impact now. She was clear why the MBA was essential to accelerating her ambitions—from GSB specifically—and she didn’t want to wait the expected five-plus years to realize her professional dream. This client also happened to be an academic rock star with impressive leadership exploits.

Deferred MBA Admissions programs are designed to lock in early career talent. The class profile for Harvard’s 2+2 Program (among the most well-known) boasts a median GMAT of 730, 3.67 GPA and 11% acceptance rate (out of 1,121 applications), which is on par with its standard applicant pool. (Although there’s something psychologically friendlier about being one among 1,121 applications versus HBS’s record-breaking 10,351 for its standard track program.)

In return, these ultracompetitive programs allow ambitious young students to secure a spot in one of the world’s most prestigious business schools—such as Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Wharton, or Chicago Booth—before pursuing the usual few years of real world work experience. While most b-schools expect students to spend roughly three to six years in the workforce before applying, deferred admissions programs give students a guaranteed path to the MBA before having any extensive professional career exposure.

Each program has its own unique twist on the “early career MBA” experience. For example, the HBS and Yale programs attract college seniors from a wide array of institutions and countries, while Wharton’s newly minted program, the Moelis Advance Access Program, is a feeder program for Wharton undergrads only. Yale’s Silver Scholars Program is particularly unique, in that accepted students charge straight into the MBA after college graduation. They spend year one in the core MBA curriculum, pursue a fulltime internship (or two or three) in year two, then return for a third year at the Yale School of Management to complete their degree. While the program started out targeting Yale undergrads, it’s evolved to recruit from a global talent pool. As Yale’s former Yale SOM Deputy Director of Admissions & Senior Associate Director of Career Development, I can attest to the wealth of knowledge and unique experiences Silver Scholars add to the MBA classroom, as well as how well these students fare in terms of receiving faculty support and building amazing professional networks so early on in their career.

Yale and Wharton have crafted custom cohorts and programs, while Harvard 2+2 and Stanford deferred enrollment aren’t separate programs from their traditional MBA. HBS originally targeted STEM majors (60% of last year’s applicants hailed form STEM disciplines), while Stanford’s is “just an alternate route” to the traditional MBA program. Like Stanford, Chicago Booth offers two options for “early stage” talent, including the Booth Scholars Program (its deferral option) and the Chicago Business Fellows program, which targets fast track professionals with three years or less of work experience.

Here’s a snapshot of the similarities and differences across top deferred admissions programs.

Common deferred program characteristics:

  • Candidates are invited to apply in their final year of undergrad;
  • The promise of securing a seat in a highly prestigious MBA program while pursuing a few years of meaningful work experience;
  • Must complete the GMAT and jump through similar application hoops;
  • Successful applicants tend to have exceptional academics, demonstrated leadership, and unwavering passion;
  • Ultracompetitive, as deferred programs have very small classes in terms of who they’re going to admit into their early career program.

Variations between programs relate to timing, composition, eligibility and opportunity:

  • HBS 2+2 allows graduate students who went straight from undergrad to master’s programs are also eligible to apply (i.e. haven’t held a fulltime work position).
  • Stanford GSB offers both direct and deferred enrollment from undergrad, although it urges students to consider deferring for one to three years.
  • Stanford candidates enrolled in law or medical graduate programs straight after undergrad are also eligible.
  • Yale Silver Scholars is a three-year experience, in which students complete a full-time internship during their second year, then return to b-school (and only current college seniors eligible).
  • Wharton’s program is for Wharton undergrads only, and applicants are considered for a $10,000/year fellowship.

It’s worth mentioning that while MIT Sloan has no official deferral program, its admissions FAQs state: “Our general policy is not to defer admission but we will consider requests for deferral on a case by case basis.” Translation: MIT’s deferral system is a bit more covert.

The deferred admission MBA is not for everyone. If you’re someone still curious to go out and explore before homing in on a specific track, this niche path isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to commit to a top business school before leaping into the workforce, and want to maximize your chance of admissions success, here are three top tips to keep in mind.

Top Tips for Deferred Admission Applicants:

  1. Be prepared to make up for your lack of real world work experience with noteworthy extracurricular exploits and shining leadership potential. As one 2+2 grad reflected on Quora, “Everyone is a leader in real life, not just on their resume. This leadership generally flows from the kind of obvious passion that you simply can’t fake.”
  2. Same goes for grades and scores, which need to be exceptional to demonstrate your acumen and potential in the absence of professional experience. Take the time to practice and prepare for your GMAT exam as well as to show your abilities in the classroom with related undergraduate coursework.
  3. Be crystal clear on your goals—know why you need the MBA to achieve your future ambitions and communicate a clear understanding of your longer-term career vision.

I observed two distinct profiles among Silver Scholars during my time at Yale. One was the crazy smart wunderkind interested in business whose academic record and test scores spoke for themselves. The other was the individual whose mission and sense of purpose was already demonstrated by their actions. They had already managed to make an impact beyond the norm—identifying needs, innovating in their chosen industry, and willing to devote time and energy to pursuing their passion with unwavering focus. These individuals knew what they wanted and saw the MBA as the fast track to getting there.

If that sounds like you, and you have a mix of demonstrated success along with a compelling reason for why you need the MBA sooner rather than later, check out these unique options.

About the Author

Kristen Beyers is an Expert Coach at MBA consulting firm Fortuna Admissions, and former Yale SOM Deputy Director of Admissions & Senior Associate Director of Career Development. Fortuna is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 13 of the top 15 business schools.

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Written by College Coach
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